One of the incredible things about yoga practice, is that it has benefits on so many levels: physical, spiritual and emotional. Knowing not just the biological impact of the poses, but also their symbolic influence, can really aid in getting ALL the benefits.
Building core strength will completely transform your yoga practice — and your life! One of my favorite yoga teachers always said that core-strengthening improves self-esteem and confidence…. that by strengthening our core, we are cultivating the strength to stand up for ourselves or take a stand for what we believe in, rather than “bending over backward” in our lives, or being a “pushover.”
Developing abdominal strength isn’t only relegated to crunches and ab work on the floor. So when you wake up feeling low, or just want to boost the confidence you already have, try the following standing core exercises. Setting aside five minutes to practice these three asanas throughout your day may leave you with more than just a toned midsection.
Chair Pose: Utkatasana
utkata = fierce
True to its name, this pose is fierce! Particularly when you hold the posture for several minutes. The action of engaging the abs by drawing the navel to the spine and lifting up on the pelvic floor strengthens the posture and tones your body! For a detailed description, check out this article at Yoga Journal, or this explanation at YogaSimple.
We recommend holding the posture for 5 deep breaths. Repeat the posture three times, each time sinking a little bit deeper into your chair! The mantra “I’m stronger than I think I am” can be a wonderful support for this asana.
Standing Crescent Moon
This posture looks easy, but with several deep breaths, the abdominal obliques will be firing!
With each inhalation, find length in the spine. With each exhalation, extend a little bit deeper into the form. Practice this posture on both sides for 5 deep inhalations and exhalations through the nose. Repeat three times.
For detailed instructions, check out this article at YogaBasics:
Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose: Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
The name is a mouthful, but the posture can be incredibly rewarding, as it requires you to engage your lower abdominal muscles and the bandhas (particularly mula bandha and uddiyana bandha… more on these helpful little tricks in a forthcoming article!).
Try this posture with your hands on your hips and your leg extended in front of you with your foot flexed, directing energy through the standing foot and the foot that is lifted. Practice this posture on each side for five deep breaths, three reps on both sides. Your leg can remain bent if straightening the leg is not possible. Over time you can explore more advanced options such as clasping the big toe and extending the leg straight out in front, out to the side, and even twisting.
Here’s a great video on the whole standing sequence, from moderate to advanced versions.