Having a strong core protects us from lower and upper back pain, improves posture, protects us from injury, and provides us with more overall stability.
This is where yoga comes in. Yoga has many physical benefits, including a strong core and increased flexibility. This is a double perk if you are looking for the benefits mentioned above. Since most yoga poses require you to engage your core, the result is strong, toned abs without you even realizing it.
Practice the 20-minute yoga workout below up to 4 times a week for a long, lean, and strong core. All you need is a yoga mat or towel.
Use Ujjayi breathing throughout this sequence to get the most out of each pose. Practice this Yogic breathing technique by sealing your lips and breathing in and out through your nose. Keep the tip of your tongue on the top of your mouth right behind your teeth. Your breath should feel textured and you should be able to hear your exhales. Try and keep this breath throughout the entire 20 minutes to help keep your body warm, your mind focused, and to protect your spine.
Bridge Pulses | 8 breaths
This pose will help to warm up your body while also strengthening your abs and lower back.
- Lie down on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet on the ground, hip-width distance apart. Reach your arms straight back over your head with your palms facing up. Engage your belly.
- Inhale to lift your hips up towards the ceiling into a bridge. At the same time, bring your arms straight down by your sides and press your palms down into the ground. Pause here and squeeze your glutes while keeping your belly engaged. Exhale to slowly lower down one vertebrae at a time while taking your arms back up over your head.
- Repeat that 5 times, breathing with each movement. End with your hips back on the ground and draw your knees into your chest to neutralize your spine.
Supine Twists | 10 breaths, alt sides
This pose will continue to warm your spine while strengthening your obliques.
- Lift your feet off the ground and bend your knees to 90-degree angles to parallel your shins to the floor. Cactus your arms by your head, bringing your elbows to 90-degree angles with your palms facing the ceiling. Engage your core by pulling your navel up and in towards your spine so that your low back presses into the ground.
- Keeping your knees bent to 90 degrees, exhale to lower your knees halfway down towards the right side of your mat. Keep both shoulders down and your belly engaged. Inhale to draw your knees back up to center. Exhale to lower your knees halfway down towards the left side of your mat.
- Inhale to draw your knees back up to center. After you finish twisting 5 times to each side, draw your knees back up to center. Inhale to draw your knees into your chest to neutralize your spine.
Boat Pose | 10 breaths
This pose strengthens the core by using the abdominals, hip flexors, and lower back.
- Begin in a seat on the floor. Bend your knees, squeeze your legs together, and place your feet on the ground. Place your hands behind your thighs and pull against your thighs to lift your chest. Keep your chest lifted as you engage your core and lift your heels off the ground. Point your toes and keep them gently resting on the ground.
- You should feel your abs beginning to work. If you want more of a challenge, lift your toes all the way off the ground a few inches.
Cat Cows | 10 breaths
This pose warms the spine, the muscles of the back, and the abs. It also strengthens the abs and lower back.
- Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Stack your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
- Inhale to come into Cow Pose by dropping your belly towards the floor and pointing your tailbone up towards the ceiling. Keep your shoulders squeezing down your back and keep your neck long by gazing over the tip of your nose.
- Exhale to move into Cat Pose by rounding your spine and tucking your chin into your chest. Press the ground away from you with your hands and gaze towards your navel. Pause to feel a release in the rhomboids and pull your navel in to engage your abs.
- Continue alternating between Cow and Cat for 10 breaths. End back in your tabletop position with a neutral spine.
High Plank | 5 breaths
This pose strengthens the abs, back, shoulders, glutes, and thighs.
- Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Stack your shoulders over your wrists, then tuck your toes and lift your knees off of the ground to find a high plank position. Keep your shoulders stacked over your wrists, your heels lifted, and your hips in line with your shoulders.
- Press down firmly through your palms to feel a lift in the upper back and keep your belly and glutes engaged. Hold for 5 breaths.
Tip: If you feel your low back dropping towards the floor, modify by placing your knees on the ground. Keep your hips down so that they are in a straight line with your shoulders, enabling you to continue to work your abs.
Chair Pose | 8 breaths
This pose strengthens the abs, back, glutes, and thighs.
- Start standing up with your feet together so that your big toes are touching. There can be a little bit of space between your heels.
- Take an exhale and sit your hips down like you are sitting into a chair. Lift your arms up to frame your ears with your pinkies turned in slightly. Squeeze your thighs together and keep your low belly engaged as you sit the weight back into your heels. Keep a natural curve in your lower back and squeeze your glutes. Hold for 8 breaths, then slowly stand back up.
Modification 1: If your shoulders are tight, reach your arms straight out in front of you with your palms face down rather than reaching them up by your ears.
Modification 2: If you have tightness in your lower back, you can separate your feet hip-width distance in your chair. Make sure to keep your knees in line with your toes.
Modified Boat Twists | 10 breaths, alt sides
This pose strengthens the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, the obliques, hip flexors, and lower back.
- Sit down on the floor with your knees bent and your legs together. Place your feet on the floor and bend your elbows to place your hands behind your head, keeping your elbows out wide. Engage your belly and lift your chest up towards the ceiling. Point your toes and lift your heels off the ground.
- Inhale to lift your chest up to center. On an exhale, lift your left foot off the ground and twist your upper body to the left to tap your right elbow to your left knee. Inhale to bring your upper body back to center and place your left toes back on the floor.
- Exhale to switch to the other side, lifting your right foot up and twisting your upper body to the right to tap your left elbow to your right knee.
- Make sure to keep your belly engaged and your chest lifted the whole time. Continue alternating side to side for 10 breaths.
Broken Bridge | 10 breaths
This pose helps to release the lower back and hip flexors after all of that core work!
- To begin, lie down on your back. Bend your knees and walk your feet out towards the edges of your mat/towel. Allow your knees to fall in towards one another until they touch. If your knees can’t touch, just bring your feet in a little bit closer until they can. Put your hands down alongside your body with your palms facing the ceiling.
- Close your eyes and allow your low back to release as you take at least 10 deep, slow breaths.
(Your Next Workout: 5 Exercises You Can Do with Your Baby)