Yoga Poses That Improve Core Strength

This sequence is made up of poses that will improve your core strength. While doing yoga is not the best way to get a six-pack, you can expect to significantly strengthen your abdominal muscles.

Strengthening your core can also help relieve back pain and improve your posture (nothing makes your belly look bigger than slouching!). Many of the poses recommended below are balances, which are a great way to work the core.


Cat-Cow Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

1. Start by coming onto all fours with your knees underneath your hips and your wrists underneath your shoulders.

2. Do a few Cat-Cow Stretches to warm up, arching your back on your inhalations and rounding your spine on your exhalations. Remember to keep your belly hugging in throughout both motions.

This is a fantastic way to warm up your abdomen as it targets the rectus abdominis and external obliques. Think about pulling in your abdomen as you inhale and relaxing it on the exhale.


Hands and Knees Balance

Hands and Knees Balance

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This pose is a great opportunity to fire up and strengthen the obliques and the transversus abdominis which help to stabilize you in this pose! Focus on hugging your abs in towards center creating a corset effect.

1. Return to your hands and knees with your spine in a neutral position.

2. Lift your right leg and straighten it, holding it parallel to the floor. Flex your right foot strongly.

3. When you feel stable, raise your left arm, also parallel to the floor.

Stay in Hands and Knees Balance for 5 breaths.

Repeat with the left leg and right arm raised. 

Challenge Variation: If you need an extra challenge, bend the right knee and reach around your back with your left arm to hold your right ankle. 


Down Dog Splits

Down Dog Split

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This pose is highly stabilizing. While you're balancing here this will ask the external obliques to engage along with your transversus abdominis, the deepest of the abdominal muscles. Focus on hugging the ribs back and in to avoid back bending.

1. Come back onto all fours. Curl your toes under and draw your hips back as you straighten your legs into Downward Facing Dog. Keep your belly hugging in towards your spine.

2. On an inhale, raise your right leg until it is roughly parallel to the floor, coming to a Down Dog Split. It's OK to lift your leg higher if you can do so while keeping your hips squared towards the floor. 

Hold for 5 breaths. Repeat with the left leg lifted.

Challenge Variation: Slowly take your extended leg in three big clockwise circles. Follow up with three big counter-clockwise circles.


Plank Pose

Plank pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This is a terrific full core workout as it engages both the internal and external muscles of the abdomen including the obliques, transverse, and rectus abdominis. Focus on drawing the navel towards the spine.

1. Come forward into Plank Pose.

2. Remember that the distance between your hands and your feet should be the same in Plank as in Down Dog. Pay attention to the position of your hips. You don't want your butt to stick up or sag down.

Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.

Challenge Variation: When you come forward from your Down Dog Split, keep your leg raised off the floor. Return to Down Dog Split, switch legs and then do Plank again.


Side Plank Pose - Vasisthasana

Side Plank Pose - Vasisthasana

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This pose will help strengthen the internal obliques and rectus abodminis which can prevent hyperextension of the spine. Think about lifting up sideways as if your torso could rise.

1. From Plank, shift your weight onto your right arm as you roll onto the outside of your right foot.

2. Keep both of your legs straight as you stack your left foot on top of the right. You can also stagger the feet one behind the other if that's a better fit.

3. Lift your left arm up towards the ceiling and your gaze to the left fingertips, coming into Side Plank.

After 3 to 5 breaths, roll back to the center and do the other side, resting in Downward Facing Dog between the two sides if you like.

Beginners' Variation: If the balance is too difficult, try these supported variations.

Challenge Variation: Lift your left foot, hovering it above the right.


High Lunge

High Lunge

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

A good opportunity to train your core to keep you upright while balancing in this pose. Focus on pulling in the navel in while hugging your ribs towards one another to fire up your internal and external obliques as well as your rectus abdominus. 

1. Come back to Downward Facing Dog and rest for five breaths.

2. Bring your right foot forward next to your right hand.

3. Bend your right knee and align it over your right ankle so that your right thigh is parallel to the floor.

4. Raise both arms up towards the ceiling, coming into a High Lunge.

Stay for 5 breaths. (Don't worry, we'll do the other side in a minute.)

Beginners' Variation: Place your hands on your hips.

Challenge Variation: On an inhale, straighten the right leg. Exhale and bend the right knee back over the ankle. Continue for five breath cycles.


Half Moon Pose - Ardha Chandrasana

Half Moon Pose - Ardha Chandrasana

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This pose helps to strengthen the external and internal obliques along with the rectus abdominals, thus helping to protect the lumbar spine while allowing you to safely rotate into a balancing posture. Focus on lifting up sideways while hugging your ribs in towards your center.

1. From High Lunge, bring the left hand to your waist.

2. Place your right fingertips 12-18 inches in front of your right foot and straighten your right leg as you lift your left leg parallel to the mat, coming into Ardha Chandrasana.

Hold 3-5 breaths. 

Beginners' Variation: Take a block under your right hand if necessary.

Challenge Variation: Bend your left knee and reach your left hand around to grab your left ankle. This variation is called Sugarcane Pose. 


Chair Pose - Utkatasana

Awkward Chair Pose - Utkatasana

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Chair pose can warm you up quickly while strengthening the rectus abdominis, external obliques and tranversus abdominis. Draw your navel in towards your spine while knitting your ribs towards one another.

1. From Ardha Chandrasana, drop the left foot down next to your right foot.

2. Bring both arms up and bend your knees, coming into Awkward Chair Pose.

Hold 5 breaths.


Eagle Pose - Garudasana

Eagle Pose - Garudasana

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

A great pose for strengthening both balance and the deeper core muscles including the internal obliques and the transverus abdominis. Knit your ribs together as if creating a corset and pull your navel back and up.

1. From Awkward Chair, shift your weight into your right leg.

2. Lift the left foot off the floor, then wrap the left leg around the right. Hook your left toes on your right calf, if possible.

3. Take your arms out to the sides and wrap the left arm over the right, bringing the palms together.

Balance in Eagle Pose for 3 to 5 breaths. 

4. Unwrap your arms and legs, bring your palms to the floor and hop or step back to Downward Dog.

Rest here five breaths before repeating the previous four poses on the left side.

Challenge Variation: On each exhale, bring your elbows to your knees. On each inhale, return to your starting position.


Boat Pose - Navasana

Boat Pose - Navasana

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

An excellent workout for the transversus abodominis, toning the abdominal organs as you balance. Pull the navel back and up and lift through the sternum.

1. Come to sit on your mat.

2. Bring the legs straight up to a 45-degree angle, coming into Boat Pose. The torso will naturally fall back, but do not let the spine collapse.

3. Make a "V" shape with the body.

4. Bring the arms out straight in line with the shoulders.

Beginners' Variation: Bend your knees, bringing your shins parallel to the floor. This is called Half Boat. If this is tough to maintain, you can hold on to the backs of your thighs.

Challenge Variation: Once you have established the pose, release the legs and torso simultaneously down towards the floor and hover there. Come back up into the pose like a sit-up. Do this as many times as you can.

Come to lie on the back for a well-deserved rest!

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ni M, Mooney K, Harriell K, Balachandran A, Signorile J. Core muscle function during specific yoga poses. Complement Ther Med. 2014;22(2):235-43. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2014.01.007

  2. Wieland LS, Skoetz N, Pilkington K, Vempati R, D'adamo CR, Berman BM. Yoga treatment for chronic non-specific low back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;1:CD010671. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010671.pub2

Additional Reading
  • Chou R. Noninvasive Treatments for Low Back Pain. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Published February 2016.

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.