The core muscles are key for developing good running form and posture, stopping you from bending at the waist—especially when fatigue starts to set in. This can help you ward off back pain along with a host of biomechanical problems.
And let’s face it, there is nothing sexier than a toned, lean stomach.
Yoga for the Core
In fact, Yoga is one of my favorite things to do the in the world.
That’s why I’m writing a lot about the benefits of yoga for runners from all training and fitness backgrounds.
Yoga can help increase your total body strength without building muscle bulk. Yoga can significantly strengthen and tone your core muscles with minimum impact and in the most convenient way possible.
All you need is a mat and your own body weight, and there you go.
Abs are made in the Kitchen
For those of you looking to score a six-pack, keep in mind that exercise is just one piece of the puzzle. If you are serious about getting chiseled in the midsection, what you eat is far greater than any form of exercise you do.
Hence, be mindful of your diet.
For more on how to lose belly fat, check my post here.
The Best Yoga Core Poses
Add these yoga core strength moves to your repertoire to reduce your risks of injury and boost your success of on the running field—whether it’s on the treadmill, streets or trails.
Take just 15 to 20 minutes a day, three to four times a week, to build your core strength with these simple core asanas. The sequence includes 7 powerful yoga poses to fire up and strengthen all of your core muscles—with no exception.
Before you jump into this core yoga sequence, do a few cat-cow stretches to get your core muscles fired up and ready to go.
Here is How…
Arch your back on the inhale and round your spine on the exhale. That’s it.
Make sure to keep your stomach tucked in through the movement.
Also known as Phalakasana in the yogic circles, the plank asana tones most of your core muscles. It also builds upper body and low back strength and lengthens the spine.
Assume a push-up position with hands and knees shoulder width apart, fingers spread wide apart with the middle finger pointing forward, and toes tucked under, pressing into the palms with the straight arms.
Form a straight line from your head to your ankles by tucking your tailbone under and engaging your core muscles to keep your pelvis torso steady and firm. No sagging allowed.
To keep your legs active through the hold makes sure to press with your heels toward the back of the mat.
While maintaining your neck soft and gazing down at the floor, hold the plank position for one to two minutes before moving into the next asana. Lift the base of the skull away from the back of your neck and gaze down the floor.
To come out of this pose, slowly bend your knees to the floor to assume child pose, then move on to the next asana.
2. Warrior III
This asana will not only sculpt your core muscle, but it will also tone your entire body, from head to toe. It strengthens the muscles of the arms, shoulders, leg and back. It’s a total body move per excellence.
This asana is also great for improving core awareness, coordination, and balance. Putting all of your weight on leg will challenge your balance and core power like nothing else.
If you are not using firing up your core muscles properly to stabilize you in this pose, you will likely to lose balance and tip over.
Begin by standing with feet together in the middle of the mat.
Next, inhale as you set your gaze on a fixed point, engage your abs, and shift your weight onto your right leg. Then, to come into Warrior 3, bend forward at your hips, lift your left leg straight behind and arms out to the sides at shoulder height.
For more challenge, you can reach your hands forward.
Hold this position for 30 seconds to one full. To come out of Warrior III, lower slowly your left leg to the mat then go back to standing position and switch sides.
3. Dolphin Plank
Known as Makarasana in Sanskrit, or elbow plank, this is a variation of the classic plank, resting on the elbow this time. This asana targets more of the muscles of the abs, with less strain on the arms and shoulders.
This is a great asana for runners since it targets the entire core as well as helping improve posture and adding strength to stabilizer muscles.
Start by lying face down on the mat, resting your upper body on your forearms with your elbows right under the shoulders, and palms firmly grounded.
Next, to come into dolphin plank, raise your hips towards the ceiling, coming onto the tips of your toes while staying on your forearms.
Make sure to maintain a straight line from your head to your heels by keeping your back flat and abs engaged throughout the hold.
Hold the pose for one to two minute, then lower down and move to the next asana.
4. Balancing Star
Known as Vasisthasana in Sanskrit, this is the third plank variation I’m sharing with you today. This asana mainly targets your side core muscles—what’s known as the obliques—as well as strengthening the thighs, glutes, shoulders, and arms.
It also challenges your balance like no other asana—except for, maybe, Warrior III.
Start in the classic plank position, then roll open to your right side and raise you left hand off the floor, and stack your left leg your right leg. Then, shift to face the side of your mat with your weight equally distributed between your right arm and right foot.
Make sure to keep your shoulders, spine, and hips in one straight line from the head to the ankle.
You can stay here balancing on your right hand with feet stacked. But to come into the full version of Balancing star, raise your left foot up as high as you can and reach your arm to the ceiling as high and straight as you can without losing balance. Be sure to keep a straight line from your head to your ankles.
For more challenge in the balance department, try looking up at your top hand.
Hold the pose for 45 seconds to one full minute while keeping the core engaged and pose steady throughout the hold.
To come down, lower slowly to classic plank then switch sides.
This is one of the simplest yoga moves with one and only purpose: sculpting and toning the abdominals. This asana engages the deeps muscles of the abs and will improve your running posture and stability.
Begin by sitting on your mat with legs in front of you.
Next, bend your knees, lift your legs off the mat, and lean back a bit to balance on your sit bones, then bring your knees in toward your chest with your thighs at a right angle to the floor and shins parallel to the floor.
To do the Boat right, make sure to sit as tall as you can, then slowly start to straighten your legs, bring your arms out straight in line with your shoulders, forming a “V” shape with your body.
Hold the pose for one to two minutes, then take your time to slowly lower down to the floor.
6. Sunbird Pose
Begin in table top pose, then reach forward with your right arm like you are about to shake someone’s hand and raise your left leg up, holding it parallel to the floor.
Make sure to engage your core muscles while you are doing your best to pull the extended limbs away from each other.
Next, bring your knee towards your chest while curling the right elbow to the left knee on the exhale, as if you are performing a crunch. Then inhale and extend your arm forward and leg back.
Continue the motion for 12 to 15 reps, then switch sides.
7. Locust Pose
Known as Salabha in Sanskrit, this asana is ideal for strengthening the lower back, the muscles that surround the back of the spine and abdominals as well as improving posture.
Begin lying on your stomach on the mat with arms along the sides of your torso. Then, place your hands, palms faced down, next to your chest, with your elbows bent like chicken wings.
Next, raise your chest off the mat by only using your back muscles, curving your spine upwards and lifting your legs off the mat using your inner thighs up toward the ceiling as you reach the crown of your head up as high as you can.
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Featured Image Credits – Amelia through Flickr