Yoga provides many benefits to your physical and mental health. You can improve your posture, flexibility and balance, reduce stress and increase muscle strength by performing yoga on a regular basis. Yoga poses that increase core strength focus on strengthening your abdominal muscles and the muscles that support your entire torso.
The plank pose is a fundamental yoga pose for improving your overall core strength, strengthening your arms, wrists and spine and toning your abdomen. Start on your hands and knees. Align your hands with your shoulders and your knees with your hips. Press your arms firmly into the floor and step your right foot, then your left foot, straight back behind you, coming into a pose that looks like the top of a pushup. Squeeze your abdominal muscles to stabilize your core. Expand your chest. Avoid pushing your buttocks up toward the ceiling or allowing your hips to sag. Your body should be in one long, straight line. Hold this pose for one minute, then release.
Boat pose is a beneficial core strengthener that also helps improve your sense of balance. Start by sitting on the floor on your buttocks with your knees bent and slightly apart. Place your feet flat on the floor. Reach your hands under your buttocks to spread the muscles away from each other. Rest your hands flat on the floor behind you, keeping your arms straight and your fingers pointing forward. Lengthen your neck and spine. Broaden your chest and shoulders. Lean back slightly, lifting your heels off the floor, balancing on your toes. Stabilize your core by tightening your abdominal muscles. Continue to lean back a bit more, so your torso makes a 45-degree angle with the floor. Raise your legs straight up off the floor, keeping them bent if necessary, until your body resembles a "V" shape. Gaze upward to keep your neck in line with your spine. Hold the pose for three or four deep breaths, then release.
Triangle pose helps strengthen your core by toning and working your obliques and your transversus abdominis. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your neck and spine aligned, shoulders relaxed and arms resting by your sides. Step or jump your feet about 3 feet apart, with your left foot facing forward and your right foot perpendicular to your left. Lift your arms to shoulder height, keeping them parallel with the floor. Inhale and lean over to your right side, bringing your right hand to rest on your right knee or shin, or the floor, if possible. Raise your left arm straight up overhead, pointing your fingers at the ceiling. Turn your head to look up at your left arm. Tighten your core muscles to help you maintain balance. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then repeat on your left side.
Dolphin Plank Pose
The dolphin plank pose is a variation of plank pose that provides a more intense strengthening exercise for your core. Start on your hands and knees, keeping your hands in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips. Bend your elbows and rest your forearms on the ground. Clasp your hands together. Slowly step your right foot, then your left foot, back behind you, coming into a plank position. Tighten your abdomen, squeeze your thigh muscles and press your shoulders away from your ears. Hold this pose for up to 10 slow, deep breaths.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.