Yoga Ball Exercises

Yoga ball exercises can be especially helpful for beginning yoga students who can be lacking the strength and flexibility to perform a number of yoga postures without some type of prop. Another benefit to practicing yoga movements with a ball is that they are very effective at working the abdominal muscles. 

Research shows that abdominal exercises done on a fitness ball activate twice as many core muscles than exercises like traditional crunches. 

Although blocks and pillows are the more commonly used props, yoga balls can be a great addition to your practice. Plus, they can also be used for other forms of exercise, so they are definitely well-worth the investment.

Benefits of Yoga Ball Exercises

  • Provide support. For delicate areas such as the neck, hips, or lower back. A stability ball may allow those with arthritis, osteoporosis, or other chronic pain conditions to still practice yoga since it relieves some of the pressure from muscles and joints.

  • Help improve flexibility. People with tight hamstrings, calves, back, or shoulders may find it difficult to move into certain poses. Yoga ball exercises can make stretches even more gentle, allowing those with tightness or stiffness to gradually improve their flexibility until traditional Asanas can be done without assistance.

  • Improve strength. A stability ball will allow you to hold poses longer than you would be able to without the extra support. As your flexibility improves, you can gradually shift more weight to your body and less to the ball, resulting in greater strength and endurance. 

    Yoga Flexibility Poses
yoga ball inner thigh exercise
  • Encourage proper posture. Since the yoga ball can help provide some of the strength and support needed for yoga poses, you are free to concentrate on maintaining proper posture and performing the Asanas correctly. If the yoga ball can make moving into the postures a little easier, then you will be able to focus more on connecting your breathing with your motions and achieving the mind/body harmony that is the foundation of most Asanas. 

  • Accelerate recovery. Whether you are recovering from an injury, surgery, or childbirth, yoga ball exercises will allow you to ease back into your yoga practice while still protecting your muscles and joints. The Crow pose may have been easy before a three-month hiatus, but after some time off, your body may need extra support until you achieve your former level of strength and flexibility.

  • Allow beginners to perform more difficult poses. If you are new to yoga, traditional postures can seem difficult, but the exercise ball can help you get into positions you may not be able to achieve on your own.

    Yoga for the Beginner

Yoga Ball Exercises

Upward Facing Dog

Pose Instructions:

  • Center your hips on the ball – you may find it easier to begin in a kneeling position in front of the ball and slowly roll forward until the ball is under your lower abdomen and hips.

  • Your legs should be straight and your toes pressed into the floor. Push your hands into the ball as you straighten your arms and lift your chest up, bending your neck gently back to tilt your head toward the ceiling. Hold this position for desired number of breaths. 

Using the ball for this posture elevates your body, takes pressure off your lower back, wrists, and elbows, and allows you to achieve a deeper stretch. You may also find it easier to get into proper position or maintain this pose for a longer period of time when using the ball.

More on the Upward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog

Pose Instructions:

  • From the Upward Facing Dog position, slowly lower your chest and roll forward, placing your hands flat on the floor about shoulder width apart. Press your heels into the floor and tilt your hips, moving your body into an inverted “V” position. 

  • Your arms and legs should be straight and your head should be down. Reposition the ball if necessary so it provides the needed support for your chest, thighs, and arms. Hold for desired number of breaths.

The yoga ball provides extra support for your chest and thighs and also reduces the pressure on your wrists and elbows.

More on the Downward Facing Dog

Bridge Pose

Pose Instructions:

  • Lie on your back, lift your legs straight up and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, resting your feet on the ball. 

  • Using your abs and keeping your spine straight, press your feet into the ball and lift your body into a bridge position. Hold for desired number of breaths. Lower and repeat. 

Using a ball for this exercise will relieve some of the stress to your knees and ankles, and elevating your legs above your head will provide an even greater challenge for your core muscles.

Plank Posture

Pose Instructions:

  • Place your hips on the ball and your hands on the floor in front of you.

  • Slowly walk your hands forward until your shins are resting on the ball, your legs are extended, and your back is straight (in table top position).

This will provide all the benefits of the plank while taking some of the pressure off your feet, ankles, hands, and wrists, and elbows.

Warrior II

Pose Instructions:

  • Straddle the ball in a wide stance. Turn your right foot slightly toward the ball and your left foot out to 90 degrees, keeping your hips square toward the front.
  • Extend your arms out to the side, parallel to the floor. Slowly sit on the ball, bending your left knee and keeping your right leg straight. 

  • Be sure to keep your knee in line with your ankle. Sink deeper into the ball and lean slightly forward to open the hips and intensify the stretch. Hold for desired number of breaths. Push back into straddle position and repeat on the other side.

The most difficult part of the Warrior II is maintaining the position for an extended period of time. The ball will provide extra support so you can sink deeper into the stretch and focus on doing the posture correctly.

More Information for the Warrior Pose.

Extended Side Angle

Pose Instructions:

  • Begin in Warrior II position with your left knee bent and your right leg straight, hips facing forward, arms extended to the sides. 

  • With the ball supporting your weight, slowly turn your torso and reach your left arm down to your left ankle as you stretch your right arm toward the ceiling, reaching with your fingertips. 

  • Your body should form a straight line from your right ankle to your right hand. Hold the position for desired number of breaths. Turn to center and repeat on other side.

Using a ball for this pose will help keep your body aligned so you get a proper stretch without the risk of injury. It will also give you extra support so you can maintain balance without putting strain on your knees or ankles.

core exercise ball workout

Tips For Yoga Ball Exercises

  • Choose the right size ball. You will often be straddling the ball or doing poses where your hands and/or feet will need to touch the floor. Using the wrong size ball can cause injury.

  • Maintain proper position. The ball can give you extra support, but make sure this does not cause you to compromise proper form. It is a tool to help you become stronger and more flexible, so don't rely on it too much. Use the ball to help you learn the correct execution of the poses so you can improve your yoga ability.

  • Don't forget to breathe. Movements during and between poses can be a little different when using a ball, but it is still important to maintain a smooth flow and to remember proper breathing techniques.

Yoga Ball Exercises

Yoga ball exercises can help provide benefits at every level of fitness and expertise. Adding a stability ball to your practice can improve flexibility, increase strength, build endurance, and help you maintain proper posture. Whether you have been doing yoga for years or are just starting out, these inexpensive tools can be a great addition to your program.

Other pages that might interest you:

I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or if you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum.

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