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Core Challenge: Build Strength With These Yoga Poses

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Conditioning your core is important for proper posture, stability in yoga and support in everyday movements. These yoga poses will activate and strengthen your core muscles.



You have probably heard an instructor say “engage your core” in a yoga class. Whether you are balancing on one leg, transitioning between poses, sitting on the ground or squatting to pick something up, having a strong core is essential in supporting your body — both on and off the mat.


The core includes not only the abdominal muscles, but also the diaphragm, spinal muscles, hip joints and pelvic floor. The core supports proper form and posture, provides stability and balance and assists with many day-to-day movements like bending over, lifting heavy items and walking. Strengthening your core can even help reduce or prevent lower back pain.


So, how do you strengthen your core? Hint: it doesn’t have to involve doing a million crunches to get “six pack” abs. This 12-minute video will work your entire core to improve your alignment, strengthen your muscles and support many foundational yoga postures. Make sure you are cleared by a doctor before exercising.



You can repeat the video multiple times for a longer challenge or try different variations of the poses throughout the week to continue building strength. Each posture in the video is outlined below.


Roll Ups

  • Take a seat with your legs in front of you, knees bent and feet on the ground

  • Reach your arms in front

  • Exhale and roll down to the mat one vertebrae at a time

  • Inhale and roll back up to a seated position

  • Repeat 5-10 times


Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana) With Breath

  • Lay down on your mat

  • Reach your arms to the sides

  • Lift your legs up with your knees bent, coming into a reclined table top position

  • Inhale and lower both legs over to the right

  • Exhale and raise both legs back to center

  • Inhale and lower both legs over to the left

  • Repeat 3-5 times on each side


Cat/Cow (Marjariasana/Bitilasana)

  • Begin on all fours in a table top position (bharmanasana) with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees

  • As you inhale, drop your belly, open up through your chest and reach the crown of your head up to extend your spine for cow pose (bitilasana)

  • As you exhale, engage your core, round your spine and gently let your chin come toward your chest (marjariasana)

  • Repeat several times


Bird Dog/Balancing Table (Dandayamana Bharmanasana)

  • Begin in a table top position (bharmanasana)

  • Lift your right leg behind you. Turn your toes down toward the mat and flex your foot

  • Lift your left arm in front of you. Turn your thumb up to the ceiling

  • Engage your core by hugging your belly button in and up

  • As you exhale, bring your right knee and left elbow toward the center of your body. Round your spine

  • As you inhale, lift your right leg behind you and your left arm in front of you

  • Repeat 3-5 times on that side

  • Return to table top

  • Repeat on the other side


Plank (Phalakasana)

  • From downward-facing dog (adho mukha svanasana), shift forward so your shoulders are over your wrists and your heels are over your toes

  • Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your heels

  • Engage your core by hugging your belly button in and up

  • Squeeze your glutes

  • You can lower your knees down to the mat for support

  • You can come onto your forearms to relieve tension in your wrists

  • Hold the plank and breathe for 30 seconds to 1 minute


Side Plank (Vasisthasana)

  • From plank (phalakasana), walk your left hand to the center of the mat

  • Position your left leg as a kickstand by lowering your knee to the mat

  • Extend your right leg with your foot parallel to the back of your mat

  • Reach your right arm up toward the ceiling and spiral your chest open

  • Engage your core by hugging your belly button in and up

  • You can move the left leg underneath the right leg for more of a balance challenge

  • Instead of stacking the legs, you can lift the right leg into the air or into a tree pose variation

  • Hold the plank and breathe for 30 seconds to 1 minute

  • Repeat on the second side


Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) With Knee to Nose

  • Come into downward-facing dog (adho mukha svanasana)

  • Inhale and lift your right leg into the air for 3-legged dog

  • Exhale and shift forward, bend your right knee and move it toward your nose

  • Inhale and extend your right leg for 3-legged dog

  • Exhale and shift forward, bend your knee and move it toward your right armpit

  • Inhale and extend your right leg for 3-legged dog

  • Exhale and shift forward, bend your knee and move it across your body toward your left armpit

  • Inhale and extend your right leg for 3-legged dog

  • Exhale and shift forward, bend your right knee and move it toward your nose

  • Inhale and extend your right leg for 3-legged dog

  • Exhale and return to downward

  • Repeat on the second side


Boat Pose (Navasana)

  • Take a seat on your mat with your legs in front, knees bent and feet on the mat

  • You can place your hands on the back of your thighs

  • Lift up through your chest and begin to lean your weight back

  • Pick your feet up and keep your knees bent

  • Squeeze your inner thighs together

  • You can reach your arms forward

  • You can extend your legs

  • You can pump your arms


How do you feel after trying these poses? This routine can be a great way to add some movement and energy into your day — even if you are tight on time.


Remember to keep breathing (especially when you are holding a static position and engaging your core). Once you are finished, take a well-deserved stretch in cobra (bhujangasana) or sphinx pose (salamba bhujangasana).


Leave a comment below and let me know which pose was your favorite and which pose was most challenging. If you enjoyed the core sequence, make sure to share it with your yoga community.


With gratitude,

Shannon

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