The core is literally the center of our body. It is the center of both our balance and our strength. A strong core supports the back muscles, helps you to stand straight and to maintain your balance. Therefore working on your core is not only important to improve your yoga practice but it is also important in order to improve your overall health. Below you can find four very effective poses to work on your abs and to increase core awareness. The more you are able to engage your core, the more you will realize that not only your yoga asana practice but your day to day physical activity will go so much more easy and smooth.
1. Naukasana – Boat Pose
Boat Pose or Naukasana (also known as Navasana) is a very beneficial pose to increase your core strength and core awareness. It also strengthens the spine and the hip flexors, improves balance and concentration and is a beneficial pose for stress relief.
How to come in the pose:
- Sitting on the floor with your legs bent
- Place your hands slightly behind your back on the floor and lean backwards on your hands
- Lift your legs off the floor, opening your chest and bringing your thighs to your chest as well as your chest to your thighs
- Press your legs firmly together and keep lifting them up to about 45 degrees
- Stretch your arms to the front, parallel to the floor
- Keep your spine straight, your chest open and your shoulders down
- If it is too difficult to keep the legs straight, you can also bend your legs 45 degrees
- Stay here for 10-30 seconds
2. Vasisthasana – Side Plank
Side Plank is definitely an overall strengthening pose, working on the core, the arms, wrists and legs. It is also a very good pose to increase your balance and concentration.
The complete version of Vasisthasana includes holding the big toe of the top leg and lifting that leg straight up to the ceiling. However this pose is too demanding for most beginning students. The version below is the beginner’s version.
Follow the instructions below to come into Vasisthasana:
- Sit on your right side, legs straight and slightly in front of you, leaning on your right hand
- Make sure your right hand is below your right shoulder
- The left foot is on top of the right foot. Only the outside of your right foot is touching the floor, feet are flexed
- Push your right hand and the outside of your right foot into the floor and lift your hips up to the ceiling
- Lift your left hand up to the ceiling and look at your left hand
- Keep opening your chest and find your balance
- Stay in this pose for 10-20 seconds, then repeat the same on the other side
3. Dandasana – Stick Pose or Dolphin Plank Pose
Dolphin Plank Pose is an excellent pose to increase body awareness and especially core awareness. It strengthens the arms and legs and is a good preparation pose for arm balancing. Dolphin Plank Pose is a preparation for Chaturanga Dandasana and is suited for beginning practitioners and practitioners with less body awareness and core strength.
This is you can come into Dolphin Plank Pose:
- Sit on your knees in Vajrasana (Diamond Pose)
- Hold your elbows and place your forearms on the floor
- Keep your elbows where they are and interlock your fingers
- Shift the weight more to your upper arms, place your shoulders above your elbows and straighten your legs back
- Keep the legs straight and push your heels away from you
- Look straight down, back of the neck is long
- Make sure you don’t sink in your hips or lift your hips too high. You should be in a straight plank position
- Stay here for 30-60 seconds
4. Knee-to-arm plank pose
This variation of Plank Pose is very beneficial for core and arm strength. It also teaches you how to shift the weight from your feet to your hands and therefore it is a very good preparation for hand balancing poses such as Crow Pose (Kakasana), Crane (Bakasana), Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana), etc.
- From Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), first lift your right knee straight up to the ceiling and then slowly bring your right knee to the outside of your right upper arm.
- Shift the majority of your weight to your arms. Keep your arms straight and strong, but at the same time keep pushing your left heel away. Stay here for 5 to 10 seconds.
- Lift your right foot back up to the ceiling and push your hands into the floor, dividing the weight equally between your hands and foot.
- Place your right foot on the floor again to come into Downward Facing Dog.
- Repeat the same on the other side.
Discover more about the effects of yoga poses on the chakras in the following article about the Sivananda Yoga Sequence.
Learn more about how to practice Headstand, and the benefits of this King of Asanas.
Follow an Arhanta Yoga Teacher Training Course in India or the Netherlands and study Classical Hatha Yoga, the correct allignment and the benefits on the body and mind.