Yoga Poses for a Stronger Core
There is a widespread misconception that yoga is a light activity done solely to induce relaxation and to not break a sweat. While certain types of yoga require less physical effort, such as facial yoga poses or laughter yoga, others, such as Vinyasa or Ashtanga-style sessions, are more demanding and use most of your muscles.
Whether you are just getting started on your yoga journey or you are a Vinyasa class enthusiast, practicing yoga poses for core and abdomen strength would be beneficial for your overall practice and fitness. Apart from improving your posture and spinal health, a strong core allows you to progress to more difficult balancing poses, such as crow position, warrior II, and tree pose.
A majority of people associate core strength with an abdominal six-pack, popularly known as six-pack abs. This toned outside layer of abdominal musculature may seem fantastic, but it is not the same as a strong core.
A strong or stable core can help prevent overuse injuries, improve resiliency, and speed up recovery from acute injuries. The musculature of the pelvic floor is also a part of the core, and maintaining core stability can help treat and prevent incontinence.
Also read: What Are Core Muscles and How to Strengthen Them
Different yoga poses for core strength
If you are seeking a way to strengthen your core, look no further. Here are 10 yoga asanas that are most effective in improving core strength for beginners.
You are probably familiar with the plank position in exercises. It is widespread in yoga and many other fitness programs, and for good reasons. The plank develops all of your key core muscular groups, helping you to lift large weights, move faster, and reduce the risk of back injury. To perform this pose, you may:
- Begin by lying face down on the mat; keep the elbows pointed up and hands just below your shoulders, as if you are doing a push-up
- Draw your belly button in and lift yourself into a full plank position by pushing through your palms and feet
- Avoid shrugging your shoulders by keeping your core and glutes tight
- Move on to the next exercise after 30 seconds of holding the stance
2. Chair Pose with a Twist
This stabilizing posture is advantageous if you are a beginner in yoga. It strengthens and balances the core system and trains your front and side abs. Here are the steps to do this yoga practice:
- Begin in a standing stance
- Extend your arms into the air by inhaling
- Take a deep breath out and sit back in an imaginary chair behind you
- Make a prayer pose with your hands at your chest
- Keep a sturdy posture with your feet planted firmly on the ground and your hips aligned
- Inhale to lengthen your spine. Exhale to rotate your torso to the right slightly.
- Avoid twisting too much; you may reap the benefits of this position without doing that. Before returning to neutral, hold for five to 10 breaths. Turn around and repeat the stance on the opposite side.
3. Bridge Pose
When it comes to strengthening your core, do not concentrate only on your abdominal muscles. It is also crucial to pay attention to your back. This is when the Bridge Pose proves useful. To do this, you may:
- Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
- Arrange your knees so that they are directly above your ankles or heels for maximum leverage
- Exhale and lift your hips off the ground by pressing your feet firmly into the floor
- Bend your arms at 90° and press the backs of your arms against the floor to further lift your upper body; with this, you’ll construct a gentle yoga backbend that opens your entire front side.
- Maintain the position while you breathe in and out. Holding it will help strengthen the muscles, which are situated particularly in the lower back.
4. Wheel Pose
This is a complete backbend. You may do it after you have warmed up with the Bridge Pose. It will target your entire back, which is a significant portion of your core system. To do this, you can:
- Begin by reclining on the floor with your knees bent, as in the Bridge Pose
- Place your hands up by your shoulders, but slightly wider than shoulder distance for optimum alignment and leverage
- Press your feet and hand with a forceful exhale
- Press strongly onto the floor to elevate your entire body into the air; this is an active position.
- Stick with the Bridge Pose if you cannot get into this posture; both poses will help you strengthen your core
5. Boat Pose
Boat Pose is a common yoga pose that can help you strengthen your core. It is a stationary position that aids in balance and movement. To do this pose, you may:
- Begin in a seated position with your legs stretched out in front of you
- Sit tall and then slowly lean back while bending your knees to stretch your spine
- Continue to lean back until you can lift your feet off the floor
- Keep your legs active by flexing your feet
- Hold your bowed knees with the hands if necessary to keep your spine extending; the Boat Pose is a V-shape in which the legs and arms are fully extended
- Maintain your stance while taking deep breaths, as this pose relies heavily on breathing
- Inhale to keep the length in your back
- Feel your lungs fill with air as your breath rises. Engage your abdominal muscles as you exhale. Doing this stabilizes the posture and begins the process of strengthening.
- Stay in the stance for 10 to 20 breaths. After a brief rest, repeat this pose twice.
6. Vrikshasana Variation
Some standing postures can also assist in the development of core strength. First, let us look at Vrikshasana or Tree Pose. It is a simple stance, yet it draws attention to your core. To do this, you may:
- Begin in a standing position with your toes pointed forward and your feet about hip-distance apart
- Interlace your fingers and extend your arms into the air
- Reach for the ceiling while inhaling and lean to the side of your right while exhaling. This will stretch your left side while crunching on the right.
- Inhale to return to the center. Exhale to the left after taking a long breath.
- Hold one side for a few seconds before moving to the other. On each side, you should be able to accomplish five to 10 reps.
7. Side Plank
In this yoga pose for core strength, you balance on one arm rather than all four limbs, as you would in a standard plank. This position is fantastic for increasing oblique strength and identifying muscle weaknesses and imbalances. Here are the steps to do this pose:
- Begin by lying on your side with one arm supported up and your elbow directly beneath your shoulder
- Keep your forearm flat to the floor
- Push yourself up onto your hand
- Stack your one foot on top of the other
- Ensure that your weight is concentrated on the outside of your foot that is against the floor when you push up
- Clench your abdominal muscles and press your hips toward the sky to lift yourself. On the side closest to the ground, focus on engaging your glutes and obliques.
- Raise your opposing arm to the heavens or maintain it on your hip, as per your convenience
8. Upward Facing Dog
Upward Facing Dog is not always a core-building exercise. Instead, it is a back-stretching pose that stretches your abdominal and back muscles. It is a good stretch that can help your muscles recover before the next set. Additionally, this yoga position for core strengthening is helpful if you have back pain since it expands the chest, strengthens the shoulders, and relieves stress. Here’s how you can perform this pose:
- Start on all fours, knees, and arms hip and shoulder-width apart
- Lower yourself to the floor and perform a push-up from your knees
- Keep your shoulders behind, shoulder blades together, and hands just below the level of your chest
- Lift yourself from the floor with your arms until they are fully straightened
- Place your hips off the floor, but retain your knuckles on it; also, your knees should be on the ground
- Make sure you are not shrugging and that your shoulders are relaxed
- Elevate your head slowly until you are looking at the ceiling, pausing for a few breaths
- Maintain your form and control as you repeat the process five to six times
9. Dolphin Pose
This pose is ideal if you want to improve your upper-body strength. It can strengthen your abs and shoulders, and increase your spine flexibility. To do this, you may:
- Begin by kneeling on the mat with your feet tucked under your buttocks
- Place your forearms on the mat, elbows in front of the knees, and interlace your fingers where they meet
- Tuck your toes and raise your hips to the ceiling, straightening your knees and forming an inverted V shape
- Draw your abdominal button upward and inward as you inhale
- Exhale and move your body forward and bring your chin to rest in front of your clasped hands
- Return to the starting position by inhaling
- Repeat this seven to 10 times
10. Camel Pose or Ustrasana
This position delivers a deep stretch through the front of your body and serves as a warm-up for other back-bending yoga poses. It improves the flexibility and stability of the curves in your spine, which is essential for core strength. To perform this pose, you need to:
- Kneel on your mat with your knees hip-distance apart and the tops of your feet resting on it
- Lean back slowly and reach for your heels, one hand at a time; place your hands on the backs of your hips, fingers facing downward, and engage your thighs
- Open and lengthen your chest, and push your shoulder blades together with your head hanging backward
- Hold the stance for seven breaths, then release
Also read: Getting Started: Yoga Sequences for Beginners
Now that you have a clear idea about the yoga poses for a stronger core, practice them consistently to witness amazing results in the long run.