Strengthen your core with these 5 yoga poses.

 

You can build lean, strong core muscles using nothing but your own body weight, when you’re in the right yoga postures.

That’s what Ms Reema Sadarangani assures. A yoga practitioner of more than 20 years, Ms Sadarangani now teaches Iyenger yoga, a form of Hatha yoga with a strong emphasis on precision and alignment in the execution of postures and breath control.

The “core” consists of a group of muscles working together to provide balance and stability, said Ms Sadarangani. It’s important to engage these muscles, from the hip flexors, front body (transverse and rectus abdominis), side body (oblique) to back body (erector spinae), as a stronger core can help protect one’s internal organs, central nervous systems, and prevent back injuries.

Ms Sadarangani added that it’s also important to work on the legs. “Take a tree for example. To hold the tree upright, you need the roots and trunk to be strong. It’s the same in yoga. To start with core building, you have to work on your leg strength to keep the core firm,” she said.

 

Here are 5 poses to get your started.

 

1) Dolphin Plank Pose (Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana)

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Dolphin Plank Pose

The Pose

Starting in Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), inhale and draw the torso forward until the arms are perpendicular to the mat. Lower the elbows onto the mat, 1 at a time and clasp the hands. Keeping the toes tucked in, lower the body to form a straight line. Hold the pose for 5 breaths.

How it builds the core

The Dolphin Plank Pose is great for sculpting the shoulders, arms and chest. This asana also tones the abdominal muscles and glutes for a full body workout.

 

2) Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

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Chair Pose

The Pose

Standing straight, place the feet hip-width apart. Inhale and raise the arms up shoulder-width apart. Keep the inside of the upper arms in with the palms facing inward. Soften the shoulders into their sockets. Slowly bend the knees to lower the thighs until they’re parallel to the floor—as if sitting on a chair. Hold the pose for 3-5 breaths.

How it builds the core

The Chair Pose strengthens not only the core, but the legs too. Both the abdominal and transverse abdominal muscles are targeted in Utkatasana. However, strong leg and thigh muscles are needed to hold the pose longer.

 

3) Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana I)

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Warrior I Pose

The Pose

While exhaling, step the right foot backwards—toes angled at 45 degrees outwards. While inhaling, raise the arms above the head, parallel to each other. Keeping the back leg straight, bend the left knee at 90 degrees. Hold the pose for 5 breaths and repeat for the other leg.

How it builds the core

Virabhadrasana I is similar to the Chair Pose—they complement each other and are often done consecutively. This pose develops the quadriceps while elongating the spine. Apart from being a hip opener, Virabhadrasana I also tones the upper body.

 

4) Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)

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Boat Pose

The Pose

Sitting on the floor with the legs bent, grip the hands behind the thighs—just below the knee. Whilst lifting the chest up, lift the feet so the shins are parallel to the floor. Pressing the belly to the spine, straighten both legs—keep the back straight as well. Extend the arms parallel to the floor and hold the pose for 3 breaths.

How it builds the core

The Boat Pose works on the core by engaging the deep muscles of the abdomen. Apart from toning the inner thigh muscles, this asana also works on the upper body—the trapezius and deltoid muscles are activated to hold the arms up.

 

5) Leg Raises (Uttanpadasana)

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Leg Raises

The Pose

Lying flat on the back, place both palms firmly onto the mat. Slowly lift the right foot 45 degrees into the air for 3 breaths. Lower the foot to an inch above the floor, before lifting it to 45 degrees again. Repeat this 5 times and do the same for the other leg.

How it builds the core

Leg Raises focus on building all aspects of the thigh; frontal, back, inner and outer adductor muscles. The hip flexors are also activated while doing this pose. Strengthening these muscles aids in developing the core as they’re connected to it.

 

Ms Sadarangani said it’s important for one to focus when executing the postures to prevent injuries.

“Yoga is supposed to heal,” she said. “If we do it without being conscious, without being aware of what we are doing—we might suffer injuries. Awareness is the key to avoiding injuries.”