5 Yoga Poses to Fire Up Your Core
Whenever sequencing a class, I always make sure to add these ab strengthening āsanas (or poses) to the mix. You might’ve heard of these or have even attempted them during that one class you took when you were in need of a little enlightenment. In doing these, there are a few things to keep in mind: don’t compare yourselves to others, don’t beat yourself up if you fall out of a pose, and most importantly, have fun!
1. Dolphin Plank
Benefits: Strengthens and tones arms, legs, and core.
Instructions: Start in downward dog on your forearms (dolphin pose). With bent knees, begin walking your feet back until your shoulders stack over your elbows, making your body parallel to the floor.
Beginner’s Tip: Place a block or any cushioning under your forehead or between your arms for added support.
2. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga)
Benefits: Strengthens wrists, arms, and abs, as well as tones.
Instructions: Starting in down dog, glide forward into plank. On an exhale, lower your torso and legs parallel to the floor. Try not to arch your back—everything should be as straight and solid as a line. Make sure your elbows hug your body and aren’t splaying out to the sides (if they do, you’ll experience pain and won’t be able to hold this for long).
Beginner’s Tip: It can take years to get the correct form in this pose, so don’t stress if it feels like hell.
3. Crow Pose (Bakāsana)
Benefits: Strengthens the wrists, arms, strengthens and tones the abs, and stretches the back.
Instructions: In a wide squatting position, hug your thighs against the sides of your torso. Separate the hips and lean your torso forward. Stretch your arms out in front of you, bend your elbows, place your palms on the floor. Lock the upper arms against the shins (or in your armpits). Lean and shift your weight forward little by little, keeping your butt and tailbone close to your heels. Once you’re focused, lift your feet off the ground. If you want to challenge yourself, try coming into crane pose by straightening your arms.
Beginner’s Tip: If you can’t lift off completely, play around with taking one foot off the floor at a time.
4. Boat Pose (Navāsana)
Benefits: Ab, hip flexor, and spine strengthener, improves digestion.
Instructions: Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Move your hands behind your hips with your fingers pointing forward. Begin to lean back, balancing on your sits bones (or if you want to get fancy, ischial tuberosities). Then when you’re ready, on an exhale, bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor. Your arms should be out alongside your body.
Beginner’s tip: You can practice this by sitting on the edge of a chair and making a right angle with your knees.
5. Chair Pose (Utkatāsana)
Benefits: Strengthens ankles, legs, spine, stimulates the abs, and stretches the chest.
Instructions: Stand up straight, inhale and raise your arms up, palms facing each other. Exhale and bend your knees, making your thighs parallel to the floor.
Beginner’s Tip: Do this near a wall to correct your form: stand a few inches from the wall and “sit back” on it, like you have to pee really bad and your only option is a porta-potty.
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