Core warm ups are really useful to practice at the start of your yoga practice for developing core strength. They help you activate and strengthen the muscles around your core—including your abdominals, obliques and lower back.
One of the benefits of doing a short core yoga sequence is that it will help stabilize your body, improve your posture and act as a preventative measure against back pain. As well as support your alignment and technique in other yoga postures by making you more aware and in tune with your core. This will make it easier for you to engage your core from your first sun salutation to more challenging yoga postures.
If you prefer you could jump right into my YouTube video that guides you through 10 minutes of core warm up exercises to strengthen and support your back and core.
In this blog we’ll explore three different sets of core warm ups that work on different areas of your core. All of these are suitable for all levels and include versions appropriate for beginners.
(1) Yoga Poses for Abdominal Muscles Strength
Our abdominal muscles are a useful area to strengthen as part of our core warm up. You can try out a series of the below postures while focusing on grounding your back into the mat and keeping your belly engaged.
Part 1: Upside Down Table Top
Start by coming to lie on your back. Allow your knees to be right above your hips, feet reaching forward and arms extending up. You can already start to engage your abs here and breathe slowly through the nose.
If this position already feels intense you can work on building strength here by holding the position a few breaths and then releasing by hugging the knees into your chest. You could repeat this several times.
Part 2: Opposite Arm and Leg
If the first position felt comfortable you can progress to reaching one arm and the opposite leg out on your exhale and then using your inhale to come back to the base position. You can repeat anywhere from 10 – 20 times on one side and then switch to the opposite arm and leg.
To rest you can hug your knees into your chest. And if you feel comfortable repeat the whole series another 2 -3 times.
Part 3: Both Arms and Legs
If stages one and two felt ok you could try progressing on to extending both arms and legs away at the same time on your exhale and then inhaling as you come back in to your starting position.
Try to keep your lower back on the ground—particularly if you have back pain—so that you only lower the legs as low as you can keep the control in your abdomen and heaviness in your lower back.
Like the other two positions you can try repeating this anywhere from 10 – 20 times. Building up slowly over time and taking a rest when needed.
(2) Yoga Poses for Lower Back Strength
Our lower back is another important part of our core that can sometimes get overlooked. It is however just as important as our abdominals to focus on. For this series you want to focus on lengthening through your spine and legs throughout. So we’re not simply lifting up but also reaching arms and head forward, and legs back.
Part 1: Opposite Arm and Leg
Start by lying on your back with your arms reaching forward and legs reaching back. On your inhale reach one arm and opposite leg up as you lengthen them. And then on your exhale lower them back down.
You can repeat on side for anywhere from 10 – 20 times and then switch to the opposite arm and leg. If you need feel free to rest with both arms and legs on the ground for a few breaths in between. Over time you could build up to doing several sets.
Part 2: Both Arms and Legs
The next part of the series moves onto lifting both arms and legs at the same time. So using your inhale to reach arms forward and up and legs back and up. And then exhale to slowly release. Repeating anywhere from 10 – 20 times.
If this feels too much to do a lot of repetitions of you could start with just a few and build up over time. Another option is to work on lifting both arms up while the legs stay heavy, and then both legs while arms stay down. And repeat this several times.
(3) Yoga Poses for Obliques Strength
Our obliques make up the side of our core and are also an useful area to work on strengthening and warming up for our yoga practice. In this series you want to focus on grounding through your forearm and lifting up through the side of your core and shoulder. As well as doing your best to keep your hips stacking (vs. rolling in or out).
Part 1: Hips on Ground
The first position is a great starting point for beginners. You can lie on one side with your top foot stepped over the opposite leg. Keeping your hips on the ground and seeing if you can allow your elbow to stay heavy as you lift the side of your core up.
You could pause here for around five breaths and then repeat on the other side. You could choose to repeat this several times on both sides.
Part 2: Hips Lifted and One Foot on Ground
If the first part of the series felt ok you can try lifting your hip off the ground. Keep allowing your torso to stay in one line and breath to stay steady as you hold the posture around five breaths and then release and repeat on the opposite side. If the posture felt ok you can repeat a few times on each side.
Part 3: Hips Lifted and Both Feet Stacked
The next step in the series is to see how it feels to stack one foot on top of the other. If this feels appropriate you can again stay for around five breaths and repeat each side a few times.
Tips to Practice
The great thing with this series of core warm ups is it gives you a great balance of working different areas of your core. Each series can be built up gradually, so if the second or third part feels challenging don’t worry! Keep practicing the foundations through the beginning part of the series and over time you’ll find your body will feel more stable and strong to attempt the others.
Although these core warm ups are really targeted to building core strength it doesn’t mean that you can’t treat them like the rest of your yoga practice!
So make sure you bring some awareness still to your breath and alignment in the poses. And see if you can keep other areas of your body—like your eyes, mouth and shoulders—relaxed throughout.
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