Yoga is an effective way to strengthen your core muscles without neglecting other parts of your body or mind. Yoga tones our physical core from the pelvic floor to the diaphragm and abdomen to lower back, while also strengthening our true inner core and sense of self. Inserting the following three poses into your yoga sequence allows you to work your core and gain other benefits at the same time.

Navasana – Boat Pose

In this yoga asana, your torso and legs form the shape of a letter “V.” Sitting straight on the floor with your legs extended, lean back, press your hands into the floor and lift your legs high. Stretch your arms toward your legs, keep your chest lifted and try to take your legs higher. Work toward having your feet higher than your head.

Navasana takes a lot if abdominal work. If the pose is too difficult for you initially, loop a strap around your feet and hold each end. You can even bend your knees slightly. Don’t forget to breathe and relax your face in boat pose.

Sirsasana – Headstand

Getting into headstand and remaining there requires a strong, focused core, both physically and mentally. Learn headstand by practicing at a wall. Kneel and place your forearms on the floor with you hands interlocked. Your elbows should be no wider than your shoulders. Open your hands to cup the back of your head. Place the very top of your head on the floor, lift your hips and walk your legs in. Lift your shoulders away from the floor.

When you are ready to come up, kick one leg to the wall, and follow quickly with the other. Imagine a band around your waist like a wide belt. Use that band to lift your body higher and stretch up through your legs. If your shoulders start to collapse or you feel too much neck pressure, then it’s time to come down. Rest for a few moments in child’s pose. Follow headstand with shoulderstand or a supported bridge pose.

Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog

Downward dog is not always listed as a core strengthening yoga pose, but it’s an effective way to start your core workout and gain awareness of your key abdominal muscles. Kneel on your mat on all fours; spread your palms and tuck your toes under. Engage your abdominal muscles to lift your hips high. Your arms and legs should be straight.

Refine the pose by rolling your abdomen in toward your pelvis. Use this action to draw the sides of your torso longer. It should also serve to lengthen your lower spine. Don’t allow your low back to concave in; it should stay flat.

Your core includes not only abdominal and back muscles, but your emotional and spiritual core. Practice these poses in a way that nourishes all parts of the self, making your entire core strong and steady.