Top 5 Yoga Poses for a Stronger Core
Building a strong core and achieving proper balance takes consistent practice. You may find it to be challenging when you are just starting out but over time you will begin to notice incredible strength develop in your inner stomach muscles. Below are my top five yoga poses for a stronger core along with some tips and tricks for improving on the pose as you continue through your practice.
1. Plank Pose
The plank pose is a full body activation pose and has so many benefits. This posture strengthens the arms and wrists. It contracts and tones the abdominal organs and muscles, develops strength and enhances the mobility of wrists, hands, and feet. It also rejuvenates the whole body by soothing the nerves and establishes inner equilibrium.
It is frequently used throughout the yoga sequence specifically during the vinyasa flow but can also be practiced on its own to strengthen the core. Once you master the basic pose, challenge yourself by holding it for a longer period of time. Try increasing by 30 seconds during each repetition and you will notice your abs strengthening in no time.
In order to maintain correct form, make sure your wrist creases are parallel to the front of the mat. Spread your fingers wide to enable better balance and ground through every knuckle. Use your breathing techniques to get you through holding the pose as you build strength in your upper body as well. One trick I’ve learned while at a yoga retreat in Jamaica was to shift some of the weight into your legs and feet. That will alleviate some of the pressure off of your shoulders and balance it throughout the rest of your muscle groups thereby, preventing strain on your wrists and shoulders. Avoid lifting your fingers off the floor and rounding your upper back.
2. Revolved Half Moon Pose
The revolved half moon pose targets the core muscles specifically the obliquus extremus, obliquus internus, bicep femoris, and the vastus medialis. These are the muscles that help to shape your waist. The benefits of this pose include strengthening your ankles, thighs, knees, and spine, improves your balance, detoxifies, and stretches your shoulders, spine and hamstrings.
In order to maintain correct form, energize your lifted leg to help you balance on your grounded leg and grounded hand. Imagine you are pushing your lifted foot against a wall. While balancing the pose, make sure to find a comfortable gazing point before eventually turning your gaze up to your thumb. Avoid allowing the hip on the side of your lifted leg to drop toward the floor.
For beginners, you may modify the pose by placing your supporting hand on a block. You may also want to be cautious with this pose if you have low blood pressure or get frequent headaches.
3. Crow Pose or Side Crow Pose
Crow pose is one of the advanced inversions that many struggle to achieve. This is one of the arm balancing poses that requires a lot of focus and balance to prevent you from falling forward. The benefits of this pose include strengthening of the arms, wrists, and core, stretches the spine, and improves balances. In order to correctly maintain the pose, make sure that your wrist creases align with the front edge of your mat and keep you hands planted into the floor. You will also need to maintain a fixed gaze so make sure to allow yourself to gaze slightly forward to ensure your balance. You may want to place a blanket or a pillow in case you fall forward.
Be sure to avoid dropping your head as this may cause you to tip forward. Nor should you lift or twist your neck to the point where it feels strained. You may also want to be cautious with this pose if you have compromised wrists or shoulders.
4. Seated Upright Pose
This pose engages the core, back, and hip muscles to enable you to sit upright. The muscles specifically used are the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, iliopsoas, Sartorius, and the erector spinae. This pose is often used when meditating. In order to maintain correct form, sit on a block or blanket to elevate your hips above your knees. Also remember to alternate the crossing of your shins to allow your less dominant side of the body to stretch and find balance in the hips. Be sure to avoid letting your knees rise above your hips or rounding your shoulders.
If your hamstrings, lower back, or hip flexors are tight then this pose may be challenging in the beginning. However, as you continue to practice you will gain more flexibility in your muscles and will eventually find the pose more comfortable. You may also want to be cautious with this pose if you experience knee issues.
5. Boat Pose
The full boat pose is an incredible pose to work on if you want to achieve core strength and stability. The more you practice it, the more you will feel your deep stomach muscles and hip flexors working. It not only strengthens your stomach but also your back and hip flexors as well as aids digestion. In order to maintain correct form, draw your belly button toward your spine, maintain the position of your legs keeping them active and strong. Simultaneously, draw your sacrum into your body. This will help to keep your spine long and straight. Avoid letting your legs drop downwards, rounding your lower back, and allowing your stomach to bulge outward.
If you need to modify the pose, you can hold the pose by keeping your legs bent while your feet stay in line with your knees and your shins stay parallel to the floor. You may also want to be cautious of this pose if you are pregnant.
For more information on the benefits of having a strong core, check out my blog pose on the 5 Reasons to Increase Your Core Strength.