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Achieving a Stronger Core with Yoga for Abs: Tips and Poses

March 10, 2024

Every year as Spring and Summer approach, you’ll struggle to load a lifestyle website or open a magazine without stumbling across articles advising you on how to get perfect abs in time to bare your midriff. Don’t worry, we’re not about to jump on that bandwagon. What we want to do is spend some time talking about using yoga to increase strength in your core muscles. Whether or not you’re looking to get a lean mid-section, paying attention to your core muscles can help prevent other aches and pains, and help you progress in your entire yoga practice. Read on to find out more. 

What Your Core Muscles Do for Your Body

Let’s start by defining the term ‘core muscles’ a little better. It’s too easy to reduce your core muscles to your abdominals, or abs, for short; and it’s even easier to reduce those to the much-quoted six-pack.

Just to be clear, the abdominal muscles are a critical part of your core, but they’re not all there is. Our core muscles include all the muscles that connect your trunk and your hips to your spine. Your core is responsible for proper load balancing between your spine and your pelvis. They also play a role in helping the surrounding bones and joints move. 

A strong and stable core is not only the foundation for many challenging yoga poses, but it also helps you move more freely, sit up straighter, and avoid or minimize everyday ailments such as lower back pain. And yes, as you’re building this strong core, flattening your stomach can be a welcome side effect. 

5 Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Core

Practicing yoga to build a stronger core doesn’t mean having to change your yoga practice entirely. For many practitioners, it’s simply a case of drawing their attention toward their core muscles and making sure these muscles are engaged. 

Building a stronger core with yoga for abs isn’t reserved for seasoned practitioners only. Even if you’re just thinking about booking your first class with our experienced instructors at Uptown Yoga, you can make that class count toward a stronger core. 

In addition, you can practice at home. Here are five of our favorite, highly accessible yoga poses to strengthen your core. 

Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Core

1. Tree Pose

This pose may not initially strike you as a core-strengthening asana but bear with us. Start by standing straight with your feet together. Make sure your feet and toes are relaxed and firmly on the ground. 

Shift your weight to one side and bring the other knee into your chest. Grab your ankle and position your foot against the other thigh. Draw your belly button toward your spine to engage your core and focus. You can raise your arms toward the ceiling and then bring them back in front of your heart center. 

Throughout the whole time, your core muscles are providing the stability you need to stay standing. If you’d like to challenge yourself, try closing your eyes for a few seconds, then repeat on the other side. 

2. Chair Pose 

Deceptively easy-looking, this pose requires a great deal of strength from your core. Don’t worry if you can only hold it for a few seconds to start with – you’ll build strength over time.

Start by standing up straight and then bend your knees and lower your thighs as if sitting down in an imaginary chair. Ideally, your thighs should be in line with the floor.  Push your hips back like you would when sitting in a chair. Extend your arms overhead and straighten your back. Try to draw your belly button toward your spine and hold the pose for a few breaths. Release and repeat. 

3. Plank Poses

Plank poses are excellent for building overall strength, and few other poses can help you develop your core strength better. Planks are also excellent for building upper body strength. 

Start with your forearms on the floor, keeping your shoulders in line with your elbows. Engage your core and extend your legs back one at a time, keeping your toes tucked. Make sure your spine is long and neutral avoid dropping your lower back. 

Just holding this pose is beneficial, but there are plenty of variations you could try. How about pushing up from the mat and straightening your elbows toward a high plank? If you’re just starting out; straighten your arms one by one before returning to your forearms. 

Side planks are another great option to help train your obliques, shoulders, and hip muscles. From a high plank, roll to the outside edge of one foot and stack the other on top. Shift your weight to one side, and raise the arm toward the ceiling. Make sure you keep straight. 

4. Boat Pose

Boat pose is another asana that is tougher than it looks. It’s also perhaps the one yoga pose that is closest to traditional crunches. Once again, you can make this pose easier or harder, depending on your existing strength. 

Start by sitting on your mat with your feet extended in front of you. Check your spine and make sure you’re sitting up straight. Lean back and bend your knees until you find your balance. Raise your feet to be in line with the floor. If that feels good, straighten your legs to form a v-shape. 

You can bring your legs closer toward your face if you have the strength, but make sure your back is straight, and you’re tucking your belly button. Release your legs once the pose becomes too hard and try again. 

5. Warrior III

The last in the warrior series of poses, this asana is often just seen as a balance pose. Warrior III does improve your balance, but it also strengthens your core muscles, including abs and obliques. Plus, it strengthens your back muscles. 

Start by standing in mountain pose at the top of your mat, making sure your feet and toes are firmly grounded on the floor. Slowly move your upper body forward and simultaneously raise one of your legs upward and back. Keep your toes curled and your feet engaged. 

Engage your core as you stretch your arms out in front of your body, holding them parallel to each other. Straighten your neck, gaze on the floor, and relax your shoulders. Release and repeat on the other side. 

How to Get Started

If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, there is a good chance that you’re already familiar with the asanas above. They may even be part of your daily practice. If that’s the case, try a variation or alter your practice by shifting your focus entirely to your core. 

Of course, you can also try your hand at more challenging asanas, but we recommend progressing under the care of an experienced instructor. Our Strictly Core classes feature core-strengthening asanas. These classes are great for beginners and many other levels. They help you get started or progress safely. If you have a special focus or concern, talk to your instructor.  They are there to help support you and reach your goals. 

What are you waiting for? Start working on a stronger core today with the help of a Uptown Yoga class!

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