Forget weights — this 30-minute yoga routine builds flexibility and strengthens your core

Woman performing Warrior II yoga pose during yoga workout on yoga mat in a light and sunny home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Take 30 minutes out of your day to boost flexibility, strengthen your core and stretch muscles all over with this yoga routine suitable for beginners and advanced yogis.

The short routine, created by Move With Nicole, has been designed to help you stretch and flow your way to relaxation while working your core and maintaining a strong and flexible body. We recommend rolling out one of the best yoga mats for home workouts and scheduling 30 minutes into your morning routine, lunchtime, or evening before bed.

Although the yoga routine is suitable for all levels of practice, if you have an existing injury or health condition, we recommend consulting your physician before starting any new exercise program. If you’re ready to move, here’s how you can.

Watch Move With Nicole’s 30-minute yoga routine:

“Open your heart and maintain a healthy spine with this 30-minute yoga workout flow,” Nicole says. You’ll start the practice in child’s pose, sending focus and awareness to your breath — on every inhale, Nicole encourages you to take in positive energy, and on every exhale, let go of anything that no longer serves you.

Starting any yoga practice with a gentle breathing exercise like this can help bring your attention to your body and be more present while kickstarting the shift from the sympathetic nervous system — your engaged fight-or-flight state — to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is your calm, repair and relaxed state. 

Research has shown that regularly performing breathing exercises or building meditation into your routine can improve feelings of anxiety and stress and increase mind-body awareness.

We love that Nicole moves elegantly and gracefully along the mat, rippling through a series of popular yoga poses designed to build mobile shoulders and hips while stretching tight muscle groups like the hamstrings, back, chest and shoulders. Unlike faster-paced vinyasa or Rocket styles of yoga practice, this flow class slows things down so that you can move into each muscle group with care and attention. 

Yoga benefits are abundant; regular practice engages the whole body, including all the major muscle groups, and some styles of yoga can build muscle, strengthen bones and ligaments, improve core stability and strength and boost balance, coordination and overall stability. 

For many people, 30 minutes of yoga is enough to improve their mood and reduce stress, but bear in mind that consistency is what breeds results in the long term. So we recommend adding yoga into your exercise routine more regularly — even once a week — to reap the benefits. 

If you’re keen to learn what a regular yoga practice could look like, our fitness writer did yoga every day for a month for the first time in 10 years, which can help yoga beginners understand what to expect.

Woman performing chair pose with arms raised in a half squat position on yoga mat in studio

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

We love the attention to the lower back and spine throughout, but don’t worry if you don’t look like Nicole during any of these postures — flexibility takes months to develop, so give each posture a go and take rest where you need it. 

For example, if you can't touch your toes, you might have tight hamstrings, so softly bend your knees to provide more space during forward folds and ease yourself gently into backbends to protect your lower back. 

During the core exercises toward the end, focus on lengthening your spine and sitting tall, breathing as you move. Brace your stomach and imagine someone pulling a string from the crown of your head to help you stay tall without hunching your shoulders. 

The only exercise we don’t recommend for beginners is the wheel pose, one of the last postures of the session. Nicole first guides you into glute bridges, so if you don’t have experience with wheels or have a tight back, we recommend sticking to bridges to begin with, which are a popular wheel-prep exercise. 

But most importantly, be kind to yourself during this short yoga routine and don’t punish yourself if you struggle with any poses — yoga is less about the ego and more about feeling good within your body. 

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.