6 Yoga Practices to Build Your Core Strength

Boat Pose or Navasana a core strengthening and balancing pose.

A strong core is important for the healthy functioning of the body. Like pieces of a puzzle fitting perfectly together, the many muscles of our bodies work in perfect unison to stabilize and mobilize us so that we can move and locomote easily and painlessly. Yoga for core strength can be your saving grace.

However, parts of this perfect puzzle sometimes fall out of place and must be realigned to find harmony again. When the muscles of your core lose their stability.

Yoga is extremely effective at strengthening various muscle groups throughout the body, but one group of muscles that are particularly affected by yoga is the core muscles. Including the abdominals, the hip flexors, the lower back muscles, and the pelvic floor muscles, the core covers a vast range of musculature encircling the center of the body.

As the very center of the body, the core muscles are important to stabilize your center so you can move and balance from a place of stability and strength. Yoga is particularly effective to strengthen these muscles. The practice’s focus on breathwork, its longer holds of static isometric muscular contractions, and its attention to a supported pelvic floor and smooth transitions all contribute to core strength.

Yoga for Core Strength: Practice These 6 Yoga Practices to Strengthen Your Center

Grab your mat and your favorite supportive props and get ready to fire up your core.

1. Breath of Fire (Kapalabhati Pranayama)

Breath of Fire a breathing practice over core strength and overall health.

When it comes to yoga for core strength, we often think about crunches and sit-ups and more traditional “gym” workouts. However, one of the most effective ways to build core strength is actually through breathwork practices.

In fact, one study found that yogic breathing exercises increased muscular activation of the abdominal muscles up to five times more effectively than standard crunches.

  1. Find a comfortable seated position. You can sit cross-legged on the floor, on a yoga prop, or in a chair.
  2. Elongate your spine. Root your sitting bones into the seat beneath you and stretch the crown of your head toward the sky.
  3. Draw one hand to lightly rest over your belly.
  4. Inhale and exhale deeply to prepare.
  5. On your next breath, inhale normally. Then, release a sharp, short, forceful exhalation through your nose. Continue to follow this pattern and focus on your exhalations. Allow your inhalations to happen naturally.
  6. Feel your belly rise and fall with each breath beneath your hand.
  7. Continue with this breath for about 10 to 30 seconds and then release and resume your normal breath. Repeat as desired.

2. Plank Pose (Phalakasana)

Plank Pose or Phalakasana is a arm balance that is also a core strengthener.

Plank Pose, or Phalakasana, is particularly effective at strengthening the external obliques and the rectus abdominis, so it’s the perfect addition to your yoga for core strength practice.

  1. Start on all fours in Tabletop Pose (Bharmanasana) with your shoulders aligned over your wrists and your hips aligned over your knees.
  2. Ground down firmly into your palms and three-dimensionally draw in around your waistline as if you’re tightening a corset around your center.
  3. Step one foot back at a time until your knees are lifted from the floor and you create a straight line from the crown of your head down through your heels.
  4. Kick your heels back firmly and energetically squeeze your legs toward each other. Continue to hug in around your center and lengthen the crown of your head forward toward the top of your mat.
  5. Hold for about five to 30 long, deep breaths. Repeat as desired.

3. Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)

Side Plank Pose shown here is a variation of Plank Pose.

Side Plank, or Vasisthasana, is another highly effective yoga for core strength pose. It has been shown to actively target the obliques. It also activates the lower back muscles, abdominal muscles, pelvic floor muscles, and so much more.

  1. Start in Plank Pose (as described above).
  2. Shift your weight into your right hand and roll to the pinky side of your right foot. Option to stagger your legs or stack your left foot over your right.
  3. Press firmly against the floor to lift your hips up away from the mat and stretch your left arm up toward the sky.
  4. Breathe deeply as you hold for about five to 30 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

4. Boat Pose (Navasana)

Boat Pose or Navasana a core strengthening and balancing pose.

Navasana, or Boat Pose, is an excellent shape to target the abdominals, hip flexors, and lower back muscles.

  1. Start seated on your mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor in front of you.
  2. Catch hold behind thighs, just above your knees and squeeze your legs together.
  3. Root your sitting bones into the floor so that you can lengthen your spine further. Stretch the crown of your head toward the sky.
  4. Ever so slightly, draw your shoulder blades toward each other and stretch your chest toward your thighs.
  5. Option to lift one leg at a time or to lift both of your feet simultaneously and draw your shins roughly parallel to the floor.
  6. Maintain length in your spine and reach your chest forward. Option to stay as you are or stretch and straighten your legs up to create a V shape with your body.
  7. Hold for about five to 30 long, deep breaths. Repeat as desired.

5. Warrior III Pose (Virabhadrasana III)

Warrior lll Pose also known as Virabhadrasana lll Pose is a great pose for balance, body awareness and core strength.

Challenging balance and endurance, Virabhadrasana III is the perfect addition to your yoga for core strength practice. As you stabilize your balance, you’ll be forced to stabilize your center as well.

  1. Start standing in a strong, stable Mountain Pose (Tadasana).
  2. Shift your weight into your right leg and draw your palms to meet at your heart.
  3. Root down firmly into your right foot and lift your left foot off the floor.
  4. Lean your torso forward until it’s roughly parallel to the floor and simultaneously kick your left leg straight back behind you to draw it also roughly parallel to the floor.
  5. Reach back through your left foot and stretch forward with the crown of your head.
  6. Three-dimensionally draw in around your center to help stabilize your balance.
  7. Option to stretch your arms forward and frame your face.
  8. Hold for about five to 30 long, deep breaths and then repeat on the other side.

6. Crow Pose (Bakasana)

Crow Pose is also know as Bakasana is a challenging arm balance pose requiring agility and core strength.

A highly challenging arm balance and core-strengthening shape, Crow Pose is extremely effective at strengthening your whole body—especially your center.

  1. Start in a Standing Forward Bend Pose (Uttanasana).
  2. Bend your knees deeply until you can plant your palms on the floor in front of you. Spread your fingers and root down firmly into the perimeter of your palms. Gently grip at the mat with your fingertips.
  3. Lean your torso forward and look forward in front of your hands.
  4. Bend your elbows slightly and slide your knees as high up your arms as possible. Energetically, squeeze your knees in around your upper arms.
  5. Round your back body as you draw your navel in toward your spine and up toward your ribcage.
  6. Continue to lean your weight forward and option to keep both feet planted. Option to lift one foot at a time. Or you can continue leaning forward so much that you find the magical “tipping point” where your legs feel weightless and naturally float off the floor.
  7. Hug everything in toward your center as you squeeze in and up.
  8. Hold for about five to 30 long, deep breaths. Repeat as desired.

Use Yoga for Core Strength to Build Functional Stability in Your Center

Our cores are the center of our bodies, and therefore, the stabilizing point for all movement.

So to build a strong core, use these yoga for core strength practices so that you can always move from a place of strength and stability for optimal functionality and performance.

Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP, yoga writer

Leah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice. She teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings, both internationally and online. For more information, visit www.leahsugerman.com.

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