Yoga For Core Strength From Beginners to Advanced Yogis

One of the most obvious benefits of a Hatha Yoga practice is that it helps to develop the muscles and build strength in the core of the body.

One of the reasons for this is that most yoga poses are compound exercises, that is they require the whole body to work together in a connected way rather than isolating specific muscle groups, which would tend to take the core muscles out of the picture.

Your core is like the support system for the bigger muscles of the body, and when your core is strong it is much easier to move these other muscles with confidence and control.

When most people think of their core, they usually think of one group of muscles, the abdominals. However, to a yogi, the core of the body means something much bigger.

Physically, the core not only includes the abdominals, but also the erector spinae muscles of the lower back, the quadratus lumborum muscles on each side of the spine, the psoas muscles that run down the leg, and all of the small support muscles deep within the pelvis that help to rotate and flex the hip.

On a deeper level, since in yogic philosophy the body is not merely physical, the core of the body also includes the energy channels of the subtle body, which terminate in the chakras, or energy centres which are said to reside deep within the body along the line of the spine.

Developing core strength also helps to develop core awareness, which can help us to tune in to the movement of energy throughout the body.

If you’re looking to use your yoga practice to develop core strength then, as usual, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve developed three separate core sequences, from beginner to advanced. These sequences are made up of poses to improve core strength and flatten your abs. Each of them contains a description of the poses as well as a video from our Youtube channel.

Most of the poses we feature here have been modified slightly from their traditional versions and are performed with repetitions to help build strength and power. Try to move slowly, without momentum, so that the muscles are engaged through their whole range of motion.

Emphasize quality over quantity with these exercises. We recommend about five to ten repetitions per side

Give them a try and let us know what you think!

5 Core Exercises For Beginners

Easy Half Boat Pose, or Ardha Navasana

This modification of the classic Boat Pose would be called a “crunch” in western terminology.

The difference is that in Yoga we want to synchronize the movement with slow controlled breathing and maintain control throughout every phase.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and the bottoms of your feet on the floor. The legs can be slightly apart. Reach your fingertips towards the heels and lift the arms off the floor. Take a deep inhale.

On an exhale lift the head and shoulders off the floor and move the fingertips towards the heels. Lift the chest slightly towards the legs but make sure the lower back stays in contact with the floor. On your inhale slowly lower back down with control.

Repeat five to ten times.

Leg Rotations, or Chakra Padasana (Easy Modification)

A simple leg rotation exercise can help us to develop control of the muscles deep inside the pelvis and upper leg that help to stabilize us as we walk.

The easy modification of this pose has us lying on the back with the left knee bent and the bottom of the foot on the floor. Place the palms of the hands on the floor. Lift the right leg up and point the toes, keeping the leg straight. Start making gentle circles with the leg, working the hip through its comfortable range of motion.

Try not to push too hard at this stage. Inhale as the leg rises up and exhale as the leg is lowered back to the floor. Keep the neck and shoulders relaxed and ensure that the lower back is consistently pressing towards the floor.

Perform five repetitions in a clockwise direction and five repetitions in a counter-clockwise direction. Remember to perform the exercise on both sides.

Dolphin Plank, or Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana

Start in a simple table top position with the shoulders over the hands and the hips over the knees. Bring the forearms on to the floor with the elbows shoulder with apart and the forearms parallel to each other. Engaging through the abdomen, step one foot back, then the other and hold the body in a plank position.

Keep the shoulder blades apart and the shoulders moving towards the floor relative to the back. Try to keep the body straight. If this is difficult you can add the movement of lifting the hips up and back and entering a version of Downward Facing Dog before re-entering the pose.

Supine Spinal Twist, or Jathara Parivarthasana A

Lie on the back with your legs bent and the bottoms of the feet on the floor. Legs together.

Lift the feet off the floor and bring the legs up so that the knees are pointing towards the ceiling and the shins are parallel to the floor. Begin by reaching the hands to opposite sides of the room with straight arms. On an exhale start to lower both legs to the right side. On an inhale bring them back to centre.

Repeat on the other side. Keep the legs together throughout the whole movement, and try not to go so low that you lose control and let the back lift off the floor.

Repeat the whole sequence five to ten times.

Modified Side Plank, or Vashishtasana

This is a helpful modification to help build confidence and strength in side plank for practitioners who may not be able to comfortably hold the full version of the pose.

Start lying down on the right side of the body. Bend your legs so that the knees and shins stay on the floor as you lift your trunk. Lift yourself off the floor by pressing into the right forearm with the hand pointing away from the body.

You can lift the left hand towards the ceiling or place the hand on the hip.

Remember to repeat the pose on the other side.

8 Core Exercises for Intermediate Yogis

Half Boat Pose, or Ardha Navasana (Intermediate Modification)

This time we make our modified Half Boat Pose more challenging by placing the hands behind the head and flaring the elbows out.

Lying down on your back, bend your knees, placing the feet flat on the floor and perform a gentle crunch movement, lifting the neck and shoulders off the floor. Keep the hands behind the head and move slowly, with control. Keep the lower back in contact with the floor.

Lift on the exhale and lower on the inhale.

Repeat the movement five to ten times.

Leg Rotations, or Chakra Padasana (Intermediate Modification)

In this version of our Leg Rotation, we make the pose more challenging by placing the other leg flat on the floor rather than bending it.

Lie down on your back with both legs outstretched. Point the toes of the right leg and lift the leg off the floor, keeping it straight. Make gentle circles with the leg, working the hip through its a full range of motion.

Lift the leg on the inhale. Lower the leg on the exhale.

Perform the exercise five times in a clockwise direction and five times in a counter-clockwise direction.

Remember to repeat on the other side.

Leg Lifts, or Halasana (Easy Modification)

Lie down on the back with the knees bent and the bottoms of the feet flat on the floor. Lift the hips so that you can place the hands underneath your buttocks with the palms flat on the floor. Stretch the legs out so that they are straight out in front of the body and squeeze them together.

On an inhale lift both legs up in a controlled motion, pointing the toes towards the ceiling. Keep control as you lower the legs back down on the exhale. Keep them hovering above the floor as you repeat the movement.

Repeat the movement five to ten times.

Locust Pose, or Shalabhasana (Leg Lift Variation)

This variation of the classic Locust Pose is great for building strength in the lower back and the side body.

Lie in a prone position with the front of the body on the floor. Place the forehead on the hands with the palms of the hands on the floor and the elbows flaring out. Keeping the upper body and the hips in contact with the floor, lift the right leg off the floor, keeping the leg straight and pointing the toes.

On an inhale, try to lift the leg up as high as you can without lifting the hips or the other leg. On the exhale, lower the leg back to the floor and repeat on the other side.

Repeat the whole exercise ten to fifteen times.

Dynamic Spinal Twist, or Jathara Parivarthasana A

This pose is very similar to the beginner version of the pose. However, it is performed slightly more dynamically and with a wider range of motion.

Lie on the back with your legs bent and the bottoms of the feet on the floor. Legs together.

Lift the feet off the floor and bring the legs up so that the knees are pointing towards the ceiling and the shins are parallel to the floor. Reach the hands to opposite sides of the room with straight arms. On an exhale start to lower both legs to the right side.

This time you can bring the legs closer to the floor and allow the spine to twist slightly. The left hip can lift off the floor. On an inhale bring them back to centre and repeat on the other side.

This exercise can be performed with a bit of momentum, but maintain control and try not to overdo it.

Repeat the whole exercise ten to fifteen times.

Plank Pose with Leg Lifts

Begin in a table top position with the shoulders above the hands and the hips above the knees. If your wrists are a little bit tight, move the hands forward slightly. Step one foot back, and then the other, entering a plank position.

Keep the shoulder blades separated and the shoulders tracking towards the floor.

On an inhale lift the right leg off the floor, keeping it straight. On an exhale lower it back down. Repeat on the other side.

Make sure to keep the hips square towards the floor. Try not let them open up towards the side of the room.

Repeat the exercise five to ten times.

Side Plank, or Vashishtasana

In the intermediate program, we perform the side plank with the palm on the floor instead of the forearm.

Begin in a plank or table top position. Press into the right hand and step the feet back so that they are stacked on top of each other. Press strongly into the floor and open the chest up towards the side of the room.

If the full side plank is difficult for you it is appropriate to place the foot of the top leg on the floor to help maintain your balance.

At this point, we will initiate a dynamic movement. Slowly lower the hips towards the floor and then lift the back up into your side plank. Repeat this movement five to ten times and then repeat on the other side.

Snake Pose, or Sarpasana

This pose is fantastic for building strength and control in back-bending postures and can help to prepare you for the more intense heart-opening poses that you will encounter as your yoga practice progresses.

Begin by lying in a prone position with the front of the body on the floor and the legs stretched out behind you. Bring the legs together.

Place the hands on top of each other with the palms on the floor in front of you and place the forehead on to the hands. Keep the elbows flaring out to the side.

Maintaining this position in the upper body, on an inhale, lift the head, shoulders and chest off the floor into an active back bend. On an exhale lower the body back to the floor.

Repeat this movement five to ten times.

12 Core Exercises for Advanced Yogis

Feel free, as you advance in your practice, to perform as many reps as you deem appropriate. However, be sure to always emphasize quality over quantity and try not to push too hard.

Half Boat Pose, or Ardha Navasana (Advanced Variation)

In this advanced variation of our Half Boat Pose, we take the legs off the floor to create resistance and build balance.

Lying down on your back, bend your knees and lift the feet off the floor so that the knees are tracking up towards the ceiling and the shin is parallel with the floor. Hold the legs in this position as you place the hands behind the head, flaring the elbows outwards, and lift the head and shoulders off the floor.

From this position begin to perform a gentle crunching motion drawing the chest slightly towards the legs and then lowering back towards the floor without touching down completely. Keep the lower back in contact with the floor throughout the entire movement.

Repeat five to ten times.

Leg Rotations, or Chakra Padasana (Advanced Variation)

In this version of our Leg Rotation exercise, we will make it challenging by doing both legs at the same time.

Lie down on the back with the knees bent and the bottoms of the feet flat on the floor. Lift the hips so that you can place the hands underneath your buttocks with the palms flat on the floor.

Squeeze the legs together and lift the both off the floor. Keep them straight and point the toes as you begin to draw big circles with the feet, working the hips through their full range of motion.

Inhale while lifting the legs and exhale while lowering them.

Perform ten rotations in a clockwise direction and another ten in a counter-clockwise direction.

Leg Lifts, or Halasana (Advanced Variation)

This time, when we perform our leg lifts, we will add challenge by holding our legs in space at different stages of the movement.

Begin, as before, by lying down on the back with the knees bent and the bottoms of the feet flat on the floor. Lift the hips so that you can place the hands underneath your buttocks with the palms flat on the floor.

On an inhale lift both legs up in a controlled motion, pointing the toes towards the ceiling. As you exhale lower the legs halfway so that they are on a 45 degree angle relative to the floor. Inhale here. As you exhale, lower the legs a bit more. Inhale here. As you exhale lower the legs a bit more. Inhale here.

Once the legs are hovering just above the floor lift them away from the ground on an inhale, repeating the movements in the opposite direction until they are once again pointing towards the ceiling.

Repeat five times.

Locust Pose, or Shalabhasana (Advanced Variation)

This time, in our locust pose we will expand on the Intermediate variation by lifting the arms along with the legs.

Begin in a prone position lying down on the front of the body. Bring the legs together behind you and reach the arms forward in front of you. On an inhale lift the right leg off the floor and the left arm off the floor. Reach to opposite ends of the room and lift as high as you can without lifting the hips off the floor. Keep the shoulders square towards the front of the room.

As you exhale lower back down and repeat on the other side. Repeat the whole exercise ten times.

Dynamic Spinal Twist, or Jathara Parivarthasana A

This one is the same as the intermediate version.

Lie on the back with your legs bent and the bottoms of the feet on the floor. Legs together.

Lift the feet off the floor and bring the legs up so that the knees are pointing towards the ceiling and the shins are parallel to the floor. Reach the hands to opposite sides of the room with straight arms. On an exhale start to lower both legs to the right side.

This time you can bring the legs closer to the floor and allow the spine to twist slightly. The left hip can lift off the floor. On an inhale bring them back to centre and repeat on the other side.

An advanced practitioner should be able to take the knees all the way to the floor. Try to only allow the knees to touch gently before lifting them back away, maintain muscular engagement throughout the whole movement.

This exercise can be performed with a bit of momentum, but maintain control and try not to overdo it.

Repeat the whole exercise ten to fifteen times.

Plank Pose (Knees To Floor Variation)

There are many different variations to the full plank position that is great for exercising the core.

In this variation, enter a Plank Pose with the legs slightly apart. Without compromising the alignment of the plank position, slowly lower the knee of the right leg to just above the floor and then return to the plank position. Repeat on the other side.

Repeat the whole sequence ten times

Side Plank, or Vashishtasana (Dynamic Variation)

Once again, we enter our side plank with our palms on the floor. Once in the pose, we perform a dynamic movement where the hips lower on an exhale and rise back up on the inhale.

This time, lower the hips even lower, so that they are just above the floor, before returning to the starting position.

Snake Pose, or Sarpasana

This one is the same as the intermediate version.

Begin by lying in a prone position with the front of the body on the floor and the legs stretched out behind you. Bring the legs together.

Place the hands on top of each other with the palms on the floor in front of you and place the forehead on to the hands. Keep the elbows flaring out to the side.

Maintaining this position in the upper body, on an inhale, lift the head, shoulders, and chest off the floor into an active back bend. On an exhale lower the body back to the floor.

Repeat this movement at least ten times.

Half Roll Back

This is a great exercise to add to an advanced core practice. It’s sort of like a reverse crunch.

Begin by sitting up with the legs bent and the feet flat on the floor in front of you. Keeping the chest open and the spine straight, sit as upright as possible. On an exhale lower the back towards the floor, keeping the back as straight as possible. Never go so low that the back starts to round. Inhale here.

On your exhale return to the original position. In this exercise, it is best to always move on the exhale and hold on the inhale.

Roll Up

This exercise is similar to the previous one. However, it adds a bit more challenge by working the body through a wider range of motion.

Begin by lying on the back with the legs together and the arms reaching overhead. Take a deep inhale. On your exhale start to sit up slowly reaching the arms over head in a wide arc. In the finishing position, you will be sitting up with the arms reaching forward.

Inhale here. On an exhale reverse the movement and lie back down.

To make this exercise more challenging try keeping the arms reaching overhead for the entire movement.

Repeat five to ten times.

Scissor Kicks

This exercise is similar to our Leg Lift exercise.

In this variation, we begin on the back and lift the legs up towards the ceiling, pointing the toes. At the same time, we lift the head, shoulders and upper back off the floor. Gently take hold of the legs behind the calves. Keep the arms as straight as possible.

On an inhale, keeping the legs straight, lower the right leg to just above the floor. Keep the left leg in the same place with both hands holding gently behind the calf. Hold the pose on an exhale. On an inhale repeat the movement on the other side. In this exercise, we always move on the inhale and hold on the exhale.

Repeat the entire exercise at least ten times.

This exercise can be performed slowly or dynamically. When you perform it dynamically, add more repetitions.

Roll Over

Lie on the back with the legs stretched out in front and the arms on the floor alongside your trunk, palms down. Cross the legs at the ankles and lift them up towards the ceiling, keeping them as straight as possible.

This time we will reach the legs towards the wall behind you, gently lifting the lower back up off the floor. The movement should be subtle, there is no need to swing the legs all the way back. Simply lift the lower back slightly away from the floor and then lower it back.

Repeat this movement at least ten times.

Maintaining a strong core is a crucial part of an advancing yoga practice.

The exercises will help you to develop confidence and control in your movements, both on and off the mat. Like so many things, the key to progressing is consistency. One of the best ways to develop the motivation to maintain a consistent practice is to spend some time with an experienced teacher.

Our teachers have dedicated their lives to practicing and teaching yoga and can help you to develop a practice that will enrich your life for years to come. Join us on one of our Multi-Style Yoga Retreats or Teacher Trainings!

Sign up today. Your core will thank you!

 

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