When one hears about ‘core’ workouts, the first visual that typically comes to mind is washboard abs. But there is more to your core than just the abdominal muscles. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the core comprises:
- Hip flexors and hip adductor muscles
- Gluteal muscles
- Pelvic floor muscles
These large muscle groups provide stability and support for just about every move you make. And weak or inflexible core muscles “can impair how well your arms and legs function”, as Harvard Medical School reports. A strong core, thus, comes with an array of gains.
The benefits are:
Both Harvard Medical School and Cleveland Clinic studies associate it with several advantages, like:
- Better stability and balance. Hence, also reduced falls and injuries, like hip flexor strains and sports hernias
- Improved posture
- Easing of lower back pain
- Core exercises can also make movements easier and enhance physical performance.
The role of yoga
Almost every yoga pose can be a core-strengthening exercise, as a report in the American Council on Exercise concurs. So, while some may have a direct impact, others may be slightly more subtle—but, in the end, almost all asanas promote strength, balance, and stability of the core.
Best yoga poses for the core
There is something for everyone. Hold the poses for as long as you can, and gradually up the duration/variations. Consult your instructor in case of any discomfort. If any underlying health issues, speak to your doctor first.
- Stand tall, with feet slightly apart.
- Raise your hands above your head, keeping the arms close to your ears.
- Simultaneously, lift your heels off the ground, to be on our toes. Keep the legs straight, but avoid locking your knees.
- Keep your back straight. You can interlace your fingers up above, to increase the pull.
- Kneel down, resting your hips on your heels. Keep your thighs close to each other.
- Slowly, bow forward, lowering your upper body to bring the chest as close to the thighs as possible.
- Simultaneously, extend your arms out in front, palms down.
- Bring your face down to rest your forehead comfortably on the mat.
More: Tree Pose, Downward Dog, Upward Facing Dog
For intermediate levels:
- Sit on your hips, with both legs extended in front.
- Slowly lean back, and, simultaneously, lift your legs off the floor, while raising both arms up to the sides of your thighs.
- You can also start this pose from the supine position, lying flat on the back, and gently lifting your chest and feet off the ground, stretching your arms towards your feet.
- Keep the back straight, and core engaged. Your body should now resemble the arc of a boat, or a wide ‘V’.
- Lie down on your stomach, with your legs straight and arms extended out front.
- Raise your head, simultaneously lifting your chest, arms, legs and thighs off the floor, too.
- Your elbows and knees shouldn’t be bent.
- Lift yourself as high as you comfortably can. You will now resemble Superman in flight.
More: Tree Pose, Bridge Pose, Chair Pose
For advance practitioners:
Warrior pose III:
- Stand erect, with feet together and your hands on the waist.
- Inhale slowly, and begin shifting the weight of your body to the leg that you’d keep on the ground.
- Now lift the other leg, while bowing your upper body forward, arms stretched in front. Your torso and the lifted leg should be in line, parallel to the ground.
- Join your hands out in front, keeping them straight.
- Repeat with the other leg.
- Stand upright, with your feet slightly apart.
- Now turn your right foot out, to about 90 degrees, and start bending your body sideways to the right, keeping the waist straight. Simultaneously, lift your left arm up, while bringing your right arm down towards the ground, as low as you can without distorting the posture. Both your arms should be in a straight line.
- Repeat with the other side.
More: Crane Pose, Bow Pose, Four-Limbed Staff Pose