5 Core Strengthening Yoga Poses

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Yoga calms your mind and increases your flexibility, but it can also strengthen your core and give you a tight and toned tummy, not to mention help you develop the strength you need to get your inversions on. Try these five yoga poses that target your abs and back muscles:

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4-Limbed Staff:

4-Limbed Staff pose or Chaturanga is repeated several times when doing Sun Salutations, but it's only held for half a full breath. If you hold this pose for longer, it not only strengthens your upper body but it also targets your core.

From Mountain pose, bend forward coming into a Standing Forward Bend with your palms flat on the floor.

Inhale and hop both feet back so your shoulders are above your wrists and your body is in one straight line (top of a push-up).

As you exhale, bend your elbows allowing them to brush against the sides of your body as you lower your torso toward the floor. Stop when your upper arms and body are parallel with the ground.

Hold here for five deep breaths.

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Boat:

One of the most challenging poses for your core is Boat Pose.

Begin sitting on your mat. Lift your knees up to your chest and balance on your sits bones (the bottom of your pelvis). The most important thing here is to keep your spine as long and straight as possible.

Work on slowly straightening your legs up. If your back starts to hunch, keep your knees bent. Your legs don't need to be straight — the action of keeping your spine long and drawing your belly in is what works your abs here.

Hold for five complete breaths.

Now you're ready to take the lift. Cross your legs just below your knees, point through your toes and pull them in as close to your body as possible, without letting them touch the ground. Plant your palms firmly beside your hips, spreading your fingers wide.

On an inhale, hold yourself together like a little ball, press your palms into the ground, engage your core, and lift your body off the ground. If your body won't cooperate, then touch your toes to the mat and just lift your hips off the ground. Exhale, and slowly release your body back to the ground.

Come back into Boat Pose for another five breaths, then take the lift again. Do this three more times for a total of five reps.

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Side Plank:

Here's an arm-balancing pose that will target the sides of the torso.

Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Step both feet together so your big toes are touching. Move your right hand over to the left so it's at the top center of your mat.

Roll over to your left side and plant your left heel down, balancing on the outside edge of your left flexed foot. Reach your right arm straight above you, or extend it over your ear.

Stay here in Side Plank for five deep breaths, trying to keep your core strong and the pose steady. Repeat this pose on the right side.

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Crow:

This balancing pose called Crow works your abs and your upper body.

Begin in a Wide Squat. Place your palms firmly on the ground in front of you. Spread your fingers as wide as you can, and press into your fingertips to release any pressure in your wrists.

Straighten your legs slightly, and place your knees as high up onto your triceps as possible, toward your armpits.

Shift your weight forward into your hands, and see if you can lean the weight of your knees into the backs of your arms. Lift one foot off the ground and then the other. If you can bring your toes together, then you'll feel more compact and it'll be easier to balance. Squeeze your knees together slightly and pull your belly button in toward your spine to give you a sense of lightness.

Stay here for five breaths.

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Headstand B:

Headstands are definitely poses that require upper-body strength and balance. This version known as Headstand B involves keeping your feet parallel with the ground and also insanely works your core.

Begin with your hands and knees on the mat. Lower your elbows to the floor and interlace your fingers, bringing your lowest pinky in front of the other pinky so both pinkies are on the floor, forming a semicircle with your hands.

Place the back of your head against your palms and the top of your head on the mat, so your skull is vertical to the floor. Once your head and forearms feel stable, straighten both legs and walk your feet toward your face as far as you can.

Shift your hips over your shoulders, and keep your elbows planted firmly on the mat. Lift your right leg straight up toward the sky and then your left, coming into full headstand. If you feel up to the challenge, you can try lifting both legs up simultaneously.

To move into Headstand B, slowly lower both legs down halfway so that your thighs are parallel with the floor. After five breaths, lower your feet all the way down to the ground.

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