Yoga not only increases flexibility but can also help tone and strengthen the core. While yoga won’t create a “six-pack” of abdominal muscles, integrating yoga into a workout routine will provide stronger muscles capable of producing and supporting the body in all positions.
Individuals wanting to use yoga solely to strengthen the abdominal muscles may integrate core intensive positions into their routine. However, as with all positions in yoga, begin with the breath. While contorting the body into any position, always take deep cleansing breaths through the nose and exhale through the mouth. The breath is integral to yoga practice.
Once a breathing pattern has been set and established, move the body into position. Intense abdominal positions may require rests in between. If moves become too challenging or strenuous, remember to lay prostrate, relax and breathe.
Now, challenge the abs and strengthen the core with these yoga positions!
The Bridge Pose.
Lay with the back flat on the floor. Place the palms of the hands down on the floor, and bend the legs at the knee. Slowly raise the buttocks off the floor, then bring the hands together in a clasped position under the raised buttocks. Hold for a count of five.
Sit with back upright and legs flat on the mat. Bring the knees up to a bent position midway to the body. Angle the back slightly and rest the palms of the hands on the mat to anchor the body. Then raise the legs, slightly bend with the calves at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Now, hold arms straight in front of the body, parallel to the calves. The body should resemble a small boat. Be sure to keep abdominal muscles tight and pulled in. Tummy in, shoulders back.
Upward Table Pose.
This is one of the easier abdominal-focused poses to master. Sit on the mat with palms and feet flat on the floor. Make sure the tummy is pulled tight and that shoulders are back. Now, push the palms backwards on the mat, lifting the buttocks and core up off the floor. The legs and arms should for 90-degree angles to the mat and the core should be held flat and parallel to the mat. This pose creates a squared-off table with the body.
The purpose of the pose is to keep the body upright on one foot. This, of course, requires the strength and power of the core. Stand upright, with palms together as if in a praying positions. Now take one leg and bend so that the foot rests against the knee of the opposite leg. Now see how long the body can hold this position without losing balance. Again, this requires—and helps build—a strong core.
The Core Sequence.
Sadie Nardini, founder of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, designed a unique yoga sequence that targets the abs and empowers women at the same time to create a stronger body and mind. This sequence features the following poses, in order: the Chair Pose, Revolved Chair Pose, Revolved Lunge Pose, High Lunge with Fists of Fire, Downward-Facing Dog, Revolved Downward Facing Dog, Supported Side Plank, and ends with the Finishing Poses.
Combining abdominal intense yoga positions to create core strengthening routines encourages increased muscle tone and endurance. The core is vital to good posture and supports balance for the body. While a tight and toned core adds to physical appearance, strengthening the core increases our ability to perform amazing feats while increasing confidence and body positivity.