5 Core Strengthening Yoga Poses
Yoga has taught me a lot about my body. It’s made me realize I had muscles I didn’t even know existed, has given me better flexibility, eased some back issues I was having and made me understand the importance of building a strong core.
Your core region consists of your obliques, pelvic region, hip muscles and those that support your spine. Vaguely speaking, they are responsible for keeping your torso upright.
A lot of people don’t understand the importance of strengthening all of these muscles, but they are missing out on some great benefits.
A strong core can help you improve sport performance. Sports, like tennis that require dynamic movements between your upper and lower body, can seriously benefit from a stable core.
Did you know that your risk of injury reduces significantly when you take care of your entire midsection? Many injuries are caused from a lack of balance and excess strain on the lower back. Core strengthening exercises build your back muscles so you can protect it from unnecessary strain.
Other benefits include better posture, improved ability to complete everyday activities, and of course, flatter abs.
If you’re interested in reaping all these rewards, here are my five favorite yoga poses for a strong, lean core!
- Boat Pose – The boat pose can be a real abdominal killer. To do this sit on your mat, lift your knees so they are parallel to the ground and stay balanced by leaning back on your sit bones. It’s important to keep your back straight while doing this pose.
If you can, straighten your legs. If your back starts to curve, bring your knees back into a bent position. Hold this pose for five complete breaths then release. This pose always makes my midsection quiver, but makes me feel oh so strong afterwards.
- Side Plank – Remember when I mentioned the importance of obliques? This is a great exercise for targeting that muscle group.
Start in downward dog then step both feet together so your big toes are touching. Move your right hand over to the left so it’s centered with the top middle of your mat. Roll over to the left and plant your left heel down. The key here is to balance on your outer left, flexed foot. Reach your arm straight up above you and take five full breathes. Release and repeat the movements on the other side.
- Crow – This one looks tough, but I assure you it’s not so bad. Begin in a wide squat with your hands firmly planted on the ground with your fingers spread wide. Slightly straighten your legs and place your knees as high on your triceps as possible. Shifting your weight forward, balance on your arms and slowly begin to lift each foot off the floor. Again, remain here for five breaths.
- Four-Limbed Staff/ Chaturanga Dandasana – This position is frequently used when doing Sun Salutations. When held for longer it is a great core strengthener.
Come into a Standing Forward Bend with your palms flat on the floor. As you inhale, jump both feet back so your shoulders are above your wrists and your body is straight. Exhale and bend your elbows as you lower your torso towards the ground. Once your elbows are parallel with your back, stop and hold for five deep breaths.
- Plank – I like to call this the old faithful because it’s simple, yet effective.
From Downward Facing Dog, draw your torso forward until your shoulders are above your wrists. You want your body to be in one straight line. Pressing your hands firmly on the ground, press back through your heels. Keep your neck in line with your spine, broaden your shoulder blades and hold for 60 seconds. Don’t forget to breathe!
If you add these five core savvy yoga exercises into your daily routine you will have a slender and strong core in no time at all. Namaste.
A Daily Hygiene Routine for Yogis
Ayurveda is the 5,000 year old sister science of yoga; it translates to “knowledge of life” in Sanskrit. Rooted in the elements of the earth and cosmos, Ayurvedic classifications or doshas include vata, kapha and pitta. The Ayurvedic practice of dinacharya, or “law of nature,” consists of daily self-care routines that promote balance in body, mind and spirit. Join sages and yogis around the world and add the practices below to your daily hygiene routine.
Wake Before the Sun
Morning is a time of quiet connection. Once the sun is in the sky, the clock of Ayurveda signals it is time to move and be productive. Waking early to begin the day offers a chance to connect energetically with self, rather than your inbox, first thing in the morning.
The morning boasts fresh energy and serenity, so it serves as an important time for meditation. Find a few quiet moments to breathe and work your way to a longer meditation over time. Return to mindfulness through meditation at the end of the day, which supports more restful sleep.
Swoosh oil, such as sunflower, coconut or sesame, around your gums and teeth for a few minutes each day. Oil pulling is effective in removing toxins and parasites, which reside in the nooks and crannies between teeth and in the gums. Work your way from 1-2 minutes to 15-20 minutes. Spit the oil in the trash when you are done and rinse your mouth with water.
Known as Abhyanga in Ayurveda, self-massaging is often practiced in the morning and/or evening. It calms the nervous system, improves immunity, softens skin, and tones muscle. Use warm oil, such as coconut or sesame (depending on your dosha). Start at your scalp and extremities, then work your way towards your heart. Follow your massage with a warm bath or shower.
Now commonly found in drugstores, tongue scraping is an ancient Ayurvedic technique. Try this practice in the morning: during your sleep, toxins and other organisms your body cannot process accumulate on your tongue.
This Ayurvedic technique requires silk gloves or a dry skin brush. Start with your extremities and brush toward your heart, with the exception of brushing down the back and spine. This practice drains the lymphatic system and stimulates movement of energy. Take a warm shower or practice self-massage afterwards.
Morning and evening meals should be light in comparison to your lunch. Afternoon is usually the best time of day for your heaviest meal. Agni, or digestive energy, is usually in full force in the afternoon. Avoid eating heavy meals before bed, as this will disrupt your sleep.
Head to Bed Early
Begin your evening ritual around 8:30pm to ensure a restful transition to bedtime. Unwinding with a book or a bath and avoiding screen time are important aspects of good bedtime hygiene. This routine may prevent late-night snacking. Around 10pm, pitta energy kicks back in which may spark a “second wind” and inhibit true rest.