Balance + Lift

Beginner Core Workout: 20-Minute Yoga Workout for Killer Abs

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I never realized how sore your abs could be from practicing yoga until I actually started practicing. 

But, I never really focused on ab workouts or my abs in yoga in the beginning. At least, until I was told how important it was to focus on strengthening your core to support your spine.

So, I started looking for a beginner core workout that I could do that would help build strength in my core muscles.

Did you know that a lot of ab workouts don't really target all areas of your abs?

Most people focus on the “6 pack abs” area of the stomach, but there are more muscles that you should focus on in order to strengthen your core. 

Here's a great article by ACE Fitness that details the different core muscles.

Adding yoga poses that concentrate on your abs into your daily routine is a great way to protect your back by strengthening your core.

Your core muscles aren't just those things you see in “fitness inspo” pictures on Instagram and Pinterest. They are, but they aren't.

Having 6-pack abs isn't all it's about.

Our core muscles are what helps our back to stay strong. It provides the support needed to stay upright and not have back issues.

Having a strong core:

  • Helps prevent injuries
  • Protects your internal organs
  • Helps with back pain (back pain is a side effect of a weak core)
  • Improves confidence
  • Improves posture

Beginner Core Workout Postures In This Sequence

In this sequence, we'll use a number of yoga poses that will help target your abs.

It might not seem like much at first, but if you do this sequence once or even go through it a second time you'll soon start to feel the burn.

Some of these poses are more resting poses, but you need to be actively engaging your ab muscles in every pose. This is what ultimately helps build your core strength and stamina.

  • Mountain Pose
  • Forward Fold
  • Plank
  • Chaturanga
  • Downward Dog
  • Warrior 1
  • Upward Facing Dog
  • Balancing Table Pose
  • Boat Pose
  • Bridge Pose
  • Corpse Pose

20-Minute Yoga Ab Workout You Can Do At Home

Doing core training doesn't have to take long.

In fact, a lot of HIIT workouts incorporate ab workouts into their routines. Most HIIT workouts last anywhere from 4 to 30-minutes.

Not very long at all, and you can get in a great ab workout at home that strengthens your core.

1 Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

woman standing in mountain pose

Mountain pose is one of the foundational poses in yoga, and most yoga sequences start in Mountain Pose.

It's great for strengthening the legs, grounding your feet and centering your mind.

To Practice:

Place your feet together with your big toes touching. If this feels uncomfortable you can separate your feet a few inches.

Lift your toes up off the ground and try to ground all 4 corners of your feet down on the grounds. Once you feel all corners touching lower your toes gently back to the ground. Start to engage your leg muscles by drawing your kneecaps up towards your belly (obvs they won't reach that high but you get what I mean).

Engage your core and breathe deeply as your arms are at your side. You can place them on your legs, face your palms forward or hold them outward a little like in the photo.

Stand in Mountain Pose for 1 full minute. Make sure you engage your legs and your core.

2 Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

woman doing standing forward fold

This pose might be one of those where you ask, “how does this pose help to build abs?”

And, honestly, most people don't practice this pose right. They'll fold forward but won't engage their core.

It's important to engage your core in this pose because it helps to draw your stomach towards your spine. By doing this you're allowing yourself to fold deeper into the pose.

To Practice:

From Mountain Pose, bring your palms together at the center of your chest and on your next inhale reach your arms overhead stretching towards the ceiling. On your exhale, fold forward and try to reach your fingertips towards the ground. Remember to keep your belly pulled towards your spine as you fold deep into the pose.

Keep your legs engaged here as well.

Keep breathing for 1-minute as you stay in this pose. Make sure your core is engaged and drawn back toward your spine.

3 Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)

woman in high plank pose

Plank is an excellent pose for building strength in your abs, but it also works your arms and shoulders too.

Making sure to keep your abs engaged here is what makes all the difference in this pose. If you're in Plank, but not engaging your core then it makes it kind of pointless. Might as well get the most out of Plank Pose so you can start rocking those Yoga Abs.

To Practice:

From Forward Fold pose bend your knees and place your hands to the ground. Step your feet back into Plank pose and get ready to hold.

If you're new to Plank or your core strength isn't that great then this is one of the best ab workouts out there. It works the core by targeting all muscles and not just targeting individual muscle groups.

It can also be one of the hardest ones to keep for long periods of time.

Remember to breathe through any discomfort and try to keep in plank for the full minute.

Try to stay in Plank for up to 1 full minute. Keep your core engaged, arms locked and a soft gaze.

4 Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)

woman in chaturanga (or four-limbed staff pose)

Like Plank Pose, Chaturanga is a great pose for strengthening your abdominal muscles.

This pose works your abdomen by you keeping it engaged and because you're basically balancing on your hands and toes while lowering to the ground.

So, not only are you engaging your abdomen but you're also challenging it by having to balance. It's like a double whammy.

To Practice:

From Plank Pose shift your weight forward just a little and slowly lower down until your chest is a few inches off the ground and your upper arm is parallel to the ground.

Try to go between Chaturanga and Plank as little as possible. But, doing push-ups between Chaturanga and Plank can also build strength in your arms and your shoulders too.

Work your way up to 1-minute of holding Chaturanga without having to push back up into Plank.

5 Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Shavasana)

woman in downward facing dog

This pose is a lot like Tandasana or Mountain Pose in the fact that it's a passive core strength builder. It's also a resting pose and is important to be added to any yoga practice.

This pose allows you to rest some from strenuous and challenging poses. You center your mind from all the negative chatter and you can calm your breathing if it has become too fast.

To Practice:

From Chaturanga push back up into Plank Pose and then push back into Downward Facing Dog.

Either keep your feet hip distance apart or move them closer together. Reach your sitting bones towards the sky and lengthen up the length of your back. At the same time (I know so much to do) press down through your heels and try your best to reach your heels to the ground.

Don't worry if your heels can't touch the ground. That.Is.Ok.

Seriously, if your heels don't touch the ground don't fret. Physically speaking, some peoples heels won't touch the ground and that's just a limitation of their body. It's caused by the way their bones are formed. They might have a portion of the bone that prevents them from bending their foot any more than that and so they can't get their heels to the ground.

Rest in Downward Facing Dog for 1-2 minutes.

6 Warrior (Virabhadrasana I)

woman in warrior 1 pose

Warrior 1 is another balancing pose that engages many muscled all at once. Nearly all muscles should be actively engaged in this pose to help build strength and stamina.

Keep your breath even as you stay in this pose. It can be easy to want to step back into Downward Dog when your legs start feeling that good burn.

Try to resist that urge and focus on your breathing and keeping your core engaged.

To Practice:

Once you're finished with your Downward Dog pose you need to step your right/left foot forward into a lunge position. Press up into a high lunge position and reach your arms overhead clasping your hands together at the top.

Try to keep your knee from going out over your toes in this position, but try to get your thigh as parallel to the ground as possible. Your back foot should be at a 45-degree angle to keep your hips from being pained.

Shift your hips to be in a straight line and facing forward while simultaneously reaching as high as you can and lengthening through your spine.

Hold Warrior for 30 seconds to 1-minute. Make sure you switch sides also!

7 Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

woman in upward facing dog

Since we've done a lot of exercises where you've engaged your core it is important to also stretch your core muscles as well.

Upward Facing Dog is a great pose for stretching the front body muscles while engaging the back muscles and glutes.

Enjoy this stretch and really feel your muscles elongate.

To Practice:

From Warrior 1 put your hands to the ground and step your foot back to come into Plank Pose. Lower down into Chaturanga and then “roll” forward into Upward Facing Dog.

Note: if you can't roll over your toes don't worry… simply lay the tops of your feet on the ground as you push up into Upward Facing Dog.

Let the front body stretch as you engage the muscles on the backside of your body. Breathe deeply as your muscles slowly release tension.

Really feel the stretch of your abdominals here. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to 1-minute and breathe.

8 Balancing Table Pose (Dandayamana Bharmanasana)

woman doing balancing table pose

Make this one fun. You can do opposite arm and leg pointing out, you can add a crunch, or you can just do the legs out as in the photo.

But, Balancing Table Pose is one that will definitely engage and work your core. It's also a pose you can play with and get creative with. The more you add balancing into the act the more your core will be worked.

Adding crunching only increases the strengthening of this exercise.

To Practice:

Push back into Plank Pose from Upward Facing Dog and lower your knees to the ground. You want your knees to be lined up under your hips and your wrists to be lined up under your shoulders.

From there, choose a side to start with and begin. Extend one leg out with your toes pointing and one hand out with your hand perpendicular to the floor.

You might feel a little wobbly, but try to focus your gaze on one point to help you balance. If it still feels a little too hard then keep either your hands down or your legs down. You can try both ways to see which you like better.

Try to hold each side for 1-minute.

9 Boat Pose (Navasana)

woman doing modified boat pose

Phew… talk about a balancing pose and one that will challenge you like no other. Balancing on your butt is kinda tricky.

The more you do this pose the easier it will get as your core starts getting stronger.

Balancing on your butt without falling backward or forwards will take a lot of strength and it will challenge you to balance. Remember to breathe during this pose. It's so easy to hold your breath while you're balancing. Try not to do that.

Keep practicing and don't let your limits get the best of you. We all start somewhere.

To Practice:

Start out with your legs bent and hands on the ground if you find it too tough to maintain the pose. Slowly work your way towards your hands being outstretched and then work your way to your legs being straightened.

The more you work in this pose the stronger your core will become.

Try to do 3 rounds of 30-second holds with either your legs bent (as in the photo) or legs straight up.

10 Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – modified)

woman doing modified bridge

Last strength pose in this core workout!

Bridge Pose is a great pose that strengthens the upper body as well as the backside. You need to engage your core here to keep your back from being injured. The more engaged your core is the stronger your back will be in this pose.

This pose is also great for building that yoga booty :). So perk is you're building a nice booty and a solid core.

To Practice:

Lie back from your Boat Pose and bring your feet nearly to your bottom and your feet hip distance apart. Roll your shoulders under and slowly raise your hips towards the sky.

You can either choose to stay here and trying to push your hips higher and higher or you can try to get fancy and extend one of your legs into the air. When you try this version you'll really feel the action in your glutes.

Don't let your abs relax though! Make sure to keep your core engaged and active. Breathe through your muscles burning and go to you can't go anymore. (Make sure you can tell the difference between the good burn and the bad pain)

Let's aim for 3 rounds of 30-second holds (on both sides if you choose the fancy version). 

11 Corpse Pose (Savasana)

woman laying in savasana (or corpse pose)

Corpse pose is one of the most beneficial poses in yoga (in my opinion).

It helps to relieve tension in the body, relieve stress overall and relax the mind. It helps you to learn to relax without any preconceived notions of having to immediately get up to finish your to-do list.

Soon, you'll come to crave being in Corpse Pose.

To Practice:

Come to a lying down position and separate your legs hip distance apart. Let your feet fall to the sides comfortably. Place your hands at your side with your palms facing up.

Try to relax the muscles of your face and release the tension in your body.

See if you can try to stay here for at least 6 minutes. The longer the better, as Corpse Pose allows the body to relax and release any tension you were holding during your yoga practice.

Beginner Core Workouts Are The Best Way to Get Abs With Yoga

You can start by adding ab building poses into your yoga routine. This will help you start to see progress with your core strength and you might notice baby abs start to form.

But, your nutrition has to be on point too. Check out this post on starting a keto diet to see if following a ketogenic diet is for you.

You don't have to do just a beginner core workout to see your abs start popping, but doing a specific ab workout after your daily practice will definitely help!

Other Things I Would Do for A Beginner Core Workout

The poses in this sequence deal with a lot of static holding, but if you want something a bit more challenging I would suggest creating movement in some of the poses.

For instance, you can do push-ups while moving from plank to chaturanga. Or, you can move in boat pose by raising and lowering your legs to just above the floor (this is really good).

For bridge pose, you can raise and lower your hips and really contract your abs.

Another thing you can do in boat pose is to do bicycle crunches.

Make sure you relax and lay back in corpse pose when you're finished and really let your body rest.

Things You Might Need for A Home Yoga Practice:

  • Yoga Mat – because using just a blanket or the floor proves a bit more difficult in the beginning
  • Yoga block – these are super helpful if you can't quite reach the ground OR if you want to get a deeper stretch in some poses
  • Blanket – yoga blankets are great for those relaxing poses that I'll talk about in another post (stay tuned)
  • Yoga Strap – if you can't quite do a pose (like reach your feet in seated forward fold) a strap comes in mighty handy to help you still do the pose properly without sacrificing your alignment
  • Meditation cushion – meditation has been proven to lower stress levels, so having a meditation cushion makes it a bit comfier and helps to elevate your hips
  • Bolster – same as the blanket, but this allows you to relax back onto the bolster so you can relax deeper into the poses you're doing that might need or warrant a bolster

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yoga sequence with images of all the poses in this post

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woman doing warrior 1 pose