Challenge Your Core


You are only as strong as your core. Your body, by design, will resist growing bigger and stronger than your core can support. Functional movement originates from the core, so having a strong, powerful, and supple core is of primary importance. Of course, yoga is intimately associated with flexibility, but this is just one small part of its magic. Yoga is a superb way to build core strength. Pure Austin’s Yoga coordinator and instructor, Zoe Mantarakis, demonstrated some essential yoga/core strengthening moves in this sequence for us, and gave us all the info to try them on our own.

Yoga boat pose – navasana – is a simple, classic yoga abdominal exercise, and a perfect way to get those core muscles firing. To do “boat pose,” raise your legs in the air – bent knees will make this a little easier. It is important to make sure you have your abs engaged, and think that you are keeping your kidneys lifted up towards your belly button – don’t collapse in your low back. Keep your arms stretched out ahead of you, your chin and gaze is lifted towards the joint of the ceiling and wall. Repeat this a couple of times, holding it for fifteen to thirty seconds each. Your abs are now alive!

Next, try the eagle’s pose crunches, or supta garudasana, variation. Lie on your back, then wrap your arms and legs around one another (just like traditional standing eagle pose). Begin the crunch with elbows away from knees, then exhale and pull navel to floor as you squeeze elbows towards, or to touch, knees. Hold this pose at the top, then release and repeat five times on each side. Wrap the other leg and arm on top for the second side.

For some real fun, let’s look at twisting leg lifts – a variation on the gym favorite, the “bicycle”. This burner tones side body, back and abs, while whittling the waist. Lay on your back with one leg raised and the other hovering above the floor. Roll your shoulders and head up, and cross opposite arm across to the raised leg. Hold and squeeze for a breath, then release and repeat on other side. Continue alternating legs until you have done five on each side. Repeat three times.

Crow, or “bakasana” in Sanskrit, uses core strength to lift the body gracefully. Place hands on the floor shoulder-width apart, or a little further, and bring your legs up on your triceps, close to your shoulders, like Zoe is doing in the picture, you will have to tip forward a little bit to get “lift off”. Think of hugging your legs in to your triceps – the action of pressing in will bring your energy center and create balance. Try it!

Finally, the locust pose – slabhasana – tones the back body, which is also an essential part of the core. While laying on belly, lift legs and arms, holding for several breaths. Take a break, then repeat three to five times. The locust pose is great for keeping the back healthy and strong.

A consistent commitment to a short sequence of core-strengthening poses like these, a couple times a week, will go a long way towards creating core strength. Zoe rec- ommends warming up for five minutes, possi- bly with sun salutations, then going through the core work. After strengthening your core, cap off your practice with a child’s pose, a reclining twist, and then some congratulations for some core work well done.

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