You know that feeling when you’ve been holding a plank for so long it feels like you’re being punched in the stomach? What makes you hold on? Is it the coveted ab crack? That cute crop you’ve been eyeing off on Net-A-Porter?
While it may make you grit and bear that last 30 seconds, there’s more to our abs than serious definition.
“Our core is the powerhouse and driving force behind the strength our body needs to function and move throughout the day. A strong core not only helps to prevent injuries, and reduce back pain. It also protects our most important internal organs. Engage your core, stand taller and feel confident,” explains Claire Grieve, celebrity yoga instructor and abs ambassador.
Below, she shares her top five yoga poses to strengthen your core and set your abs on fire.
“Practising tabletop regularly will work your core muscles and boost overall strength. This pose can also strengthen your upper back, lower back, and neck.” This exercise looks simple, but it challenges your balance and proprioception.
- Start on your hands and knees. Place your hands under your shoulders, with your knees directly under your hips. Keep your spine straight and your abdominal muscles tucked in without arching your back.
- Lengthen the left leg back and right arm forward simultaneously while maintaining a neutral spine. Your leg is lifted to the hip’s height and arm is lifted to the shoulder level.
- Hold this position for 3 inhales and exhales before coming back to the starting position. Repeat with the right left and left arm.
- Repeat this exercise for about 5 times more on both sides.
One-Legged Chaturanga Dandasana
Good ol’ chaturanga—it’s a traditional transitional pose in a Vinyasa yoga flow, but it also happens to be a killer core and arm exercise.
- Begin in your plank position: Pull the core into the spine, look forward, press your palms and knuckles into the ground, while engaging the back muscles to support the spine. Tuck the tailbone and flex the back toes.
- Exhale rolling your body forward more onto your tippy toes.
- Lower halfway down, keeping your elbows tucked into your sides and one leg lifted.
- Hold for a moment and inhale.
- Exhale and press back up into starting position and repeat with the other leg.
- Repeat with both legs 10 times.
Plank Knee-to-Elbow Variations
“Plank pose is one of the most effective exercises as it not only strengthens the core but also strengthens the wrists, shoulders, chest, buttock, spinal muscles, triceps and neck.” Adding different, challenging variations to plank by throwing off the balance helps to target and engage specific core muscles, like the obliques.
- Begin into a push-up position on your hands and toes; lengthen all the way from the crown of your head to your heels. Keep your core pulled into your spine, back is flat.
- Inhale. Lift your right foot off of the ground bend your knee in, engage the core, and draw it toward your right elbow. Connect the knee and elbow hold.
- Exhale, extend your right leg back to starting position.
- Inhale, lift your right foot off of the ground, take your knee to your left elbow allowing for the core to twist. Connect and hold.
- Exhale, extend your right leg back to starting position. Repeat with the left leg.
- Repeat 10 times.
Scissor Legs Reach Pose
Want to get that coveted ab-line down the center of your core? Put Scissor Leg Reach pose on your shortlist. “This pose is a sure way to set your upper abdominals on fire!” This pose is also great for stretching the hamstrings and thigh muscles.
- Start by laying on your back with your arms by your side. Raise your legs up to a 90-degree angle.
- Pulling your stomach into your spine, inhale and lower your right leg down halfway and hover.
- As you exhale, lift your torso towards your right leg, reaching your arms past your leg until your fingertips touch behind your hamstrings. Hold for a full breath.
- Exhale as you lower back to starting position. Repeat on the other side.
- Repeat 10 times with each leg.
High-Low Boat Pose (Navasana)
“Boat Pose strengthens the core, builds balance and is great for your posture. It stretches the hamstrings and hip flexors. Other health benefits include stimulating digestion, thyroid function, kidneys, and intestines.”
- Sit on your butt with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground. Extend your arms reaching your hands forward toward your legs.
- Inhale as you lean back while engaging your core. Extend arms straight out past your knees.
- Raise your feet and slowly start straightening your legs, bringing your body into a V-shape.
- With an exhale and control, start to lower your upper body and lower body simultaneously until you are a few inches above with ground with your upper back and feet.
- Inhale and with control, keeping your stomach pulled into your spine, raise your upper body and lower body.
- Repeat 10 times or more