#Health & Fitness
The Best Yoga Poses for Your Core
There's still time to tone your midsection for bikini season. These poses will challenge and inspire you.
By building strength through core work, you create more support for your spine, which can help you avoid lower back pain. Yoga poses that work the core can also help new mothers rebuild abdominal muscles after giving birth.
Both Navasana and reclined eagle pose can be customized depending on the level of challenge that you want to feel. Start slow, and if a step feels like enough of a challenge, feel free to stay there.
Boat pose (Navasana) with variations
- Begin by sitting on the mat with your feet extended slightly and knees bent. Place your hands behind you for stabilization, with fingers pointed toward the front of your mat.
- Take a moment to concentrate on opening your chest. Maintain that focus throughout the pose, and try to avoid rounding or hunching your shoulders.
- Inhale to prepare, and then exhale to point your toes.
- Warm up your core by slowly lifting one foot into the air, setting it down and then lifting the other foot. Lift each foot by engaging your deep obliques (lower stomach muscles).
- As you get more comfortable, work on lifting each foot higher so that your leg is fully extended in the air.
- For a further challenge, engage your core to raise both feet off the ground at the same time, working to straighten the legs.
- Remember to keep your chest open.
- If you want to push the posture even further, raise your arms up and hold them parallel to the floor.
- You can challenge yourself even further by picking up a yoga block (or large book) and raising it over your head and back down at a controlled pace. Inhale as you raise the block and exhale to lower it.
- Add a side-to-side motion with the block while your legs are still suspended.
- When you're ready, slowly release your feet back to the mat.
- Rock knees back and forth slowly to stretch your legs. If you like, come through a pose such as table in order to allow the abdominals to relax.
Reclined eagle pose (Supta Garudasana)
- Lay down with your feet on the mat and legs bent.
- Breathe deeply and allow your arms to straighten perpendicularly out from the body to come to a "T" position.
- Cross your right leg over your left leg. If you can, bind your leg once more by crossing the right foot behind the left ankle.
- Slowly lift your feet off the floor, so that your heels are even with your knees.
- Cross your arms in front of your chest by binding your right arm beneath your left arm, with your hands held over your face.
- With an inhale, push your arms toward the back of the room, and feet and knees toward the front of the room, lengthening your body in opposite directions.
- Exhale and contract your knees and elbows back in toward your torso.
- If you feel stable in your core, use it to lift your head and shoulders off the mat toward your knees. Don't strain your neck to lift your head.
- Inhale as you expand and release back to the mat, and exhale as you contract and draw your chest toward your knees.
- Repeat two or three times.
- For an extra challenge, uncross your arms and raise your tailbone off the mat.
- Squeeze your legs together and push both hands into your thigh, while at the same time pushing your thigh into your hands.
- Inhale to open your chest, and then repeat the same motion, using your core to bring your tailbone off the floor and then pushing your hands into your thighs. Repeat once more, if you like.
- Slowly release your legs to the floor and let your arms lay perpendicular to your body, as before.
- Relax on the floor for a few breaths.
- When you're ready, roll onto one side and push into your hands in order to return to a seated position.
Core work challenges you to push and test your strength, and feeling that strength can be rewarding. Remember that it's better to do a little bit of the pose with perfect form than to try to work all the way through if you're straining the wrong muscles.