Some people think that crunches and sit-ups are the only way to get a flat, toned stomach, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
Those who are unfamiliar with all of the benefits of yoga might think that it’s primarily a way to meditate or improve flexibility, but there are a lot of reasons why yoga is one of the most effective ways to tone your entire body – including your core.
To get a strong core, you must focus not only on your abdomen, but on the neighboring muscles as well. This gets you faster, better results, and is one of the best examples of why yoga is the way to go.
Yoga core exercises are ideal for tightening and toning your tummy, hips, and back, while also improving your balance and concentration, making your overall yoga skills even better.
Most people assume that the core includes only the muscles in the stomach, but there are a lot of other muscle groups involved, too. Unlike sit-ups and crunches, yoga core exercises work all eight muscle groups that make up and support the core, including the pelvic floor muscles, obliques, glutes, back, and diaphragm.
Ready to get started? Here are seven yoga core exercises that you can use to tone your core in just 10 minutes a day.
1. Boat Pose
One of the most recognizable poses for improving core strength is the boat pose, and it doesn’t take long to see why. To do it, sit on your mat and shift your weight forward so that it rests on your buttocks and not your tailbone. Do this by lifting your lower spine off the floor as you lean back, lifting your legs high to form a V with your body.
Make sure to point your toes and reach your arms out in front of you, holding them parallel to the floor with your palms facing the ceiling. Keep your thighs and hips engaged to maintain the position while pushing your chest upward. Hold for anywhere between 10 seconds to one minute, depending on your skill level and how much time you have.
2. Down Dog Splits
This pose requires a lot of balance and engages the obliques as well as your transversus abdominis, the deepest of your core muscles. Start in a downward-facing dog, then inhale as you raise your right leg until it’s parallel to the mat. Keep your hips squared to the floor as you change position and focus on pulling your ribs in to prevent your back from sagging.
Hold for five seconds, then slowly lower the leg and transition back into downward facing dog. Repeat with the other side.
3. Bridge Pose
Another pose that strengthens and stretches your core is bridge pose. It’s also a great way to open the lungs and chest and stretch your hamstrings, promoting overall relaxation.
Start by laying on your back, spreading your feet and knees hips-width apart. Lift your pelvis by pushing against the soles of your feet, positioning your heels directly under your bent knees. Push your head against the floor, but be careful not to press your chin into your body. This could lead to neck strain and a lot of discomfort.
Engage your glutes to stabilize the pelvis and lower back while bringing your shoulders together, lifting your middle spine off the floor. Keep your arms at your sides with the palms against the floor to help you stay balanced. If needed, you can also lock your fingers together directly under your buttocks to provide more stability.
4. High Lunge Pose
Here’s another great opportunity to work on your balance and tone your core at the same time. Plus, because it starts from downward facing dog, it’s easy to work into a routine with down dog splits that we mentioned earlier.
From downward dog, bring your right foot forward so it’s next to the inside of your right hand. As you bend your knee, keep it positioned over your right ankle with your thigh parallel to the ground.
Raise your hands above your head, placing your palms together, and hold for five breaths. Return to downward-facing dog, then repeat with the other leg.
5. Fire Hydrant Pose
The Fire Hydrant Pose is a little more advanced, and it works not only your core but your shoulders and legs, too. Start in a standing forward fold, bent at the hips with your hands on the floor or crossed and holding on to the opposite elbows.
Shift your weight to your right leg, then lift the left leg out to the side. Hold it at the height of your hips. Do not lean toward the right leg for support; instead, use the glutes to lift and hold the left leg. Return to standing forward fold, then repeat on the other side.
6. Plank Pose
Plank is one of the most effective poses for working not just your core, but your entire body. If you had to choose one pose to do to tone your body, this is it. Start by getting into a push-up position, keeping your wrists underneath your shoulders with the creases parallel to the edge of your mat.
Maintaining alignment is key for a proper plank pose.
Keep your hips in line with your shoulders to create a straight line from your head to your feet. Press your palms into the floor and keep your shoulders down.
When you’re first getting started and your back and shoulders are not strong enough yet, the tendency is for your back to sag and the shoulder blades to come together. Make sure you pull them apart and focus on keeping the back in the proper position to get the most benefits from the pose.
Pull your stomach in toward your spine and hold up your lower body, tightening your thighs and pushing back toward your heels. You should engage all of your core muscles to keep your spine and pelvis stabilized. Hold for as long as you can.
If you find this pose too difficult, you can modify it by doing a forearm plank. To do this, place your forearms flat on the ground, keeping them parallel. Maintain the same alignment with the rest of your body.
7. Side Plank
From plank pose, you can move right into a side plank to keep your core engaged in your yoga workout. Side plank is another pose that’s great for your whole body, strengthening your arms, shoulders, and spine while toning the abdomen. It also helps you work on balance and concentration.
To transition from plank pose to side plank, step your feet together and shift your weight to your right arm, keeping the crease of the wrist parallel to the edge of the mat.
Roll your body to the right, lifting your left arm to the ceiling and moving your left foot on top of your right foot, keeping your legs straight, and balancing your weight on the outside edge of the right foot.
Keep your hips and pelvis facing forward, engaging your thighs and abdominal muscles to maintain stability. Your body should be in a straight line as you elongate your spine and turn your head to face the ceiling.
Hold this position for up to 30 seconds. Then, return to the plank position and repeat on the left side.
Final Word on Yoga Core Exercises
A core strengthening yoga sequence is one of the best ways to tone your belly while gaining the strength and flexibility to advance your yoga practice.
Note that these poses are great for building muscle strength but should not be practiced in prenatal yoga. While they may help you get your figure back after childbirth, it’s important to be careful during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Talk to your doctor before engaging in anything too strenuous.
Once you get enough yoga practice to really get a feel for these core exercises, it’s easy to pick up on how slight changes to your body position change the muscles that are being used. This is why it’s so important to make sure you maintain proper alignment with every yoga pose.
We gave you multiple options to create your own yoga pose combination for building core strength. When you commit to doing these core exercises for only 10 minutes a day, you’ll soon see results not only in your core, but in your overall yoga practice.
A lot of people think that yoga exercise consists only of meditation and simple asanas that don’t really give all the major muscle groups a solid workout. After trying these yoga core exercises, though, you’ll get a better idea of just how much you improve your body’s strength and tone just by choosing the right poses.