Are you keen on gaining core strength but sick of crunches? We are, too. While crunches are a tried-and-true abdominal exercise, they can be…boring. On top of that, straight crunches are not an effective exercise to engage all of the muscle groups that comprise “the core.”
The core muscles are more complex than commonly thought six-pack muscles. Four (read: four!) of them are included. The abdominal cavity is covered with four layers of fibers, including the diaphragm (muscles supporting the lower back), the pelvic floor, and the glutes.
To effectively strengthen those muscles, we need to move in multiple planes. Left, right, up, down, twist, turn. Let’s start now.
Cheetah Pose or Bird Dog Pose
This pose can be added between vinyasas or to a Surya Namaskara B or A. To get the most from Cheetah, you should keep your knees as close as possible to your body while shifting your shoulders over your hands.
You can also create the same motion with Bird Dog by releasing your knees.
Dolphin Pose is well-known for strengthening shoulders. However, it can also be intensified by walking your legs as close as possible to your hands. You want to be as close to the Forward Fold on a scale from Downward Dog to Forward Fold.
Pull your core tighter to align your hips with your shoulders.
In Chair Pose, twisting the torso right and left activates your deeper layers, including your internal obliques and external obliques. You are also working your lower abdominals and glutes because you’re in a deep squat position.
Squeeze your legs towards each other to add another layer of core exercise. This will help you to work on your lower abs and pelvic flooring.
The side plank is a Tadasana (Mountain Pose), tipped on its side. Gravity will compromise your efforts in this position to keep your body upright. While you try to prevent your hips from falling, your shoulders or hips pushing you forward or back, or your ribs twisting, your sides are being shaped and strengthened.
Forearm Crow Pose
Forearm Crow is also known as Forearm Pose. Baby Crouch Pose will tell you if your core is being used or not. The pose is based on core strength, as it does not require arm strength to perform regular Crow.
What does “Engage Your Core Mean”?
What does it mean when teachers say, “engage core”? How can you achieve this? Do not flex and pull your abs out. Think about engaging your core instead by:
1. Exhale all the air from your stomach.
2. Knitting your ribs together as if wearing a corset.
3. You can engage your lower abdominals by pulling your pelvis up slightly (while maintaining your natural spine curve).
It’s all core work. The poses above work your core muscles, but everything is connected to it. Every movement you make comes from your core.
You can improve your entire yoga practice by focusing on your core and bringing awareness to it as you move through your yoga practice.