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5 low-intensity yoga poses that will work your entire core

These simple moves will help you strengthen your core and increase flexibility — without breaking a sweat.
If you are new to yoga, moves like triangle and mountain pose are the perfect way to get started.
If you are new to yoga, moves like triangle and mountain pose are the perfect way to get started.Stephanie Mansour / TODAY Illustration

If you’re not super flexible, yoga may be intimidating. But when it comes to working the abs, there are plenty of poses that are low intensity, but still effective in tightening the core and building muscle.

Low-intensity exercise keeps the heart rate at about half of its maximum capacity, making it a great workout for beginners. Research also shows that certain yoga poses are effective in strengthening different parts of the core region, like the external obliques and the glutes.

I’ve created this low-intensity yoga routine to help you strengthen your abdominals, increase flexibility and become more comfortable with moving your body in this way. If yoga isn’t usually a part of your routine, these poses are the perfect way to get started.

Plank

The plank pose is one of the more common yoga poses but that doesn’t mean it’s the easiest! Although low in intensity, the plank pose requires you to recruit your entire core to keep your body up in the air in a stable position.

Begin at the bottom of a pushup position with your palms flat on the ground under your shoulders and your feet stretched out behind you. Push the ground away from you to lift your body up off the ground, balancing on your hands and toes. Make sure to keep your hips from sagging down by engaging the muscles in your legs and abdominals. Hold for 10 seconds, rest, then repeat two more times.

Tree pose

Although the tree pose looks simple, it requires good balance and focus to perform effectively. Balance and stability comes from core strength, making the tree pose a good move to incorporate into your ab routine.

Begin standing tall with your back straight. Keep your right foot flat on the ground. Bend your left knee and bring the left foot to the inside of your right thigh. For a modification, you can place the foot onto the calf or even onto the ankle. Make sure to point your bended knee outward toward the side of your body. Place your hands together in prayer position at your chest, and hold for 30 seconds. Then repeat on the other side.

Triangle

The triangle pose strengthens your core as well as your hips and thighs. Plus, like most other yoga poses, the triangle pose can help you to release some of your anxiety and stress.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your arms at your sides. Take a step forward so that your feet are a few feet apart, with your front right heel in line with the arch of your back left foot. Point your right foot forward and keep your left foot perpendicular to it. Raise your arms over head and then twist away from your right front leg, lowering your right arm out in front of you, and your left arm straight back behind you at shoulder height. Then, lower the right arm down to touch the right shin. Lift the left arm up toward the sky and engage the right side waist. Hold this position for 10 seconds, remembering to breathe slowly and consistently, before switching sides.

Hands and knees balance

This pose recruits your entire core, including you abs, back and glutes, to help stabilize the body. Start on your hands and knees, making sure your knees are under your hips and your hands are under your shoulders. With your abs drawn in and back straight, reach the right arm forward and the left leg back so that there is a straight line from your heel to your hand. Hold for 5 seconds, and then repeat with the left arm and right leg. Alternate, performing five times on each side.

Chair

The chair pose is another simple, yet effective, pose when it comes to core strength. The move also works on leg strength, balance and stability. Holding this pose in proper form requires engaging the core and focusing on your breathing.

Start in a standing position. Bend your knees and hinge at the hips, like you are sitting back into a chair, until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Raise your arms straight up by your ears, framing your head. Your arms and torso should be in a straight line from your hips to your fingertips and your knees should not go past your toes. Hold this position for 10 seconds, pulling your belly button in towards your spine.

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