Core work gets a lot of press these days — and rightfully so. Having a strong core is not about creating washboard abs. It’s about having an engaged core where the abdominal muscles (intercostals, obliques, serratus, and rectus abdominus), lower back, and hip flexors work together to improve posture, range of motion, and structural alignment, while simultaneously firing up the third chakra (manipura).
Our third chakra, manipura, is known as our power center. It governs our will, confidence, autonomy, and our ability to meet goals and tackle life’s challenges head-on. When our core is strong and our third chakra is activated, we naturally stand up straighter while feeling more confident, empowered, and centered.
Here are 10 of the best yoga poses to fire up your core and power up the third chakra. Practice each pose three to five long, slow, deep breaths before moving on to the next. Build up to repeating the entire sequence two or three times.
Tabletop With Opposite Arm/Leg Extended
Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Slide your left toes back along the ground until leg is fully extended, then lift the leg so that it’s parallel to the ground. Lengthen your right arm forward so that your fingertips point forward and your right arm is fully extended and parallel to the ground. Press the floor with your left palm, and engage your core for stability. Switch sides.
Stack your shoulders over your wrists and bring your hips level so that your body is in a straight line with your toes curled under. Bring your head into the same straight line. Engage your thighs and press your heels back as your chest lengthens forward. Make sure your hips are not too high or low. To modify, you may drop your knees to the floor. Lift your navel in and up.
Plank With One Leg Lifted
Set up for plank and lift your right toes a few inches above the ground for a few breaths, then switch sides. You may widen the distance between your feet for better stability as you gain strength in this pose.
Plank With Nose To Knee
Start in plank position and bend your right knee in toward your nose. Press your opposite heel back as your right knee drives forward. Keep your hips as level as possible. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Switch sides.
Crow Pose (Bakasana)
From a squatting position, place both palms on the ground and spread your fingers wide for more stability. Bend your elbows slightly and place your knees on your arms above your elbows. Shift your weight forward and roll forward to balance on your toes. When you’re steady, lift your toes off the ground as you lift your hips toward the sky.
Half Boat Post (Ardha Navasana) or Boat Pose (Navasana)
Sit with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep the torso straight with your head in line with your body and lean back about 45 degrees as you raise feet so calves are parallel to the floor. Hands can stay on thighs for support, or reach fingertips forward with arms parallel to the floor alongside your calves.
To progress from here, straighten legs so you’re in a V shape. Keep torso as straight as possible, avoiding rounding of the back.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Begin standing with feet together. Bend your knees until they are as close to parallel with the floor as possible and sit your hips back as if you’re sitting in a low chair. Lift your arms alongside your ears with palms facing each other as the torso leans forward slightly over the thighs.
Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)
If you’re new to headstand, set up for this pose near a wall. Clasp your hands together and place your forearms on the floor about eight inches away from the wall. Place your head in your clasped hands and walk your feet in toward your head until your legs are straight. Hug one knee into your chest and use the strength of your core to lift your other leg off the floor, drawing both knees into your chest.
Feel free to stay here to build balance, or with complete core control, slowly lift and straighten both legs.
Twisted Root (Supta Garudasana)
Lie on your back and cross your right leg over your left. Cross your right arm under your left. As you inhale, extend your elbows away from knees. As you exhale, bring your knees and elbows together. Move slowly with your breath to keep the movement controlled.
Repeat 10-15 times on each side.
Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) With One Leg Lifted
Lie on your back, bend your knees, and walk your heels in toward your hips. Press down through the soles of your feet as you lift your hips off the floor. Draw your shoulders under your back and clasp your hands together on the floor under your lower back. Walk the left foot in toward the center and lift the right foot off the floor until the leg is as straight as possible, depending on hamstring flexibility.
Hold for three to five breaths while keeping your core engaged and breathing deeply. Switch sides.
Photo Credit: BrakeThrough Media for mindbodygreen.