Everyone knows exercise is good for our body. In addition, most everyone even remotely familiar with the term yoga knows it is a practice that encompasses the body, mind and spirit. Traditional exercise methods that focus on weight training or cardiovascular activities and the practice of yoga share another commonality; both are dependent on a strong core in order to achieve the best performance from the body. Core training’s primary focus is strengthening the trunk and spine. With proper training, these muscles are the base on which all things happen and function. Think about it. A vehicle is sustained by the strength of its wheels: everything we do physically, and how well we do it, depends on the strength of our internal core muscles. There are several core yoga poses that are considered “the basics” in any yoga practice.

Balancing table is a variation on the traditional table pose. The benefits of balancing table include building core strength as well as lengthening the spine. To achieve this pose, begin on your hands and knees, making sure your hands are placed directly under your shoulders and your fingers are spread wide apart on the mat. Make certain your knees are directly under your hips, and the tops of your feet are placed flat on the floor. Look down at the mat so your neck stays neutrally aligned. This is called traditional table pose. For balancing table pose, reach your right arm to the front of the room and your left leg towards the back of the room, making certain both are parallel to the floor. This will engage your core muscles to help maintain your balance. Hold this position for three to five seconds, then return to table. Repeat with the left arm and right leg. If you want a challenge, lift the right arm and right leg, making sure not to lean toward the left side. Then repeat with the left arm and left leg.

Another of the basic core yoga poses is the dolphin plank. Most people are familiar with plank pose, which is similar to a push up position. The benefits of traditional plank pose include toning the abdomen, while dolphin plank pose has the added benefit of strengthening the entire core. Begin on your hands and knees in table pose. Drop down onto your elbows and place your palms together. Then walk your feet backwards until you can straighten your knees. Your shoulders should be directly above your elbows, and your torso should be parallel to the ground. Think of tucking in your tailbone to help engage the core muscles. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. It is challenging at first, but keep at it, you’ll soon see, (and feel!) the benefits!

Pendant pose is one of the more challenging core yoga poses that will provide core conditioning even for the most seasoned yoga practitioner. This pose is designed specifically to strengthen your abdominal muscles as well as your hip flexors, which are both key areas of your core structure.  To perform this pose, kneel on your mat, sitting back on your heels. Place your hands on either side of you, fingers facing the front of the room. Your hands should be in alignment with your shins, arms straight and palms pressed firmly into the mat. As you press more weight into your palms, round your upper back and start to pull your knees off the ground toward your chest. Once you’ve mastered this position, lift your feet off the mat as well with your feet crossed at the ankles. In the full pose, your legs are tucked up underneath your body and you are only balancing on your arms. For even more of a challenge, once your legs are fully off the ground, add movement to the pose by swinging your legs back and forth. Core yoga poses are one of the most important aspects of any yoga practice: without a strong core, everything else is weak. Yours in good health.