12 Yoga Poses to Strengthen and Tone Your Abs

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Among those who do not practice yoga regularly, there seems to be a common preconceived notion that yoga is simply an exercise designed to promote relaxation , but never break a sweat. While some forms of yoga require less physical exertion. In fact, one of the great things about yoga is that it is so versatile as a practice, and between all the different styles and poses, you can really find something to suit almost every mood. and target workout. One way to do a yoga-based workout is to plan a sequence that targets a specific body part, such as the legs, arms, or core. While whole-body strengthening is important for overall health and fitness, zone-focused exercises allow you to gain more specific strengthening benefits and potentially correct muscle imbalances in weaker areas.

Whether you’re just starting your yoga journey or a devotee of flow yoga classes, incorporating yoga poses that target and strengthen your abs and core will benefit your yoga practice and overall fitness. Having a strong core will not only help improve your posture and spinal health, but it will also allow you to move on to more challenging balancing poses like Crow Pose , Warrior II, and Tree Pose.

So if you want to exercise your core, look no further. Check out these 12 yoga poses that target your abs and strengthen and tone your core.

Safety and Precautions

When you do any core exercise, it’s important to pay attention to the flow of movement and posture. “The flow should ease you into the sequence, which will help the spine and abs because both support each other. Combining three or four poses in one sequence can help those who get bored with one easy pose. From In a sense, it keeps things fresh so that you become more aware of the poses as you carefully move in and out of them. In other words, pick a few poses that target your abs and pair them with a pair that targets your back , and then combine them into a sequence to keep your body balanced and healthy. Finally, while the poses here are safe for everyone, if you are pregnant, have back pain, or have an injury, you should get the Physician’s permission.

Improved Triangle Pose with Raised Arms

Regular triangle pose (Trikonasana) can relieve back pain and tension in the arms. The simple modification of extending your arms out in front of you targets your abs like a ball catch, as you must engage them to keep your body stable, lifted, and balanced.

  • Stand lengthwise on the mat with feet parallel and about 3 feet apart.
  • Turn the right foot out 90 degrees so that the toes are facing the short end of the mat, while the left toe is turned inward about 5-10 degrees.
  • Inhale and lift your arms up to shoulder alignment, palms facing the floor.
  • Exhale, stretch forward, lengthening the left side of the body while reaching toward the right foot with the right fingertips.
  • Stretch the left hand upwards, with the left palm facing forward, and gaze at the middle finger of the left palm.
  • Stay here for a full breath, then engage your core and extend your arms toward the front of the room as if you were holding an exercise ball.
  • Stay here for another six breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Warrior Three Pose

Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) is the most challenging pose in the Warrior series, combining balance and strength. Pilates instructor Dasha Einhorn demonstrates the move, calling it one of her favorite “must-do” positions. This pose helps strengthen the abs, obliques, and back muscles, while also helping to clear the mind.

  • Stand on top of the mat in mountain pose (tadasana).
  • Begin to slowly extend your body forward while simultaneously lifting your right heel and leg back and up.
  • Keeping your toes bent and pointing down, engage your core as you move your arms out in front of your body and parallel to each other. Your neck should be aligned with your spine, shoulders relaxed, and your gaze focused on a single point on the mat for balance.
  • Hold this position for seven breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Cobra Pose

The key to Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) is to use your core to lift off the mat, thereby strengthening it while keeping your arms light. The pose also improves spinal flexibility and is said to relieve pain from menstruation and sciatica . 2

  • Lie on your stomach with your legs together, the tops of all toes firmly on the ground, and your hands in line with your chest.
  • Inhale, engaging your entire core — glutes, abs, and back — to lift your upper body off the mat. Make sure your pelvis remains on the mat, your elbows are close to your sides, your chest is open, and your shoulder blades are pulled down.
  • Hold this pose for seven breaths, then relax.

plank pose

The plank pose (Phalakasana) is one of the key poses designed to develop arm and core strength . “Yoga poses for abs tend to be very hot, which helps your metabolism and your digestive organs,” Stephens notes. “It’s a great way to detox because your body heats up and you sweat.

  • Begin on all fours, with shoulders aligned with wrists and elbows bent, resting on forearms.
  • Engage your core by drawing your navel toward your spine while extending your legs back one at a time, toes tucked. Your spine should be long and neutral so that there is a straight line from your head to your heels.
  • Keep your arms and core engaged.
  • If you want, you can push up off the mat and straighten your elbows on your hands to reach a standard high plank.
  • Roll your shoulder blades down and reach your tailbone toward your heels.

Beginners: See if you can hold this pose for 30 seconds, working on the pose for up to three to four minutes as you work out.

side plank pose

A variation on the traditional plank, Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana) is designed to further strengthen your core and arms, especially your obliques, hips and shoulders.

  • From a plank position, keep your core engaged as you turn toward the outer edge of your right foot while stacking your left foot on top of your right.
  • Shift your weight to your right hand and slowly raise your left hand to the ceiling while opening your body to the left of the room. Your gaze should be directly in front of you or on the middle finger of your left hand.
  • Hold this position for seven breaths, then return to plank position and repeat on the other side.

dolphin pose

Dolphin pose doesn’t just target your abs, it also improves spinal mobility and helps strengthen your shoulders—perfect for those of us looking to strengthen our upper body .

  • Start by kneeling on the mat with your feet tucked under your butt.
  • Place your elbows in front of your knees and rest your forearms on the mat, interlacing your fingers where they meet.
  • Tuck your toes in, slowly lift your hips toward the ceiling, and straighten your knees, forming an inverted “V.”
  • Inhale, pulling your belly up and in.
  • Exhale, and move your body forward, placing your chin in front of your clasped hands.
  • Inhale, return to starting position.
  • Repeat 7-10 more times.

cat pose sit ups

While the regular cat pose (Marjariasana) is used to massage the spine, modifying it with crunches targets the abs and can also improve your balance and focus.

  • Start on your hands and knees, with your shoulders aligned with your wrists and your hips aligned with your knees. This starting position is often referred to as the tabletop position.
  • As you inhale, lift your right hand off the floor to shoulder height, fingers pointing forward.
  • Engage your core and find your balance as you lift your left leg directly behind you to hip height, toes pointing down.
  • Exhale, rounding your back and lifting your belly up while moving your right elbow and left knee toward your navel.
  • Inhale to return to the starting position, and exhale to crunch.
  • Repeat for five more breaths before returning to the tabletop position, then repeat on the other side.

Upward Plank Pose

In addition to working your abdominal muscles, the upward-facing plank pose (Purvottanasana) is a great heart-opening pose that stretches your shoulders and ankles. It’s also designed to help strengthen your arms and wrists, which is especially beneficial if you’re working in front of a computer all day.

  • From a seated position, the legs are activated and extended.
  • Place your hands on the mat with your fingertips at forearm-distance from your buttocks, fingers spread, active, and pointing toward your heels.
  • Inhale, expand your chest, pull your shoulder blades down, and slowly begin to lift your hips off the floor, keeping your legs straight and your thighs rolled in, core engaged. Keep your chin pointing toward your chest and your gaze toward the front of the room.
  • Hold for seven breaths, then relax.

camel pose

Camel pose (Ustrasana) is a gateway to other back-bending poses in yoga, providing a deep stretch on the front of your body. “[It] helps with flexibility and stability in the curve of the spine, which is very important for core strength,” shares Stephens.

  • Kneel down with knees hip-distance apart, toes resting on the mat.
  • Place your hands on the back of your hips, fingers down, and join your thighs, slowly leaning back and reaching toward your heels, one hand at a time.
  • Open and extend the chest, bring the shoulder blades together, and drop the head back.
  • Hold this pose for seven breaths, and make sure to lift your head first when dismounting from the pose.

boat pose

An excellent pose for developing your core, Boat Pose (Navasana) is more challenging than it looks. But the potential rewards of practicing this pose on a regular basis are self-evident: strengthen your spine, neck, legs, and abs, and improve mental strength by focusing on balance.

  • Sit on a mat with your feet stretched out in front of you. Lean back, finding your balance on your sit bones, and slowly begin to lift your leg off the floor. Keep your legs straight, feet pointing towards the ceiling.
  • To engage your abs, extend your arms straight toward your feet until they’re parallel to the floor, with your palms facing each other.
  • Lengthens the spine while balancing on the sit bones, keeping the core tight and engaged.

twisted half-boat pose

While Half Boat Pose (Ardha Navasana) is the pose you practice when you’re trying to achieve full boat pose, adding modifications in the form of twists will turn an easy pose into a challenging pose that targets your obliques.

  • Begin in boat pose with legs fully extended toward the ceiling and arms in front of you at shoulder height.
  • Inhale as you bend your knees, bring your hands together and hold an imaginary ball between them.
  • Exhale, move your knees to the right while extending your arms to the left, and slowly lower your torso by half.
  • Inhale, return to the starting position – boat pose – and stay here for a few breaths, then repeat on the other side. This is one round.
  • Repeat three more times.

Improve Wheel Posture with Single-Leg Lifts

The regular wheel pose is great for strengthening your legs and glutes. Modifying it by alternating leg lifts is designed to work your core muscles, effectively targeting and toning your abs.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels close to your hip bones.
  • Inhale, gently squeeze the glutes to lift the hips and pelvis.
  • Keep your shoulder blades rotated in and your chin away from your chest as you lift your shoulders off the mat and slowly straighten your arms.
  • On the next inhale, slowly bring your right knee toward your chest, squeezing your right buttock and straightening your leg upward.
  • Keep your core engaged as you point your toes toward the ceiling.
  • Hold the pose for seven breaths, then release and repeat on the other side.


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