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Best Yoga Poses for Core, Flat Belly

Many people have tried doing sit-ups and crunches, or some form of core work, but have not seen results they want. Are you one of them?

To get a strong core and flat tummy, you will need to work and engage ALL of your core muscles. This means forgetting the usual exercises and introducing those that challenge the back core muscles, the obliques, and other deep-set muscles beneath your belly.

This is why yoga for core strength is so effective for achieving that flat belly you desire. In a single yoga practice, we tend to do many different poses rather than repeating one movement over and over again. These yoga poses also do not isolate muscles but work on multiple muscles together.

In this simple routine, you will learn how to employ all different core muscles (including your back), and also use neighbouring muscles such as your arms and glutes to provide resistance and increase the effectiveness of your routine.

Most of the poses can be practised by beginners, with modifications included for those who find any pose too challenging.

Practise these poses to increase strength and endurance. Start by holding each pose for 3 breaths. As you get stronger, increase each pose to 30-second holds.

You can also mix up the poses to create variety for your routines.

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Before you begin…

Yoga Equipment

Here are some tips to get the most out of your practice.

Firstly, get a non-slip yoga mat that is cushioned enough to allow for a comfortable practice.

I am personally using Liforme Travel Yoga Mat, and always recommend it to new students. However, some people may find this a little on the pricey side. If you would like a thicker mat at an affordable price point, I have used both the Gaiam Sol Dry-Grip and the Manduka … mats and both are great options as well.

Secondly, get yoga blocks. Whether you are a beginner or expert, yoga blocks are really helpful for alignment. This ensures that we practise safely and effectively. Foam blocks are great and affordable – I used these for a good few years before switching to the more sturdy cork yoga blocks and wooden blocks.

Take your pick based on your preference and budget. The tiny investment in yoga equipment will provide lasting benefits that outweigh the costs.

Related: 6 Essential Yoga Equipment to Invest in for an Amazing Home Yoga Studio

Finally, take breaks whenever you feel too tired. Rest in Child’s Pose or Downward Facing Dog for up to a minute, then continue with your practice.

Practising consistently and safely works more effectively than over-doing things (and suffering from muscle aches or a motivation slump)!

9 Most Effective Yoga for Flat Belly

Best Yoga Poses for Core, Flat Belly

Baby Cobra Pose [Ardha Bhujangasana]

Baby Cobra Pose

Baby Cobra Pose is great for people new to core work. It strengthens the core and stretches the back muscles, working on the full mid-body area.

Begin by lying face down on your mat. Place your hands just beside your chest or ribs, keeping your elbows bent.

Hug your elbows close to your body. With an inhale, slowly lift your head and chest off the ground with the strength of your back and core, instead of your arms.

Your hands will be there as a form of support, but there should be little or no weight on your palms. This is to ensure that you are using your back and core muscles.

Hold for 3-10  breaths, then exhale and lower your chest and head to the mat.

Upward Facing Dog [Urdhva Mukha Svanasana]

Upward Facing Dog

Upward Facing Dog is a natural progression from Baby Cobra or Cobra Pose. It works on upper body strength and fully stretches the abdominal muscles and back muscles.

Begin in the same starting position as Baby Cobra Pose, but place your hands lower, near to your waist.

Hug your elbows in, then inhale to lift your entire body off the floor, balancing on your feet and hands only.

Draw your shoulders away from the ears, pull in your abdominal muscles, and engage your glutes (buttocks).

Hold for 3-10 breaths, then lower your legs, torso, chest and head to the mat.

Plank Pose [Phalakasana]

plank pose

Plank Pose is very effective for building strength in your core, as well as your arms and shoulders. Mastering Plank Pose will prepare you for more advanced arm balancing poses such as Crow Pose or Headstand.

In the yoga version of Plank Pose, the upper back is slightly more rounded to allow space in the back and activate the abs more effectively.

Come into a high push up position, keeping your hands right beneath your shoulders.

Push the mat away with your palms, feeling your shoulders engage and the shoulder blades separating. Draw your shoulder blades away from your ears and down your back – the upper back will be slightly rounded from this action.

Don’t sag your body or chest down, resist gravity by engaging your abs and literally the whole body. Engaging all your muscles, especially your core, is the key to getting flat abs from Plank Pose.

Hold for 5-10 breaths, then slowly lie flat on the mat.

Repeat the pose 3-5 times if you want a stronger practice.

Side Plank [Vasisthasana]

Side Plank Pose

Side Plank is Plank Pose done on one hand. It works the shoulders and obliques as you require more strength to resist the force of gravity.

From Plank Pose, shift the weight to the outer edge of the right foot, stacking your left on the right foot.

Modification: If you find it hard to stack your feet, place your right knee on the ground for better stability.

Your weight should also naturally shift to your right hand. Bring your left hand to your waist, turning your torso towards the left as you do so.

Support your body with your right hand and outer right foot. Engage your obliques (side abdominal muscles) by lifting your hips higher.

Your body should form a strong line of energy from head to toe.

Focus your gaze ahead or down on the mat (for balance), and lift your left hand to the sky. Turn your head and look at your left hand if you can find the balance.

Hold this pose without sagging your body for 5-10 breaths.

Return to Plank and lie on the mat to rest. Then repeat on the other side.

If you feel strong, you can also choose to repeat both sides 3-5 times.

Downward Facing Dog [Adho Mukha Svanasana]

Downward Facingg Dog

Downward Facing Dog is a resting pose and also a passive core strength-building pose. It is important to add this to any yoga practice as it helps yogis to familiarise with engaging the Mula bandha (root lock) and Uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock).

These are essential energy locks that allow for a stronger practice as all the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles will be engaged.

Related: Bandhas for Beginners – What Is It and Why Is It Important in Yoga?

Coming first into Plank Pose, exhale and lift your hips, forming a triangle shape with your body.

As you draw your tailbone towards the ceiling, lengthen your entire spine.

Push against the mat with your shoulder strength and do not sink into your chest.

As you reach your tailbone up, try to reach your heels to the ground – only as much as you can!

If your heels do not touch the ground, it is OKAY. The important thing is to lengthen your spine and draw your tailbone up.

From here, feel your lower belly naturally suck in and engage your pelvic floor muscles as though you are trying to stop your pee (for lack of a better phrase).

Stay aware of all your muscles, ensuring your weight is on your fingers and toes/heels, and your tailbone is actively drawing up the whole time.

Rest here in Downward Facing Dog for at least 10 breaths, up to 2 minutes.

Extended Side Angle Pose [Utthita Parsvakonasana]

Extended Side Angle Pose

From Downward Facing Dog position, Inhale and step your right foot forward.

Flatten your left foot, pointing the toes to the left side of the mat.

Place your right arm on the inside of your right leg, using your shoulders to keep your knees from collapsing inwards.

Extend your left arm over your ears, reaching it as far forward as possible.

Keep your body facing the left, try not to rotate your body to face downwards.

Hold for 3-10 breaths before switching sides.

Modification Options

If you find it difficult to reach the floor, here are two modifications you can take.

Modification 1: Use a yoga block – place the block near the inside of your right feet, and rest your right hand on the block.

Modification 2: Instead of resting your right hand on the mat or block, rest your right elbow on the right thigh. Your thigh acts as a support to lift your body. This modification is usually accessible to most people.

Boat Pose [Navasana]

Boat Pose

Boat Pose is a challenging one and you will surely feel your core working hard in this pose! Keep practising with modifications and you will eventually build enough core strength to hold the full pose one day.

Start by sitting on the mat with your legs stretched in front of you.

Inhale to lift your legs to a 45-degree angle.

Keep your hands on the mat for now – focus on activating the core, drawing your abs in and lengthening your back.

Try to keep your back long and do not round the lower back.

When you are ready, extend your arms forward so you are only balancing on your buttocks.

Hold Boat Pose for 5-10 breaths before returning to a seated position.

Then repeat Boat Pose for at least 3 times.

Modification Options

If you find it difficult to hold Boat Pose without rounding your back, you can do the following modifications.

Modification 1: Bend your knees and hold your thighs, making sure you are still keeping your core engaged and your spine long.

Half Boat Pose

Modification 2: If the first modification feels easy for you, release your hands and extend it to the front. Engage your core and look forward to balance.

Superman or Locust Pose [Salabhasana]

Superman and Locust Pose strengthen the back of the torso, legs and arms. They stretch the chest and also prepare yogis for deeper backbends.

Lie face down on the mat with the hands extended in front of your body. Rest your forehead on the mat.

Firm your buttocks so that your tailbone is drawing forwards and pressing on the pubis.

Inhale to lift your hands, head and chest. Exhale here to release.

Superman Pose

Inhale again, this time lifting your hands, head, chest and feet to come into Superman Pose. You should be resting only on your lower ribs, belly and front pelvis.

Hold Superman Pose for 5 breaths, then exhale to release.

Continue with another set of Superman Pose, or try out Locust Pose. Lie back down on the mat and bring your hands back beside your body.

Locust Pose

Inhale to lift your hands and feet, head and chest. Stretch your hands back actively to lift your chest higher. Draw your shoulders away from your ears.

Engage your buttocks through to your legs, try to lift your legs higher.

Look forward and hold for 5-10 breaths.

Note: Both Superman and Locust poses work on similar set of core muscles. The only difference being that Superman Pose trains the shoulders and upper back more than Locust Pose.

Bridge Pose [Setu Bandha Sarvangasana]

Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose is an all-rounded pose that strengthens the glutes, thighs, and back while opening up the front body. You need to engage your core to keep your back from injury – the more your core is engaged, the stronger your back will get.

To get into Bridge Pose, start by lying on your back. Bend your knees and keep them hip-width apart.

Bring your heels under your knees.

Inhale, engage your glutes and lift your pelvis from the floor.

Press the back of your head onto the mat to lengthen your neck.

Stay here if you find it challenging to keep your hips up.

For a stronger pose, roll your shoulders underneath you, interlock your hands and press your elbows on the mat. Using your shoulders and elbows as support, extend your hips even higher.

If you’re looking for an even more challenging variation, try lifting one leg and hold for 5 counts before switching legs. You will feel your glutes working hard!

Bridge Pose Variation

Aim for 3 rounds of Bridge Pose. Remember to keep breathing and keep engaging your core.

Keep practising and increasing the duration of each yoga pose as well as the number of repetitions. You will eventually achieve a stronger core and flatter belly!

If you’ve tried this Yoga for Flat Belly routine, I’d love to hear your experience. Drop your comments below to share your story!

Get the printable version of this YOGA FOR FLAT BELLY routine and other guides in our FREE resource library by signing up below.

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