By: Yasha Barretto
Summer is fast approaching, and it is almost time to get those bikinis and cropped tops out of the closet. If you don’t quite have that beach body of your dreams just yet, the good news is you have enough time to prep and flaunt a toned midsection in time for the beach season. But beyond the aesthetic, having a strong core is a good means to achieve balance, stability, and good posture. If the usual sit-ups and crunches combo bore you, yoga is a great alternative to give you core strength, not to mention lean muscles and inner peace to boot. Read on for ten best yoga poses for toning your core and how to do them:
- Plank Pose (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana)
A key part of the traditional Sun Salutation sequence, plank is a total body toning pose that we all have a love-hate relationship with. Keep your palms directly under your shoulders and press the base of your palms on the floor, making sure there is even pressure on your hands. Firm your shoulder blades against your back and spread your collarbones. Keep body in an even straight line and engage your abdomen, butt, and legs. Alignment is key here, so avoid arching.
- Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)
The side plank is a powerful arm balance as well as a core strengthening pose. From plank, shift to your right or left side (depending on what you want to do first) and press your weight down on your right or left hand. Balance on the top of your right / left foot. Keep body in a straight line, and reach your right / left arm (whichever is the opposite of the side you’re balancing on) to the sky. Gaze at your top thumb and firm up your core and thighs. Hold for up to half a minute. Make sure to do both sides.
- Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Generally, most people find this pose funny (and enjoyable!) and relatively easy, but it is actually a tummy strengthener. Lie on your back, fold your knees and press them towards your armpits. Grab the outside part of your feet with your hands while opening your knees wider than your torso. Position each ankle directly above the knee, flex through the heels, and rock back and forth.
- Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)
A much dreaded and strenuous pose in every yoga class, but all your huffs and puffs will be worth it as it is one of the best ab strengtheners. Balance on your sit bones, and extend your legs up, forming a V shape with your body. Extend your palms forward with your palms facing each other. Lengthen your torso and firm your navel, and hold for five breaths (or more).
- Crow Pose (Bakasana)
Crow is a pretty advanced arm balance yoga pose, and it requires core strength. Squat down on your mat with your feet a few inches apart. Separate your knees wider than your hips, and lean your torso forward. Place your palms flat on the floor, and bend your elbows with the backs of the upper arms against your shins. Press your shins on your armpits, and lift up onto the balls of your feet. Lean forward, and focus on getting balance from your core, and fly like a crow.
- Dolphin Plank Pose (Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana)
From plank pose, lower your forearms to the floor with your palms flat on the floor as well. Keep your legs and the back of your knees straight. Fix your gaze on the floor, your body in straight line, and flex your abdominal muscles in. Hold for a few breaths.
- Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III)
The most challenging of the Warriors, this one also challenges the core to the extreme. Balance on your right or left leg, lift the opposite leg up and out, hinging at the hips to lower the arms and torso down towards the floor. Look down and stare at a single point on the floor for balance. Reach out through the toes of the lifted leg, and make one straight line with the crown and fingers.
- Staff Posture (Dandasana)
While those new to the practice may mistake this as a resting pose, it is actually an active pose that develops core muscles. Extend the legs straight out in front of you while seated on the mat. Place your hands behind your hips. Lengthen your spine and reach the crown on the head up. Press the chest forward and drop the shoulders down. Flex your feet and hold for a few breaths.
- Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Chair pose strengthens the entire body, including the core. Stand with your big toes touching, heels slightly apart. Bend your knees while bringing thighs parallel to the floor and raise your hands. Draw your tailbone in, and keep your back long. Bring your hips lower, and lift your chest. Put the majority of your weight onto your heels, and lift your toes up if you want to.
- Dolphin Pose
A prelude to the headstand, dolphin pose is the ultimate full body toner, as most muscles are engaged during while accomplishing this. Start in downward facing dog, then set your knees and press your forearms and palms firmly on the floor. Make sure your shoulders are directly above your wrist. Slowly press your knees away from the floor and lengthen your tailbone. Lift your sitting bones toward the ceiling. You’ll be in an inverted V (similar to downward facing dog) but with both forearms on the floor.