Core Strength is one of those yoga buzzwords that you’ll hear more and more often as you get deeper into your practice. A strong core is extremely important not only to help advance your practise, but also to improve your overall body health and strength, your postural alignment and your ease of movement.
At The Centre we help our beginner, intermediate and advanced yogis to build up their core strength through a number of different poses. Here are our top five positions that will give you the strong deep-abdominal muscles you need to hold poses for longer, support your body and tone your torso.
Plank (Phalakasana or Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana)
Plank position is one of the most effective core strengthening positions you can do. When practised regularly, Plank will help to improve your posture thanks to the increased spinal support that comes from stronger core muscles. While strengthening your core muscles, Plank position will also tone your arms and shoulders.
To correctly feel the core benefits of the Plank position both your hands and knees must be shoulder width apart with your fingers stretched wide. Pushing down on the joint of the index finger and the heels, keep your shoulders back and away from the ears and your lower belly hugging in. The strength to lift your hips and keep them up should come from your core.
The Forearm Plank is a good position to combine with Plank to get additional core strengthening benefits of the two together, and makes for a great alternative to the plank for those with weak wrists. The position not only strengthens the core, but also helps to tone the abdominal muscles, the shoulders, arms, legs and chest.
To get into the pose, place your forearms and palms shoulder width apart with your shoulders back and walk your feet back until your shoulders are directly over the elbows and your torso is parallel to the floor. Your elbows should be under the shoulders with your upper arm at a right angle to the forearm and your feet hip width apart. Drawing the torso into the midline and lifting the hips using the core, make sure your tailbone is tucked under and your heels are pushing back towards the back of the mat.
Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)
Boat Pose is great for improving your core strength because it engages and works out every muscle in your abdominals, while also helping to tone the stomach and strengthen the support to the spine and the spine itself. By engaging the deepest muscles of the abdomen, the Boat Pose can help you improve your posture and stability. To do the boat pose start by sitting on your mat with your knees bent towards you and your feet firmly on the ground. Lift your arms up towards your knees parallel to the floor and with your palms facing upwards, then lean backwards away from the knees while slowly straightening your legs until your body forms a V shape. Keep your shoulders back and down and relax your neck. The strength you use to hold yourself in this position should come from the core.
Warrior Three (Virabhadrasana Three)
It might not be one of the immediately obvious core strengthening positions but you really need a strong core to stay stabilised and balanced in this pose. As the name of the pose suggest, Warrior Three will help you find the warrior and the strength from within, building strength and length in your torso, abdomen and spine at the same time.
To do Warrior Three start in Tadasana with your feet together. On the next inhalation raise your arms up above your head and reach your fingers up to the ceiling making sure to keep your shoulders down and away from your ears. As you exhale bend forward at your hips, lifting one leg as you do so that your body forms a T shape. Reach your raised foot back and your arms forward, lengthening the sides of the body and hold before releasing and repeating on the other side.
Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
Because you really need to engage the core in order to keep your hips up and the body stabilised in this position it has incredible core and oblique strengthening potential. To get into the Side Plank position start in Plank; now shift one of your legs to join the other. Stack one foot on top of the other and slowly raise one arm above your head so that your body is one long, strong straight line balanced on one arm and one foot. You will need to engage your whole body to keep the pose from sagging but your core will thank you in the end!