The core is a buzzing topic in the fitness world these days, and crunches are often the first exercise that the average person associates with the word.
If you're looking to change up your routine, however, practicing yoga is a great alternative to building core muscles. Not only does a strengthened core lead to a reduced risk of injuries during workouts, but it also helps stabilize the body and protect the spine.
Adriene Mishler, a yoga teacher offering classes in Austin, Texas and founder of the online yoga community Yoga With Adriene, is a firm believer in the use of yoga for core strength.
Mishler recommends five moves to improve core strength and tighten up the stomach and lower back muscles, all while enjoying the relaxing and meditative benefits of yoga. These moves are not only great for balance and focus, but also for reinforcing your posture.
Come into a tabletop position with your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees below your hip points. Press into the tops of the feet and press away from the yoga mat with your palms.
Extend energy through the crown of the head and find length through the tailbone. Breathe in.
On an exhale, draw your navel to your spine and let your knees hover one inch above the ground. Keep everything in one piece from the crown to the tail. Press into your foundation firmly and take five long, smooth, deep breaths.
Release the previous pose and counter with a cat/cow spinal flexion. Again, you'll want your wrists underneath your shoulders and knees below your hip points.
Inhale and drop your stomach while focusing your head up toward the ceiling. Exhale while keeping your abdominals tight.
On the next inhale, push your stomach and back upward. Curve your spine toward the ceiling and position your head inward while looking toward your midsection.
Repeat this move for four breaths before coming back to the neutral position.