Core muscle function during specific yoga poses

Complement Ther Med. 2014 Apr;22(2):235-43. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2014.01.007. Epub 2014 Feb 4.


Objective: To assess the potential use of 11 yoga poses in specific training and rehabilitation programs via examination of the muscle activation patterns in selected trunk and hip muscles.

Design: Repeated-measures descriptive study.

Setting: University laboratory, US.

Participants: Thirty healthy yoga practitioners with more than 3 months yoga practice experience (mean age±SD, 32.0±12.3 y; 8 M/22 F) participated.

Interventions: Surface electromyographic signals of upper rectus abdominis, lower rectus abdominis, longissimus thoracis, external oblique abdominis and gluteus maximum muscle were recorded in 11 yoga poses: Halfway lift, Forward fold, Downward facing dog, Upward facing dog, High plank, Low plank, Chair, Mountain with arms down, Mountain with arms up, Warrior 1 (both sides).

Main outcome measures: Root mean square values of each muscle during each pose, normalized by the maximal voluntary contraction.

Results: There were significant main effects of pose (p<.001) and muscle (p<.001), and a significant pose×muscle interaction (p=.001). The post hoc analysis revealed unique patterns for the five muscles of interest for each of the 11 poses (p<.024).

Conclusions: Variations in core muscle firing patterns depend on the trunk and pelvic positions during these poses. Training programs can be developed by choosing particular poses to target specific core muscles for addressing low back pain and declines in performance. The High plank, Low plank and Downward facing dog poses are effective for strengthening external oblique abdominis, Chair and Warrior 1 poses for targeting gluteus maximum, and Chair and Halfway lift poses for strengthening longissimus thoracis. And these three muscles could be strengthened by the Upward facing dog pose.

Keywords: Electromyography; Rehabilitation; Yoga.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Yoga*
  • Young Adult