These core strengthening yoga poses can help improve balance, build muscle, and increase the effectiveness of whole-body workouts.
Yoga is not only relaxing and restorative, but it is also becoming increasingly recognized as an effective way to strengthen and tone the body. The most beneficial core-strengthening yoga poses will challenge the body without compromising form or creating too much tension in the lower back. The poses here are listed in order of increasing difficulty, beginning with the most calming pose and ending with the most intense pose.
Core Strengthening Yoga Poses for Beginners
Cat-Cow Pose: This is a simple set of poses that gently strengthens the core while stretching the arms, stomach, and back. While this set is often used to warm up for a longer, more intense yoga practice, it can also be used as an introduction to more challenging core-strengthening yoga poses. To assume the pose, begin on your hands and knees, with your hands spread wide and toes tucked. Make sure that your knees are hip-distance apart and directly under your hips, and that your wrists are directly under your shoulders. As you inhale, sink your stomach toward the ground while lifting your chest and head into the air; this is Cow Pose. As you exhale, push into the floor and arch your back, drawing the navel in toward the spine for Cat Pose. Continue to alternate between the two poses along with your breath, keeping your limbs and core strength.
Plank Pose: This is a great yoga pose for core strength that is often included in vinyasa flow sequences like sun salutations. It is easy enough that most people will be able to hold the pose for a few seconds, but challenging enough that extended time in this pose can be a good core workout. This core-strengthening yoga pose is basically the position your body would take at the top of a push-up. Place your shoulders over your wrists, with your arms about shoulder-width apart and your fingers spread. Your legs and back should be straight behind you; keep your leg muscles engaged, and resist bending your back too much to achieve the best core-strengthening results.
Intermediate Core Strengthening Yoga Poses
Dolphin Plank Pose: Dolphin Plank Pose is a modified version of Plank Pose that strengthens the core in a similar manner. To assume this pose, begin in Plank Pose, and then lower your elbows to the ground, keeping them directly under your shoulders. Bring your palms together in front of your body, pressing them together firmly with your fingertips, pointing directly in front of you.
Dolphin Pose: Dolphin Pose looks like a modified version of Downward Facing Dog. To form this pose, start out in Dolphin Plank Pose, then push up and back, keeping the back long and flat and straightening the legs. Your body should look like a triangle. This pose is often used in conjunction with Dolphin Plank Pose to strengthen the core. To achieve this, flatten your body and come forward into Dolphin Plank Pose as you inhale, and lift up and back into Dolphin Pose as you exhale. The alternation between these two poses works the abs and strengthens the back and shoulder muscles as well.
Advanced Core Strengthening Yoga Poses
Half Boat Pose and Boat Pose: Half Boat Pose and Boat Pose are both intense core-strengthening yoga poses that exercise the abs. They are commonly featured in many core workouts, as they provide a more holistic workout by targeting the legs and back in addition to the abs. Begin sitting down with your knees bent in front of you. Lift your legs, keeping your knees bent and stretch your toes out so that your shins are parallel to the floor. For stage one, stay here while holding onto your knees or the back of your thighs. For stage two, keep your legs in the same position while stretching your arms out in front of you. For stage three, keep your arms outstretched, and straighten your legs out in front of you so that your body forms a v-shape. During these core-strengthening poses, it’s important not to place too much pressure on your lower back; if your back feels sore, place your feet back on the ground and hug your knees to your chest to release any tension.
Always listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard if you find a particular core strengthening yoga pose to be difficult. A beginner’s class is a great way to get helpful feedback from a professional instructor who can show you the proper form for each pose.