Yoga Sweat: Moves for a strong core

Looking for ways to build a strong core? Yoga Sweat could be just what you’re looking for.

Developed by yoga teacher Minnie Samengo, Yoga Sweat uses yoga-inspired moves to up your heart rate and improve your strength. It’s a fantastic way to support a traditional yoga practice, building strength and stamina.

Here, Minnie shares some of her favourite moves for building a strong core.

The importance of a strong core

When we think of our core, we have a tendency to just consider our six pack abs. In order to move effectively and efficiently, you need to work your inner core muscles too. These consist of the diaphragm, pelvic floor, multifidus and the transverse abdominus. These deep core muscles provide stability to the body. If your inner core isn’t functioning properly, then your outer core isn’t working either. You’ll lack the stability to move efficiently, which will decrease your performance and increase the likelihood of injury.

To begin working with your core, first start with your breathing. As you inhale, focus on filling the belly and expanding the ribs, rather than your moving your chest. Your pelvic floor and transverse abdominus will also lengthen. When you exhale, these muscles recoil. This recoiling recruits the muscles to generate tension in the trunk of your body, helping to create stability. You’ll often find this type of breathing technique in a Pilates class too.

Having a stronger core isn’t just important for exercise – it makes daily activities a lot easier too! Weak core muscles can lead to more fatigue, less endurance and injuries. It can also leave you susceptible to poor posture and lower back pain.

Yoga Sweat moves for a strong core

Dead bug

Get your whole body moving with this sequence – you’ll soon feel your abs quivering! Take care not to overdo it and start this one slowly – you can always add more reps as you feel your body getting stronger. The key is slow and controlled movement here, while making sure your lower back is glued to the mat throughout.

  1. Lie on your back and bring your knees over your hips, keeping your shins in line with the floor. Lift your arms straight above your shoulders. Keep your lower back glued to the mat, pulling the navel to the spine and feeling the tailbone lengthen away slightly. This will encourage your lower back to touch the mat.
  2. As you exhale, extend your opposite arm and leg (for example right arm, left leg).
  3. Inhale to come back to neutral.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.
  5. Start with three reps on each side and build up to five, eight, 10 and 12 as you feel yourself get stronger.

If you feel your lower back lifting at any point, lift your arm and leg a little higher.

Toe taps

This next Yoga Sweat move targets your side abs (obliques). As before, aim to keep your lower back glued to the mat to keep the focus of the effort in your core muscles.

  1. Lie on your back, with your feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart. Keep your knees pointing up towards the ceiling. Your feet should be close enough to your bottom so that you can touch your heels.
  2. Lift your shoulder blades off the mat while pulling your navel to your spin. Feel your lower back glue to the mat.
  3. Moving from side to side, tap your right foot with your right hand and your left foot with your left hand. Exhale with each tap and feel those obliques burn!

Start by tapping for 10 seconds, building up to 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds and a minute as you grow stronger.

The more comfortable you become with this exercise, you may also enjoy rounds, repeating each period of tapping three times with a short break in between.

Boat pose crunches

This move uses a traditional pose from yoga to help you build a strong core. This move can easily be modified depending on where you are in your fitness journey, so build up as you see fit.

  1. Start in boat pose (navasana) hovering on your sit bones, with your shins parallel to the floor. Keep your chest lifted, while drawing the shoulders back and down. If you’re just beginning with this move, place your hands behind the back of your thighs for support. Once you’re more comfortable in the pose, you can reach your hands out straight in front. If you’re more advanced, you may prefer to straighten your legs too.
  2. As you inhale, slowly lower down to low boat pose, keeping the shoulder blades lifted, straightening the legs and keeping the lower back glued to the mat. If you want an even more advanced option, reach your arms overhead. Draw your navel to your to the spine and don’t let your lower back lift.
  3. As you exhale, lift back up to your orignal boat pose and repeat. If you need, place your hands behind the back of your thighs to help you crunch back up.

Start with three reps and build up to five, eight, 10 and 12 as you feel yourself get stronger.

Side plank with thread the needle

Give your waist a workout with this move for a strong core – you’ll notice this one in your side abs for sure!

  1. Start on your right forearm with your right elbow underneath your right shoulder. Stack your left foot on top of your right. Lift your hips up off the ground, keeping your right shoulder blades back and down to ensure your shoulders are stable. If you’re just beginning, keep your bottom knee on the floor to support you.
  2. Ensure your rib cage isn’t sticking out, draw it in and down to engage your core.
  3. Lift your left arm high and thread it through the gab between your right shoulder and the mat, keeping the hips lifted.
  4. Do three reps and then repeat on the opposite side.

Start with three reps on each side and build up to five, eight, 10 and 12 as you feel yourself get stronger.

Try Yoga Sweat

Join Minnie online and try her Yoga Sweat classes at Minnie Samengo Yoga and follow her on Instagram @minniesamengoyoga.

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