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August 06th, 2013

five yoga poses to strengthen your core

By KIND Editor

There is a lot of conversation about core in the yoga world and with the fusion of different yoga styles and yoga progressively becoming more aerobic, you hear it more and more. Strengthen your core, work your core, activate your core. What I love about this sequence from Jessica Bellofatto is that it is super intuitive and it’s great for people just getting into this type of work or for people who are more familiar with core-work. I also like that I can practice these poses in my office (behind closed doors!) or at home. As publisher of Alignyo, a yoga lifestyle magazine, I’m lucky to have access to these quick, safe and easy sequences and I’m glad that we can share them here. —Liz

It’s important to have a strong core, not only to look good in a bathing suit, but to perform all daily movements as well as sports and physical activities in a safer, more effective, more balanced way. A strong core can also improve posture and help prevent injuries as well as low back pain. The following yoga sequence will work all of the muscles of the core. As you hold these positions, breathe in and out smoothly through your nose, draw your navel towards your spine MORE with every exhalation, and ungrip the parts of the body that don’t need the effort (think the face, jaw, toes!)

Alternate arm/leg pose
This pose (image above) provides a gentle massage to the spine, core and abdominal organs. Start in a neutral hands and knees position with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. On your inhalation, extend the right arm forward alongside the ear as you extend the left leg straight back behind you, lifting the foot off the ground. Go slowly the first time so as not to lose balance and feel the abdominal muscles working to stabilize you. Exhale and lower the right arm and the left leg down. Inhale and extend the left arm alongside the ear, as you extend the right leg straight back behind you, exhale lower down. Continue like this at least five times on each side.

From your hands and knees position, extend both legs one at a time straight back behind you, pressing through the heels. Keep the arms straight and strong, with the shoulders balanced over the wrists, the belly drawn in towards the spine, and the body on one straight line from head to heels. Breathe here smoothly and deeply and stay up to one minute.

Forearm plank
From plank, lower your forearms to the ground and again, stretch your legs straight back behind you. The body is in one line, the belly is pulled strongly in towards your spine (remember, you can pull in even more with every exhalation).

Locust pose (Salabasana)
From forearm plank, drop to your belly (relief!), but just for a moment. Take your arms down by your sides and extend the legs long and straight behind you. On an inhalation, lift everything up off the ground (the head, chest, and legs). This one works the whole posterior chain of muscles (the back muscles) that give us good posture, and rehabilitate lower back issues. Breathe for 8-10 breaths, and as you exhale, lower down to the belly and rest for a few breaths. Repeat two more times.

Boat pose (Navasana)
Press from your belly back to Downward Dog and then walk your feet through your hands to sit down on your butt. Boat Pose strengthens not just the belly muscles, but is also amazing for the psoas and hip flexor muscles as well. Balance on your buttock bones and lift your legs off the floor. You can start out with your knees bent and hold on behind your legs. If you feel ok there, begin to straighten your legs and let go with your hands. Feel the heat and the work in the abdominals!

Crow pose (Bakasana)
Crow Pose is the culmination of all of our core work. A compact arm balance, one of the keys to this pose is accessing the core and hugging the legs to the midline of the body, using both the inner thigh (adductor) muscles and the core muscles of the pelvic floor and lower abdominals. Come to a squat position and place your hands on the floor in front of you. Squeeze your knees and legs to the outsides of the upper arms (hugging the midline). Look forward and begin to lift one foot up off the floor, then the other, balancing all of the weight on the arms. Puff and round the back body, drawing the abdominals up into the lower back. Smile!

You will be sore tomorrow…enjoy the feeling of how much you worked that core, and repeat these sequence daily!

About Jessica Bellofatto
Jessica Bellofatto, founder and director of KamaDeva Yoga in East Hampton, Ny, is best known for her easy laughter, radiant energy, and matchless knowledge of the body. A mother, yogini, doula, surfer, triathlete, and avid stand up paddleboarder (and now SUP racer), Jessica has inspired thousands of students in their journey to better understand themselves and their world. A former dancer, Jessica teaches from a deep understanding of movement as art, movement as play, movement as therapy, and especially, movement as a spiritual practice. She is also interested in the stillness within and between the movement; the spaciousness of silence. Jessica teaches sold out yoga retreats around the world and is most happy outside, in nature, preferably wet.

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