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No matter what level of practice you are in yoga, I am sure you have realized how much core strength is required. More than you may have realized!
In almost every active pose in yoga, your core should be engaged. This is not only to build strength, but helps distribute your weight evenly throughout your body and help you find balance.
That is why yoga is such an amazing practice for both your mind and body. While it helps promote a calm mind, it also completely tones and sculpts your entire body.
Building your core strength will help you balance your body weight better, and take the stress off of other body parts in certain poses.
If you want a strong core, it will take hard work and dedication, but it is completely doable!
Even if you aren’t a practicing yogi, and are looking to get started or to implement a few simple exercises to strengthen and build your core, these will definitely do the trick!
The best yoga poses to practice to build a strong core:
Top 7 Yoga Poses for a Strong Core
Below is a list of our top 7 poses to practice to increase your core strength. We’ve included modifications for each pose as well to make them accessible at any level while still helping you engage your core.
1. Bird Dog Crunch
This is a flowing set of two poses that works on your balance while placing a strong emphasis on the core. Make sure to keep your hips level throughout the set and use your core to crunch!
How to do Bird Dog Crunch:
- Start on all fours, hands under shoulders and toes tucked.
- On your inhale, straighten your right arm out straight in front of you as you straighten your left leg out directly behind you, foot flexed facing the floor.
- On your exhale, use your core to bring your arm and leg in towards each other, possibly bringing the elbow and knee to touch.
- Make sure to keep your hips level and use your core to maintain your balance.
- Go through this flowing motion at least 10 times on one side, then switching to the other side.
Modification: If you find it difficult to maintain balance, try keeping both hands planted and focusing on crunching only the leg at first.
2. Downward Facing Dog
Although Downward Dog is commonly referred to as a resting pose, for many people first starting out, this definitely does not feel like a resting pose! You need to learn to engage your arms, core, and legs properly to distribute your weight evenly.
How to do Downward Facing Dog:
- Start in tabletop position with your toes tucked, and on your exhale push your hips up and back, pushing down through your heels.
- Your arms should be externally rotated and your head should be inline with your arms. Your back should be completely straight and all parts of your body should be engaged.
- Press down through the palms of your hands while releasing your shoulders away from your ears, using your core to lift your tailbone up and back with every exhale.
- You will know you aren’t balancing your weight correctly if it feels like all the weight is falling on your arms. Stay here for five breaths.
Modification: Don’t feel like you have to stay completely still in this pose. Feel free to pedal the feet to loosen the hamstrings until you feel ready to maintain stillness in the pose, even if it’s just for one breath!
3. Forearm Plank
Planks are pretty much the position most people think about when they talk about the core, right? Forearm Plank is a great variation to practice to really focus on the core- it eliminates most stress on the arms and allows you to hone in on the abs.
How to do Forearm Plank:
- Start on all fours in tabletop and come down to your forearms.
- Then, while engaging your core, straighten one leg at a time out behind you. Make sure your elbows are directly underneath your shoulders and your back is straight. Your butt should be inline with the rest of your body.
- Press through your heels and engage your core. Hold here for ten breaths.
Modification: If you find this really taxing, start our practicing this pose with your knees on the ground. Build up the amount of seconds you can hold the pose and then eventually you’ll be able to hold the pose with the knees lifted!
4. Side Plank
Most people focus on getting that six pack when training their core, but the obliques are just as important for developing strength. Side Plank is a great pose to work your side body strength that’s often neglected.
- How to do Side Plank:
- Start on the ground lying on your side with your forearm holding you up. Make sure your elbow and shoulders line up and press your forearm into the ground.
- Stack your feet, and on your next exhale, use your core to lift yourself off the ground so your entire side body is lifted.
- With each inhale, try to lift yourself higher off the ground as if there was a fire below you. Try to hold for at least 10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Modification: Feel free to bend your bottom knee and place it on the ground to come into modified Side Plank, just be sure you are engaging your core to lift up and not relying on your legs!
In order to come into Locust, you need to engage everything to lift up. This is a subtle backbend that also works your back muscles while placing a strong emphasis on the core as well.
How to do Locust Pose:
- Start by lying on your belly with your forehead on the ground. Place your arms by your sides and have your feet hip distance apart, or closer for more of a challenge.
- Take a deep breath, then on your next inhale, use your core and back to lift anything you can off the ground, being careful not to over extend your neck.
- As you breath here, lift higher with every inhale. Slowly lower down to the ground on your exhale. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
Modification: Try bringing your legs up wider to help you find more mobility in this pose and make it less strenuous if you find it hard to lift up. You can also try doing “Half-Locust” by using your core to lift just your legs off the ground, and then just your upper body.
6. Reverse Tabletop
Reverse Tabletop is a variation of Reverse Plank and an often forgotten pose when it comes to the core! It may look simple, but it requires a lot of core strength to be able to lift yourself off the ground and maintain proper alignment.
How to do Reverse Tabletop:
- Start in a seated position with your feet out in front of you on the ground and your hands place on the ground underneath your shoulders. Your fingertips should be facing towards your feet.
- On your next inhale, use your core to lift your body off the ground so you are only supported by your feet and your hands.
- Engage your core to lift your pelvis higher, trying to form a straight line of energy. Your knees should form a 90 degree nagle over your ankles and your wrists should stay in line with your shoulders. Hold for 5 breaths then lower down slowly on your exhale.
Modification: If this pose is too strenuous, Bridge is a great alternative to try! It is the same motion, minus the arms. If you are choosing to practice Bridge instead, I recommend placing a block between your thighs to ensure you are utilizing your core to lift up.
7. Boat Pose
We can’t leave out Boat Pose in an article focused on poses for the core! This is one of the best poses to practice to improve your core strength, and there are so many variations and modifications you can try with it as well.
How to do Boat Pose:
- Start in a seated position with your feet in front of you and arms to your sides. Engage your core and lean back on an angle until you really start to feel your abdominals engage.
- Start to lift one leg up at a time until they are eventually both up in the air. Try to get them to a 90 degree angle, and if you can completely straighten them to form a “v” with your body. Lift your arms up straight along your sides with fingers spread wide.
- Lift through your chest to avoid collapsing through your chest and rounding your back and keep your core as engaged as you can. Hold for a count of ten breaths.
Modification: As shown above, you can opt for the Half Boat variation, or this is a great pose to use with props! Using a yoga strap around the feet is a great way to maintain alignment, or using a yoga block between the legs really helps you engage.
Try to build up the amount of time you hold each pose, and increase the amount of rounds you do. I suggest starting off with 2 to 3, and gradually increasing from there.
The most challenging thing about yoga is always getting on your mat.
Challenge and dedicate yourself to these poses and let us know your results or if you have any questions in the comments below!
Ally is the co-founder of Yoga Rove with her fiance Victor. She began practicing yoga at the beginning of her career as a Registered Nurse to cope with the physical and mental stress it put on her, and it quickly became apart of her life. Her goal is to help beginners develop a fulfilling practice without the intimidation. Besides managing this website, she loves hiking with her loving fiance and cuddling with her two silly cats.