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What is the core? Muscle group, benefits and key actions

So you hear your yoga teachers constantly tell you to “engage the core”, “activate the core”, “make sure the core is fully active” or any other way of telling you to use the core muscles. Do you really know what they are referring to? If you think it is just your abs, you might have to think a little bit more.

I will keep this simple so you can go back to your practice knowing what makes up your core. The core is the midsection of your body and it involves the muscles that are in the front of the body, the sides, and the back. If you are a visual person, imagine it's the whole body except legs, arms, head and chest!


Core muscles work as stabilizers for the whole body. They give strength and stability when bending or twisting. Core muscles consists of the following:

  • Diaphragm: forms the top of the core, it is attached to the lower part of the sternum and the bottom of your ribcage

  • Rectus Abdominis: the “Six Pack”

  • External & Internal Obliques : located on the side of your Rectus Abdominis

  • Transversus Abdominis: located on each side of the naval

  • Multifidus, Quadratus Lumborum, and Lumbar Erector Spinae: located along the back of the spine

  • Pelvic Floor Muscles: forms the bottom of the core


Each of these muscles are responsible for different functions. Generally speaking, this is why these muscles are so important:

  • Diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that supports breathing

  • Rectus Abdominis is responsible for the flexion of the torso

  • External & Internal obliques are responsible for the twisting movement of the torso

  • Transversus Abdominis is responsible for the lateral bending movement of the torso, for example half-moon pose.

  • Multifidus is a stabilizer of the lower back.

  • Quadratus Lumborum is mainly responsible for the lateral flexion and extension of the lower back.

  • Lumbar Erector Spinae help keep the spine straight as well as provide rotation.

  • Pelvic floor muscles are responsible for many actions, including support for the urinary and bowel functions, sex, pregnancy and birth.


The main benefit of a strong core is that it stabilises your body, allowing it to move in all directions. A strong core also helps with your balance and supports your body so that you can stand up right. Good posture and a healthy back are also consequences of a strong core. For more details, I recommend you read this article from Harvard Health Website or this one from myftinesspal


All you need to know is that the core is more than just your abs. It is a series of muscles that work to stabilize and strengthen the body. These muscles allow the body to move in many different ways supporting healthy movements. A strong core is beneficial in life and for your yoga practice.

A strong core will be super useful for when you work with the Bhandas. Bhandas? What are the Bhandas now? You’ll have to wait for the next blog post!

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