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5 Great Yoga Poses For A Strong Core

I see this title all over the place and people are always asking about Yoga for various body parts and the core is one of the most popular by far!

It’s not hard to figure out why, right? It’s because everyone desires a nice flat stomach or a 6 pack! Well, I’ve got something great to tell you… almost all exercises and certainly almost all Yoga poses can strengthen your core! WOO HOO!!

But, as promised in the title I've picked my top 5.

Will You Get A 6 Pack?

This is where things get interesting. Have you ever looked at the abs of your typical yogi? I’m going to show you some pics of some top yogini’s and myself (before my wedding cause I’ve gone a little food mad since the honeymoon oops. Just trying to be honest) 😉

Me – I certainly don’t love this picture lol, (why are my eyes closed??) I am happy with my stomach though. Notice, no 6 pack but it’s flat.

Cameron Shayne and his stunning wife Melayne Shayne – Again, notice that neither have that crazy 6 pack everyone goes on about, but they clearly have strong stomachs and I know for certain they’re both massively strong!

Kino MacGregor – Another amazingly strong Yogini with an incredibly regular practice, but again, no 6 pack just a beautifully toned tummy.

Shiva Rea – Who’s videos I have a lot of so I know her practice is strong and again no insane 6 pack just a really well defined stomach.

And lastly the awesome Duncan Wong – I know his practice very well as I’m good friends with his assistant Rebecca Hannah, so I know how much core work goes into Yogic Arts and again look at his stomach! So clearly strong and defined but not those crazy 6 packs!
The reason I picked the above teachers is because I know the kind of practice they have, it’s regular, it’s strong and they are well established and they have what I consider to be a Yogi’s body and ability when you’ve reached your peak. But look at all the of them, they’re not bulky they don’t look in any way like they can’t move but they have the most incredible bodies!
Just to explain what I mean by a crazy 6 pack, here’s an example…

This isn’t even that crazy, I’ve seen bigger. I know a lot of people, mostly men who aspire to have this and women who want this…

and that’s lovely for them, I’m certainly not knocking their physiques, they look amazing, but what I do want to make clear is that very often, having muscle bulk like this does not equal strength and does not equal healthy or mobile.

Why Should You Aim For The Yogi's Core?
In a nutshell, because it’s healthier. Basically, to have too much bulk can actually hinder your movement because you’re not lengthening your muscles. And secondly, it’s much easier to obtain a yogis core! because it’s closer to our natural state.
What I would love for you to start aiming for is a core (not just a stomach) that supports your body in balance, walking, running, moving and so on and here’s another little secret… a strong but soft core will aid your digestive system! 🙂

Top 5 Yoga Poses For A Strong But Soft Core

1. A nice, simple and well performed plank pose will work everything!
Simply start in a table top position (all fours) with your shoulders over your wrists and knees under your hips, hip distance apart, head in line with your spine.
Now imagine you have a tray on your back so your hips don’t move and slide your right leg out behind you and tuck the toes. Then do the same with the left leg without moving your shoulders at all!
Press up with your ankles and shins and stay really lifted on those toes, as if you have your heels on a wall. Press into your fingers and knuckles to press the floor away and expand your chest. The aim is to have yourself in a long diagonal line form heels to head, so don’t lift that butt up or move your shoulders back.
Hold it for a few breaths then return to table top.
2. Warrior 3 or Virabhadrasana 3 is an awesome one. Again it can work the whole body but especially the core and supporting hip if you really focus.
Start off in a high lunge pose, hugging the legs and feet towards each other without moving them so that you feel both hips coming forward.
Reach your arms out in front of you and imagine you’re standing between 2 panes of glass, so you can only go forwards and backwards, not sideways.
Start shifting your weight into the front leg until the back leg starts to lift then extend back with the lifted foot and forwards with you fingers and chest.
Keep your hips even, again as if you had a tray on your pelvis. Your palms can face each other with your triceps (back of the arms) pulling back or you can bring your arms back and extend through your fingers.
Hold it for a couple breaths then do this all on the other side.
3. Downward dog pose or Adho Mukha Svanasana. You may not have thought this one would do it but it’s amazing for the core and the entire body!
Start off in extended child’s pose. Lengthen your arms out in front of you with your hips staying back so you start to feel length coming from the hip bones (almost like a belly stretch) tuck your toes under, push back through your ankles, heels and thighs and then start to lift your pelvis, pressing it backwards.
Imagine someone is pulling your thighs and inner thighs back so you start to find length in the belly, this is when you’ll feel your belly engage. press your finger pads and knuckles into the ground and pull your triceps back to open your shoulders and chest.
From here you can play with the pose doing 3 legged dogs, scorpions, twisted dogs and so on, they all work the core muscles.
4. This is a side plank variation, it’s a great variation because, of course, it’s more challenging, but you don’t have to go with this one, you can go with a simple side plank, which I will explain below.
First, start in full plank or forearm plank. Come over to your right side and as you do, squeeze the legs together. You can also take the top foot in front but even if you do this, squeeze the legs together to lift your hips up. Press into the knife edge of the bottom foot.
If you’re on your forearms you’ll need to spin on the elbow to face the hand in the direction you’re looking, if you’re on your hand you’re fine. Either way start to slide the shoulder blade into the back, keep the shoulder in line with the elbow or wrist and wrap the bottom ribs round to the front and up to the ceiling to open up your chest and shoulders.
If you want to go for the version above then start to draw your top knee towards your chest as you press into the outer edge of your supporting foot. Start to externally rotate the leg from the hip without moving the pelvis back, grab the foot with the same hand and pull it in towards your groin. Now press the foot into the thigh, and the thigh into the foot like crazy to open the hips and stabilise the legs.
Then go for it all again on the other side.
5. The handstand! You may look at this and think ‘well I can’t do that!’ Well, guess what? it doesn’t matter if you can’t because even practicing the jumps up will strengthen your core! Feel free to do this at a wall if you like.
Firstly, to get the right distance from the wall you need to kneel down in front of it, place your palm on the skirting board so it’s flat on the wall. Then elbow down on the floor. Mark where your elbow is with your finger and then place the heel of your hand by your finger.
Now crouch down with your shoulders right over the top of your wrists, look between your hands, then start hugging your knees up to the belly with your toes tucked under. this will round your back (remember not to move your shoulders!) Even here you’ll feel the core engage and this might be enough for you, if it is, stay there and hold it for a few breaths, relax, then do it again. If you can go further then straighten your kicking leg out behind you, this leg must remain straight the whole time! keep your supporting leg slightly bent.
Then, without moving your shoulders start making little hops from your supporting leg, allowing the kicking leg to come up towards the wall. Take your time, go slow and see how your body reacts. If you get up to the wall, great, stay there.
You then need to keep your head, back and bum off the wall and extend like crazy through your feet and legs which is then what helps you to engage your core. (For those of you who are prone to a banana back like me, you need to hug your ribs in and lengthen your tailbone up to the ceiling) Press into your fingers and then you can come down slowly.
Remember to take it slow and only go where your body wants to.
Well that’s it folks, my top top 5 Yoga poses for the core! If you liked this you may like to come along to my workshop on the 15th April 2018 at Yoga Balance, click here for a book, it’s all about the core. If you can’t get to the workshop but want more then definitely sing up to my mailing list, you’ll get a free video as soon as you do and I’ll be sending out a video on the core on the 1st April, so sign up now if you want that vid!
Let me know how you get on with these poses if you try them out.

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