Feb 12, 2019

The 5 Best Yoga Poses for a Strong Core

Core strength became a popular phrase mostly associated with a flat belly and visible abdominal muscles. But when we speak of a strong core in yoga it is about so much more than just that. Your core muscles support the part between your ribcage and your pelvic bone, which is only connected by the spine. Stabilizing them therefore helps protect your spine and often even prevents back pain and injuries. 

In yoga practice a strong core will also improve your stability in balancing and inverted postures (such as headstand) giving you higher body awareness and control. This obviously comes in handy in most other sports too, such as running, gymnastics and surfing. When we work with the center of the body, we also stimulate the internal organs, which helps improve digestion and circulation.

On the energetic level a strong core stands for feeling centered, secure and powerful. Courage, willpower and stamina are attributes of our energetic navel center (Solar Plexus or Manipura Chakra) which in a balanced state gives us the confidence to take control and responsibility for our own life. 

In the following you find my 5 favorite yoga postures that strengthen your core effectively. Practice with awareness and attention to the sensations in your body. Keep a steady smooth breath, don’t rush through any of the exercise and remain soft in your thoughts even when it becomes a bit challenging…

Before we start use this exercise to warm up before any exercise / yoga practice.

Cat – Cow stretches to warm up your spine, activate your core and to tune in with your body:

Exhaling round the back towards the ceiling taking the chin towards the chest, inhaling arch the back gently stretching chest and throat and dropping the belly. Repeat this movement for several rounds of breath.

1. Tiger Crunches (Vyaghrasana)

Kneel on all fours. Reach one arm long, draw in the abs, and extend the opposite leg long behind you. Bring the elbow and knee in towards your center as you round your back. Each side 5-10 repetitions.

2. Boat Pose (Navasana)

Sit on the floor with your legs bended. Lift through the top of the sternum and lean back slightly and then lift your feet off the floor. You can start with bend legs (lower legs about parallel to the floor) and extend when you feel strong enough to keep the spine straight and the chest lifted. Stretch your arms alongside the legs or hold on to legs for more support). Stay 5-10 breaths, increase stepwise up to 3 repetitions.

​​​​​3. Plank Pose 

From downward facing dog draw your torso forward until the arms are perpendicular to the floor. Shoulders directly over the wrists and the toes over the heels. Gaze down between your hands to lengthen the back of your neck. Drawing your abdominal muscles in toward your spine. Hold for 20 seconds and increase step by step for as long as possible without compromising posture or breath. Slightly easier variation and suitable for practitioners with wrist pain: on forearms with shoulders aligned over elbows.

4. Side Plank (Vasistasana)

From plank pose step your feet together and press your weight down through your right hand (or forearm). Spin your heels to the right side, stacking your feet or placing them in front of each other for more support, keeping them flexed. Stack your shoulders over your right wrist and lift your left arm up towards the sky. Keep the pelvis lifted to keep the body in a straight line. Hold on each side 20 seconds or as long as comfortable.

 

5. Warrior 3 (Virabadrasana 3)

Begin standing with your feet separated hip-distance. Extend your right leg straight back behind you as you shift your weight into your left foot and leg. Keep the right foot flexed and active and drop the right hip down to level it with the left. Bring the torso parallel to the floor with the sternum slightly lifted to avoid rounding of the back. Hands on front of the heart or extended over head for more load on the core. Hold 5-10 breaths on each side.

 

Always make sure to move with awareness, care and patience. Give yourself time to improve and enjoy the process! Happy praciting :)

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