A Core Strength Sequence to Get Through Difficult Yoga Poses

Core strength will help you get through those difficult poses. You’ll feel easier in your poses and more capable in your life.

This sequence by Harvey Deutch and Sarana Miller, a student of Ana Forrest, taps into your core, the literal and symbolic center of power. But this isn’t a “Get a six-pack in six weeks” deal. Instead of focusing on the rectus abdominus (the six-pack), you’ll work the deeper layers of the abdominal area, such as the transversus abdominus.

Switching from the six-pack to the deeper layers takes subtle awareness, so be patient even if you can’t access the muscles right away. (When all else fails, try laughing, says Miller, since you use the transversus to laugh or cough.)

It’s important to persevere, but don’t work to exhaustion or you’ll end up using your lower back and hip flexors. Plan on doing just a few repetitions each day, and your body will respond quickly. The result of all your hard work? A stronger core, more ease in your poses, and a more powerful you.

See also Ugh, Ab Work—Why It’s Worth It

Before You Begin

Engaging Mula Bandha, or the perineum, contains your energy and strengthens the pelvic floor. Sitting in Virasana (Hero Pose), roll your sitting bones back and engage Ashvini Mudra (the anal sphincter muscles). Bring your pelvis back to neutral. Now try to feel the perineum, the area right in front of the anus. Engage Mula Bandha by lifting the perineum (the action is very similar to Kegels). Do 30 lifts 3 times, breathing naturally.

Finding Your TA: The transversus abdominus (TA) is the deepest of the four layers of abdominal muscles. It runs from your lower ribs to your pubis and acts like a girdle, wrapping around your body. Lie back with your feet on the floor. Place your first two fingers on your frontal hipbones and move them an inch toward your navel. Exhale and engage the TA by drawing your belly back toward the ground. Take 5 breaths, keeping it engaged.

See also Redefining Great Abs

Please click on the images below to see them in more detail

1. Happy Baby Pose, variation

Lie on your back, engage your TA, and reach your arms up. Lift your legs off the floor, with your knees over your hips and your shins parallel to the floor. Keep your TA drawing in as you move your arms and legs back and forth a few inches, like a baby reaching up to play with a mobile. Continue for 30 seconds and then
rest. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

2. Toe Taps

With your TA engaged, breathe normally as you slowly tap your right toe to the ground and return to neutral. Do the same with the left foot. Repeat 4 times. A sore lower back or hip flexors means you’re relying on them instead of your TA to do the work. Reduce the number of repetitions and try it again tomorrow.

See also A Core-Awakening Sun Salutation for Lower Back Support


3. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

Bring both feet to the floor. Place a block between your thighs. Reach your tailbone toward your heels and lift your hips into Bridge Pose. This doesn’t have to be your highest version of Bridge; focus on keeping the TA engaged. Stay for 3 to 5 breaths. Repeat 2 to 5 times.



4. Dolphin Pose

Come onto your hands and knees. Place your elbows under your shoulders and press your palms together firmly. Come into Dolphin, feeling the abdominal area hollow out and the perineum lift. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths.


See also Work Your Core in Any Pose


5. Dolphin Plank Pose

Walk your feet back until your body is parallel to the floor. Keep pressing your hands together and hug your inner legs toward the midline. Hold for at least 3 full breaths, using your TA for stability.



6. Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

Lie on your belly and bring your arms to your sides, palms facing up. Draw your lower belly toward your spine and lengthen your tailbone toward your heels to engage your TA. Lift your chest off the floor, drawing your heart forward and spreading your collarbones wide. Now lift your legs off the floor. Keep your neck completely relaxed. Stay for 5 breaths.


See also Forget Six-Pack Abs

7. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Come into Downward Dog. To feel Mula Bandha and the transversus, roll your sitting bones toward the ceiling. Then draw your tailbone toward your heels and hug your thighs as if you’re holding a block between them. Exhale, then draw your lower belly toward your spine. Stay for 5 breaths.

8. Low Lunge

Step your right foot forward between your hands into a low lunge. Bring your hips over your back knee. Press the top of your back foot into the ground and tuck your tailbone. Place your right hand on a block and reach your left arm up. Bend to the right to create a stretch in the left side of the belly. When you’re ready, inhale back to center, then step back to Downward Dog. Repeat on the other side.

See also Adjustments for Downward Dog

9. Adho Mukha Vrksasana preparation (Handstand preparation)

Stand in Tadasana with your back to a wall. Place your feet a few inches from the wall and hug a block between your thighs. To feel Mula Bandha, roll your pelvis forward and take your thighs back. Then draw your tailbone toward your heels and squeeze the block. Bring the lower ribs toward your spine as you reach your arms up, palms facing the ceiling. Come onto your tiptoes, using the wall for support.

10. Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)

Now it’s time to put it all together-upside down. Place your hands a few inches from the wall. Come into Downward Dog. Inhale as you kick up. Use your core muscles to help you reach your heels higher up the wall. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths, then come into a forward bend.

See also 5 Tips for Going Upside Down