You don’t need to perform endless crunches to build a strong, sexy core. Add this yoga routine to your fitness plan to see for yourself. When performed correctly, yoga can be a powerful core builder, forcing muscles throughout your body—especially in your torso—to work overtime to keep you balanced and stable as you build mobility and increase range of motion. And by holding each pose, you’ll extend the time your muscles are under tension, which is the key to building serious strength.
Boat Pose- Navasana
There are two versions of this pose, both of which will test the strength and stamina of every muscle between your hips and shoulders. Version 1: Plant your sits bones (the bones directly under the flesh of your butt) firmly on the floor, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the ground. Sit up straight (your chest should remain higher than your knees) and brace your core as you lift you feet off the ground. Keep your knees bent as you raise your lower legs until your calves are parallel to the floor. Hold for 8 to 10 breaths.
Triangle Pose- Utthita Trikonasana
This pose engages nearly every part of the body, strengthening your core, opening your hips and shoulders, and stretches your legs. Spread your feet 3 to 4 feet apart, aligning your left foot with the back edge of your mat and positioning your right foot so that your toes point toward the front edge of your mat. Extend your arms straight above your head (if you like, you can hold onto a foam block to help keep them aligned). Keeping your torso straight, hinge right as far as you comfortably can. Hold for 8 to 10 breaths. Raise your torso back up, switch foot positions, and repeat to your other side.
Dolphin Pose- Makarasana
This pose bears little resemblance to anything a dolphin might do, but it will strengthen your core, arms, and legs, and elicit a deep stretch in your calves and hamstrings. Begin in a pushup position with your weight resting on your forearms instead of your hands. Your shoulders should be directly above your elbows, and your palms should be flat on the ground. Take a deep breath, and then exhale, lifting your hips and lowering your heels to the floor as you press back into a modified downward facing dog position. Hold for 8 to 10 breaths, and then drop your knees and press your butt onto your heals, reaching your arms forward. Hold this “child’s pose” for several breaths.
Eagle Pose- Garudasana
Eagle pose requires focus, strength, and flexibility, and will strengthen your legs, glutes, core, and back. It will also stretch your shoulders, hips, thighs, and back. Stand tall and focus on a point on the floor about 3-feet in front of you. Extend your arms straight out in front of your chest, and then “entwine” your arms, wrapping your left arm around your right, and gripping either your right hand or right forearm with your left hand. Bend your elbows until your forearms are parallel to the floor. If you’re new to this pose, bend your knees and place your leg on top of your right, so that your feet and knees are “stacked.” If you’re able to perform this version of the move with perfect form, make it harder by crossing your left leg over your right leg, and wrapping your left foot behind your right calve. (You can also touch your elbows to your knees for an even greater challenge.) Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, switch sides, and repeat.
Upward Facing Dog- Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
This pose might look simple—and compared to the eagle pose it is—but its benefits are powerful. Performed regularly, it will help open your chest and upper back, improve your posture, strengthen your spine, wrists, and arms, and stretch out your abs, making it the perfect pose to cap off this yoga workout. Start by laying on your stomach with your chin resting on the ground. Your ankles should be flexed (the tops of your feet should rest on the floor), and your legs should be extended behind you. Place your hands under your shoulders, palms on the floor. Press up, straightening your arms as you lift your knees, thighs, pelvis, stomach, chest, and head off the ground. Hold for 8 to 10 breaths.