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How to build core strength with yoga

Updated on May 8, 2015

Core strength is commonly associated with ripped abs. In yoga, however, the concept of ‘core strength’ carries a different significance. The core region includes the abdomen, lower back, hips and pelvis. Besides giving you a toned and flat tummy, yoga’s core-strengthening exercises correct your posture, help you improve your balance, and prevent lower back pain.

1. Plank pose

We’ll start with the most challenging pose, which is very similar to push-ups. Take your time practising plank pose, going through the steps slowly and carefully, and remember not to push yourself too far.

  • Kneel on all fours, making sure that your arms are under your shoulders with your hands flat against the floor and fingers pointing forward.
  • Lift your right knee and stretch the leg out behind you. Your toes should be flexed against the floor and your sole facing the wall.
  • Do the same thing with the left leg.
  • Your body should form one straight diagonal line from head to feet.
  • Now slowly bend your elbows, lowering your body towards the ground. Stop at a few inches above the floor. Your body should be perfectly parallel to the ground.
  • Try to hold the pose for five breaths. Then lower yourself completely on to the floor and rest.

2. Chair pose

No, you don’t need a chair for this. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to get comfy either. This pose strengthens your lower back and also builds stamina in the thigh muscles.

  • Stand in Mountain pose: back straight, shoulders squared, chest lifted.
  • Extend your arms in front of you, keeping your shoulders down.
  • Bend your knees slightly and start lowering yourself into an invisible seat.
  • Remember to keep your back straight and your knees parallel to each other.
  • Take deep breaths as you lower yourself further into the imaginary chair.
  • Remain in chair pose for 5 deep breaths before slowly returning to a stand.

3. Eagle pose

This pose strengthens the core region through the ability to maintain balance.

  • Stand straight and bend your knees slightly.
  • Lift your left leg and cross it over your right thigh. Twist the calf of your left foot around the right foot. The toes of your left foot should therefore be pointing towards the floor.
  • Once you’ve established your balance, extend the arms in front of you.
  • Cross the left arm over the right arm and bend the elbows. Your palms should touch so you can interlace your fingers.
  • It’s very important to keep your shoulders away from your ears. Make sure that you don’t raise your shoulders throughout the pose.
  • Slowly lift the elbows. You should feel a lovely stretch in your shoulder blades.
  • Repeat the pose on the other side, this time balancing yourself on your right foot and having the right arm above the left.

4. Locust pose

Locust pose is a great stretching exercise for the shoulders, back, chest and abdomen. In this pose your body’s balance will be supported solely by the core region.

  • Lie on your stomach with your arms by your sides and the palms facing up.
  • As you inhale, slowly lift your head, torso, arms and legs from the floor.
  • Lift your arms and legs as high as you can. Keep the shoulder rolled back and your neck long and straight.
  • Take five deep breaths and then slowly lower everything back on the floor.

5. Boat pose

Boat pose is perfect for improving core strength. It strengthens the abdominal muscles, hips and thighs in one simple step.

  • Start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
  • Lean back slightly, resting yourself on your arms. Don’t slouch. Keep your back straight.
  • Bend your knees and slowly lift your feet off the floor.
  • Then slowly straighten your legs so that your toes are pointing upwards.
  • Extend your arms in front of you, parallel to the floor
  • The most important thing to watch out for in this pose is your back. Keep it straight and tuck your belly in for better support.

6. Warrior 3 pose

This is another pose that fortifies the abdominal muscles through balance. It also builds strength in your spine and pelvic floor.

  • Stand straight in Mountain Pose.
  • Take a step back with your left foot, balancing your upper body weight on your right foot.
  • Gently raise the left foot until it is parallel to the ground. Extend the arms in front of you. Your body should form a T shape.
  • Try to maintain your balance by focusing on a stationary object as you take long deep breaths.
  • Bring your left foot back on the ground while straightening yourself back up.
  • Repeat the pose on the right leg.

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