Yoga’s one of the best things you can do to improve strength, tone your body and boost your health. So it’s no surprise that it focuses so heavily on core. Developing core strength can correct posture, relieve back and neck pain caused by weak muscles, and promote a healthier and happier spine overall.
We’ve boiled down our favorite core strengthening exercises into a quick and simple routine you can do in about 10 minutes a day! Hold each pose for 30 seconds then move to the next and repeat the sequence as many times as you can in 10 minutes.
There’s no doubt you’re familiar with the plank pose. It’s not only common in yoga but also popular in many fitness programs – and for good reason. While it looks simple, it’s anything but. The plank strengthens all major core muscle groups (1) which can lead to an ability to lift heavier, move faster and decrease your risk of back injury.
How to do a Plank:
- Begin by lying face down on your mat with your elbows pointed up and hands just below your shoulders (just like you’re about to do a push-up).
- Draw your belly in, push through your palms and feet and raise yourself into a full plank position. Keep your core and glutes tight and avoid shrugging your shoulders.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds and move to the next exercise.
- If the full plank is too difficult, try resting on your forearms with your arms parallel to your body and shoulder width apart.
- Avoid letting your hips sink toward the floor by engaging your core the entire time.
- Keep your shoulders strong and resist the temptation to allow them to shrug.
- Keep your hands shoulder width apart – bringing them together puts unnecessary strain on your rotator cuffs.
Kick it up:
- Try lifting one leg until it’s parallel with the floor and holding.
- Push up onto your hands (instead of resting on your elbows) and hold.
2. Side Plank
For a side plank you’re balancing on one arm rather than the “all fours” position you had in the standard plank. It’s amazing at building oblique strength and identifying weaknesses and imbalances in your muscles.
How to do a Side Plank:
- Begin by lying on your side, propped up on one arm with your elbow directly below your shoulder. Rest your forearm flat against the floor. Alternatively, you can push up onto your hand (pictured).
- Stack one foot on top of the other. When you push up, your weight will be concentrated on the outside of the foot you have against the floor.
- Now contract your abdominal muscles and lift yourself up by pushing your hips toward the sky. You want to focus on contracting your glutes and obliques on the side closest to the ground.
- You can raise your opposite arm up to the sky (pictured above) or keep that arm on your hip.
- Avoid letting your hips sag toward the floor.
- Try to keep your shoulders from sinking.
- Really focus on tightening your core.
Kick it up:
Try lifting one leg off the floor and pointing your other arm toward the ceiling.
3. Chaturanga / Low Plank
The low plank pose requires many muscles to work in conjunction. While it’s primarily building core, its also strengthening your forearms and improving wrist flexibility (1). Chaturanga is a little bit harder than the standard plank so check the tips below for modifications and form points.
How to do Low Plank:
- Begin lying face down on your yoga mat. Position your hands on the mat just below your chest level with your fingers spread out similar to how you would perform a push up.
- Keeping your elbows close to your sides, push yourself up off the floor until you have a 90 degree angle in your arms.
- Focus on holding yourself perfectly stable while contracting your abs and glutes.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds.
- Push into your heels and tighten your core to create length in the spine.
- Avoid letting your shoulders droop lower than your elbows.
- Avoid sagging and letting your hips drop to the floor.
- If you find this pose too challenging, try dropping your knees to the floor and doing the pose from there (like a modified push-up).