Yoga has an incredible array of benefits…relaxation, health, open mind and heart, and strength, just to name a few. While yoga has dramatically enhanced my mental state and clarity, it also has had the added benefit of strengthening my core. The core is our center, our gut, our intuition. When we are grounded in our core, we are more aware of our inner selves and our surroundings. This is why core strength is so essential in yoga–it aids in our awareness, leading to more mindful living. Try this yoga sequence for strong core to fire up your entire abs, sides, and back, which helps to flatten your stomach, but more importantly helps you to stay grounded and connected to the universe and to yourself.
Downward Dog Variation
Start in Downward Dog. Exhale and lift right leg straight up towards the sky, foot flexed and toe pointing directly downwards. Inhale, and shift your hips down as if coming into plank, while pulling your knee between your elbows. Stay here for a few breaths and then extend leg back up and down back into Downward Dog. Repeat on other side.
From Downward Dog, shift your hips into a push-up position and stay here for a few breaths. Here I am demonstrating the plank position before a chaturanga dandasana, where the hands are placed on the outside of your chest (as opposed to directly underneath your shoulders). Practicing this plank will help strengthen the shoulder, back, and arm muscles for a beautiful chaturanga, as well as your core.
Stacked side plank pose (Vasisthasana)
From Plank turn body to the right and stack right foot on top of left foot and extend right arm up. Turn head up toward the sky. Stay here for a few breaths then repeat on the left. More advanced practitioners may do any of the balancing variations, such as resting your top foot against your lower inner thigh (like in Tree pose), or fully extending your top leg perpendicular to the floor, and grabbing your big toe with your top two fingers.
Warrior lunge twist (Parivrtta Parsvakonasana)
From Stacked side plank come back into plank pose and lift hips up into Downward Dog again. Rest here for a moment. Inhale and lift right leg up and place it between your hands; exhale as you bend your right knee, straighten your torso, coming into a high lunge. Lift your chest up and place your hands together before your heart. Twist your torso to the right and hook your left elbow onto your right knee. Hold for a few breaths. Then repeat on your left.
Come out of your twist on the left, exhale and shift your hips back into Downward Dog, but with forearms on the ground for Dolphin pose. Breathe in and out for a moment. Spread your fingers wide and line your forearms parallel to one another. This is an excellent pose for headstand practice.
Extended leg/arm pose (Cat and cow variation)
Release onto hands and knees. Make sure your spine is neutral. Exhale and extend left arm out to the front, and right leg to the side. Hold for a few breaths and then repeat on other side.
Boat pose (paripurna navasana)
Flip your body over and sit on your sitz bones with your feet on the floor. Lift legs up and bend knees into your chest. Extend legs straight up with arms out in front of you. Hold for 5 deep breaths, before coming out of it and resting in Child’s pose.
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Photo: Jessica Renae