Yoga Poses That Can Strengthen Your Core Muscles

You need to work more than your abdominals

Your abdominal muscles are just one component of your core. The gluteal muscles, diaphragm, hip flexors, and hip adductor muscles also comprise your core. These large muscle groups help control the movements you make throughout the day.  Strengthening these muscles helps to absorb forces from daily activities and decrease the forces that move through joints.

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Here is a group yoga poses that can help to improve your core muscles. Try holding them for two to three breaths at first, then increase the number of breaths to challenge yourself. On the one-sided poses, be sure to repeat on the other side!

Note: Poses should be entered into and moved out of slowly to protect muscles and joints. If you are having specific pain that has been ongoing for longer than two weeks or you have a specific injury, it is always best consult a qualified health care provider, such as a physical therapist, who can develop a plan specific to your needs.

Spinal Balance

  • Start from a hands and knees position. Pull your belly muscles inward and keep your lower back flat.
  • Reach forward with one arm as if you are shaking hands. Keep your chin tucked.
  • For an added challenge, lift the opposite leg, keeping your hips level and toes pointed downward.

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Side Plank

  • Starting from a hands and knees position, stretch your legs out.
  • Turn your body to one side, lifted onto one outstretched arm. Stack your bottom shoulder over your wrist.
  • Keep your fingers spread wide and pull the top of your shoulders away from your ears.
  • Keep your hips stacked and the bottom hip lifted from the mat.
  • To make this pose easier, kneel on your bottom knee.


  • From a hands and knees position, lift your hips and straighten your legs.
  • Squeeze your belly muscles as if you have a belt tightening around your stomach, pull your shoulder blades together, and squeeze your front thigh muscles to keep your body in a straight line.
  • To make this pose easier, you can drop your knees.

Boat Pose

  • Start in a seated position, knees bent.
  • Put your hands palm down on the mat behind you, arms bent.
  • Lift your lower legs off the floor and hold them parallel to the mat, pulling your belly muscles inward and keeping your chest lifted. Point your toes up.
  • To make this pose more challenging, extend your arms forward, parallel to the mat.
  • For an added challenge, straighten both legs.

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  • From a standing position, squat down by bending your knees slightly.
  • Press your inner thighs together and shift your weight to your heels, pulling your tailbone toward the ground.
  • Raise both arms above your head.
  • To make this pose easier, bring hands together in front of your chest.

Contributor: Patti Kopasakis, PT, DPT, SCS, RYT-200, Certified yoga instructor

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