Postures that engage the abdominal and back muscles are great for strengthening your core. Ideally, you should also include postures that involve your whole body for maximum effect. We’ve singled out eight yoga postures that will help you achieve just that. Just make sure to start your sequence with a gentle warm up. Other things to keep in mind is focusing on rhythmic breathing, not over-straining your muscles, resting in-between postures, and making your movements slow to keep your balance and poise.
The gentle cat pose is a perfect way to start your core-strengthening yoga session. Get yourself on all fours, your knees aligned with your hips and your palms aligned with your shoulders. Your gaze should be on the floor with a neutral head position. Take a deep breath, and at an exhale, round your spine towards the ceiling. Your palms and knees should remain flat on the floor; your head should move towards your chest. Inhale, and bring your back to the initial position. Repeat steps for up to five breaths.
The dolphin pose lengthens the hamstrings and calf muscles, but it also works wonders on the core. For this pose, you’ll need to have some amount of flexibility. Begin on all fours, but this time, place your forearms flat on the floor, shoulder-width distance apart. Now, curl your toes and raise your hips towards the ceiling. If possible, straighten your knees and try to place the soles of your feet flat on the floor. Your spine should be straight, and your head neutral. Stay in this position for up to 30 seconds, breathing rhythmically.
The scale pose demands quite a bit of arms strength if you want to pull it off. If you feel like you can manage, start by lowering yourself on the floor, sitting back on your heels. Place your palms on the sides of your knees. Position your torso to lower so that your chest is touching your thighs. On an inhale, straighten your hands, pressing firmly onto the floor. As your abdominal muscles tighten, try leaning forward and keep your feet lifted off the ground. If you can’t seem to lift your feet off the ground, don’t worry, as long as you’re pushing your body forward, you are doing fine. Caution is advised for those suffering from certain types of arthritis affecting their hands and wrists.
One-Legged Plank Pose
A study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine listed plank poses as one of the most effective poses in strengthening the abdominal muscles, specifically the external oblique muscles. We suggest trying the one-legged plank pose to help emphasize your obliques. Begin by positioning yourself in a high plank. Lift your right knee and curl it towards your chest. Start pushing yourself slightly forwards with your other foot by standing on your toes. Curl your back and contract your abdominal muscles as you try to bring your knees as close to your face as possible. Stay in this pose for up to 20 seconds, breathing deeply.
Side Plank Pose
Begin by positioning yourself into a downward-facing dog. Shift your weight on the outside edge of your left foot, placing your right foot on top of your left. Place your right hand on your right hip turning your torso to the right. As you do this, balance yourself on your left hand and the outer edge of your left foot. In this pose, your body should be aligned diagonally towards the ground. Optionally, you can stretch your right hand towards the ceiling and shift your gaze towards the palm of your right hand. However, this may be a bit more challenging if you’re a beginner.
Of all core-strengthening yoga postures, the boat pose is likely the most challenging one. Give this pose a try if you’re feeling bold enough. Sit flat on the floor, your legs straight in front of you and your palms beside your hips. Lean slightly backward until you are sitting on your tailbone. Make sure your back is straight while you do this. At an exhale, bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor. Lift your feet towards the ceiling until your knees are locked. Stretch your arms so that they’re parallel to the floor. Stay in this pose for up to 20 seconds. Other than building core strength, the boat pose is also said to help with erectile dysfunction.
Stand in mountain pose. At an inhale, raise your arms towards the ceiling. Exhale and start bending your knees as in a squatting position. Make sure to keep this pose comfortable. Your shoulder blades should stay firm. Stay in this pose for 30 seconds and return to the initial position.
Happy Baby Pose
End sequence with a relaxing and invigorating pose that can also relieve back pain. In fact, any core-strengthening exercise was found to be more effective in back pain relief than general exercising. Lie comfortably on your back and bend your knees towards your chest. At an inhale, grip your feet and open your knees wide, bringing your feet towards the ceiling. Your knees should be slightly bent, and your hands are firmly gripping your feet.
The sequence of yoga postures covered here can help you build that core strength you need to relieve back pain, improve balance, and feel great. Make sure to pause between each posture and focus on deep breathing as you get into each individual pose.