I’ve been a closet yogi for years. From instructional DVDs to exercise games on Nintendo Wii, I like to pose with the best at-home yoga masters. But then I hit a plateau in my progression and realized the best way to learn how to strengthen your core is to have a teacher critique and correct the poses. I mustered up some courage to wear yoga pants in public and joined the beginner’s yoga class at my gym.
After three months of proper training, I’m seeing amazing results. The poses that once caused me to wobble in frustration are slowly becoming stable favorites. My core strength is gradually improving, and results show in how my clothes fit and my ability to swim for longer periods of time without exhaustion. I also have better balance.
Here are my three favorite yoga poses to build core strength:
Remember when it was popular to post a picture of yourself planking in unusual places? The trend presumably ended when people realized how difficult it is to actually stiffen the entire length of your body without it sagging. Plank pose, which tones your abdominal muscles as it strengthens your arms and spine, is guaranteed to make you sweat within the first ten seconds of holding the posture. For a true test, try the side plank to tone up your obliques, also known as the “muffin top” area around your waist.
Full Boat Pose
Sitting on the floor and raising your arms and legs, forming a “V” shape with your body, isn’t as easy as it sounds. Remaining stable and holding the pose for up to a minute lets you feel the burn in your abdomen, arms, and legs. As a bonus, this pose can really get your heart rate up, so you burn more calories during a given session. When I first tried the boat pose, I could hold it for about three seconds. Now I’m proud to say I can make “deeper Vs” with this pose and hold them for nearly thirty seconds. It takes practice, but your waistline will reward you with toned muscles.
While lying on the floor with your knees bent, use your abdominal muscles and glutes to hoist your body up into a bridge pose. Holding this position without letting your bottom sag or your knees fall open is difficult. Once this core stretch becomes easy, try a variation, such as kicking one foot out at a time, elevating your heart rate with some cardio exercise.
On the first day of yoga class, my instructor gave us excellent advice that I think about daily. She said it’s best to do a little yoga for core strength each day, than to do a long yoga session once in a while. So, why not try a pose or two while watching a movie at home or playing on the floor with the kids?
Have you tried a yoga class to learn how to strengthen your core? Tell us what poses you like best in the comments below!
Image source: Flickr