11 Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Abs

Boat pose is one example of a yoga pose that helps strengthen your abs.
Image Credit: Antonio_Diaz/iStock/GettyImages

Strong core muscles — which include your abs — are both a necessity for and a result of a regular yoga practice. And although almost any yoga pose will help strengthen your abs, some poses are more effective than others.

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Not sure where to start? Below, you'll find the 11 best yoga poses for abs, along with how to do them and how to make them work for your body. Plus, if you scroll all the way to the end, there's a core-shredding yoga series from yoga teacher Elise Joan that will strengthen your abs, as well as your back and hip flexors.

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The Best Yoga Poses for Abs

Grab a yoga mat, a couple of props (blocks, straps, blankets and yoga wheels are welcome) and slip into some leggings or yoga pants. Here, yoga teacher and celebrity trainer Claire Grieve has the perfect at-home yoga workout designed to target your abs.

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For a full or longer workout, do each of these moves in order, then repeat the sequence up to three times.

1. Plank Pose (Phalakasana)

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Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. Start on all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips.
  2. Curl your toes under and lift your knees off the mat to come into one straight line from your heels to your head.
  3. Tuck your pelvis under slightly and draw your shoulder blades together. Don't let your hips sag; they should stay at the same level as your shoulders.
  4. Draw your bellybutton in toward your spine to engage your abs. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 slow, deep breaths.

Tip

Make it easier:​ Leave your knees on the mat. Just make sure to keep your core contracted and hips in the same plane as your back.

2. Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)

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Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. From plank pose (see above), shift to one side and put on your weight onto your right or left hand.
  2. Stack your top foot on your bottom foot, lifting your top hip up toward the ceiling and drawing your bellybutton in to contract your abs.
  3. Ensure that your bottom hand is aligned under your shoulder, top hand reaching toward the ceiling.
  4. Hold the position for 5 to 10 deep breaths, then switch sides.

Tip

Make it easier:​ Take some weight off side plank by keeping both knees or just your bottom knee on the ground. You can also come down onto your forearm, aligning your elbow under your shoulder.

3. Knee-to-Shoulder Plank

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Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. Establish a solid plank position.
  2. Draw your right knee up to your right arm by exhaling and contracting your abdominals. Only go as far as your strength and mobility allow.
  3. Inhale as you straighten your right leg, bringing the foot back to the starting position.
  4. Exhale as you contract your abs, bringing your left knee toward your left upper arm or elbow.
  5. Inhale as you return to the starting position.
  6. Be sure to maintain the straight spine of your plank pose throughout the movement.

Tip

Make it easier:​ Get on all fours, with your wrists aligned under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Extend your right leg out, then bend at the knee and draw it in as close your right elbow as you can. Re-extend the leg, then place the knee on the mat. Do the same move on the other side.

4. Chaturunga

Image Credit: Antonio_Diaz/iStock/GettyImages
Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. Start on all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips.
  2. Curl your toes under and lift your knees off the mat to come into one straight line from your heels to your head.
  3. Tuck your pelvis under slightly. Don't let your hips sag; they should stay at the same level as your shoulders. Draw your bellybutton in toward your spine to engage your abdomen.
  4. On an exhale, bend your elbows in toward your side and lower your body toward the ground.
  5. Hold at the lowest comfortable point or lower all the way to the ground.

Tip

Make it easier:​ Start from your knees or try this pose with your hands elevated on a step or chair.

5. Boat Pose (Navasana)

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Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. Sit tall on your mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Extend your arms out in front of you and raise your feet until your lower legs are parallel to the mat.
  3. Lean your torso back to about a 45-degree angle.
  4. Draw the crown of your head up and lengthen through the spine; do not let your back round. Focus on maintaining a strong core.
  5. If this feels easy, begin to straighten your legs so that your body forms a V shape.
  6. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Tip

Make it easier:​ Don't sweat it if you're not quite there yet. Lean back on your forearms, keeping your core contracted and spine straight, and lift your legs with bent knees as high as you can.

6. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

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Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart.
  2. Draw your feet in close enough to your hips that you can reach your heels with your fingertips.
  3. Press your palms into the mat next to your hips and, on an exhale, raise your hips up until they form a diagonal line from your knees to your shoulders.
  4. If your flexibility allows, lift your hips higher so your thighs are almost parallel to the ground.
  5. Keep your feet underneath your knees and parallel to each other. Avoid clenching your glutes to prevent undue strain on your lower back.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

Tip

Make it easier:​ Try a restorative version of bridge pose. Lie back with your legs extended and position one block at its lower height horizontally just below your shoulder blades. Then, place a second block standing vertically to support the back of your head. Extend your arms alongside your body with your palms face up and relax for 3 to 5 minutes.

7. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

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Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. Lie on your stomach with your forehead on the mat and your arms extended alongside you, palms facing down.
  2. Contract all the muscles of your arms, legs and core to lift your head, chest and arms off the mat.
  3. Lifting your legs off the mat, rotate your inner thighs down toward the floor and avoid clenching your butt.
  4. Keep your neck long and continue breathing as best you can for 5 to 10 slow, deep breaths, attempting to lift a little bit higher with each breath.

Tip

Make it easier:​ You can work up to this pose by doing low cobra. Place your palms under your shoulders and lift your chest a few inches off the ground, using the strength of your lower back. You can also do locust pose lifting just the upper body or just the lower body at one time.

8. Cat/Cow Pose (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)

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Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. Begin on your hands and knees, also known as a tabletop position.
  2. As you exhale, pull your bellybutton in toward your spine and arch your back up like a cat.
  3. Inhale and reverse the position, lifting your head and tailbone and dropping your belly toward the mat.
  4. Continue to alternate between cat and cow pose for 10 slow, deep breaths.

Tip

Make it easier:​ Stand and bend over slightly with your hands just above your knees. Do the same pattern of exhale and arch, then inhale and drop your bell.

9. Reverse Plank Pose (Purvottanasana)

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Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. Sit on your butt, straighten your spine and extend your legs out straight in front of you.
  2. Place your hands on the mat 6 to 8 inches behind your hips, slightly wider than your hips and turn your palms so that your fingers are pointing toward you. (If this is too much for your shoulders, turn your palms halfway so your fingers point out away from your body.)
  3. On an exhale, press your feet in to the mat and lift your hips until your feet, hips and shoulders are in alignment. Avoid crunching your neck.
  4. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 full breaths.

Tip

Make it easier:​ You can work up to this pose by bending your knees and placing your feet flat on the floor. Then, lift your hips toward the ceiling as high as you can.

10. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

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Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. Stand tall with your feet together, spine straight and hands by your side.
  2. Bend your knees and send your hips back, transferring your weight into your heels.
  3. Draw your lower belly in and slightly tuck your pelvis.
  4. Inhale and raise your arms up toward the ceiling.
  5. Hold here for 5 deep breaths, then draw your palms together in the center of your chest in prayer pose.
  6. Hold for 5 breaths, then inhale as you stand back up.

Tip

Make it easier:​ Don't bend your knees as much or sit in an actual chair, leaning your torso slightly forward.

Make it harder:​ Try revolved chair pose: Exhale as you twist to the right and clasping your left elbow outside your right knee. Keep your knees in line with each other, twisting through your torso. Repeat on the other side.

11. Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

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Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. From standing, take a big step out to the right, landing your right foot about 3 to 4 feet behind your left foot.
  2. Open your body out to the side, extending your arms parallel to the floor, and turn your right foot out 90 degrees. Align your right heel with the heel of your left foot.
  3. Exhale as you extend your right arm out and down, tilting your torso from the hip joint until your right hand lands on your shin or ankle.
  4. Extend through the crown of your head and lengthen both sides of your torso equally.
  5. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths, then switch sides.

Tip

Make it easier:​ If you can't reach your shin or ankle, place your hand on your thigh (not on your knee) or stack some yoga blocks just inside your front foot and place your hand on them for support.

Try This Yoga Flow for Stronger Abs

Benefits of Yoga

Doing a yoga workout can help you de-stress — and build a stronger core. But that's not all. According to Harvard Health Publishing, integrating regular yoga into your routine is associated with:

  • Reduced joint pain
  • Increased endurance
  • Better posture
  • Greater muscle strength
  • More flexibility
  • Heightened balance and mobility

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