10 minute yoga: Core Strength

The term “core” usually brings to mind images of flat tummies and chiseled six packs. But in reality the muscles of the core are much more. They are responsible for moving, stabilizing and supporting the spine. Training these muscles can help you look thinner, improve your balance and naturally reduce or eliminate back pain.

Here are 5 simple yoga poses that target the core muscles. Hold each pose for 30 seconds. Then complete a second round leading with the opposite leg or arm where applicable. Click through the carousel of images to view each pose.

Pose 1: Plank

Come to your hands and knees. Tuck your toes under and straighten your legs so that you form a straight line from your head to your hips to your heels.

                Tips: bring your shoulder blades together, extend through the crown of your head and reach back through your heals. Make sure your hands are placed directly under your shoulders. For less challenge come to your knees. If any pain is felt in the wrists, come down onto your forearms.

Pose 2: Side Plank

                Press one fore arm or hand firmly against the mat and roll to the outside of the foot on the same side, stacking your ankles, hips and shoulders. Reach your opposite arm to the sky and look up to the hand to align your neck.

                Tips: make sure the bottom elbow or hand is directly below the shoulder. Reach the top hip to the sky, making a rainbow with the body for more challenge. For less challenge, bring the bottom knee to the mat.

Pose 3: Downward Dog with Knee to Nose

                From plank, pike the hips up and back. Lift one leg to the sky. From downward dog splits engage the muscles below the naval and draw one knee to your nose. Back is rounded in this position.

Tip: For more challenge, hinge forward slightly into a plank position with the knee to nose.

Pose 4: High Lunge with a Twist

                Step the leg that is drawn into your nose forward between your hands, aligning ankle under knee, stay on the ball of the back foot. Engage core and lift the upper body, reaching arms toward the sky. On an exhale twist toward the forward leg, opening your arms to the side.

                Tips: Make sure your shoulders are stacked over the hips and the shoulders are relaxed down the back.

Pose 5: Single Leg Balance with Knee to Chest

                From your lunge, weight into your front foot and spring forward with control drawing the back leg into the check.

                Tip: While holding this balance perform a cat/cow exercise – inhaling to flex the spine and reach the heart to the sky, exhaling to round the back and draw the naval in. For less of a balance challenge rest the tip-toes on the mat rather than hugging the knee to the chest.