Yoga is known for its benefits to a person’s flexibility and stress levels. But, if done correctly yoga can also be great for building strength, gaining muscle, losing weight, and toning the core.
Today I have a list of my six favorite tummy toners that my yoga students know and love (or hate). These poses work, but they are challenging. So have patience and remember if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
Start this movement on all fours, with your shoulders staked over your wrists and hips over knees. To find cat pose contract your abs, round as much as possible using your core, and look towards your bellybutton. Hold this pose for a couple breaths, and then reverse this stretching by arching your back and looking towards the ceiling (cow pose). Move through each pose several times and feel your core get tighter with each contraction.
Extended Side Angle
As you see at the top of this post, Extended Side Angle is a variation of Warrior II pose. Your front foot should be pointed towards the top of your mat with your knee moving in the same direction. Try to get that front leg bent at a ninety-degree angle to get the most out of the stretch. Your back foot is turned out with the heel planted on your mat. Once you have the footing correct reach towards your front leg creating a straight line from hand to hand. This pose is especially great for your oblique muscles.
This pose can be seen in both yoga and certain types of Pilates. Ideally you want to create a perfect V-shape with your body. You should be seated on your tailbone with your legs and back both lifted off of your mat. Create a V with your body by contracting your core, keeping your back flat, and extending your legs straight out to a 45-degree angle. As with all yoga poses, you should be thinking about your posture. If the full boat pose is too challenging, bend the knees and hold your legs for half boat pose.
Four-Limbed Staff Pose
As you can see to the right, this pose is both
challenging for your core and upper body. To get into this pose, start in a straight-arm plank with your shoulders staked over your wrists. Then, lower through Chaturanga and stop before touching the ground. Make sure your back is flat and you are not arching or rounding your spine. Try to hold this pose for as long as you can. Practice makes perfect, this is a tough one.
The basic version of this yoga pose is pretty simple. You will find yourself seated on your butt, sitting up tall with your hands placed next your sides. You should be making a strong L-shape with your body. This pose is great for improving posture and strengthening the core. But if you want to make the movement even more challenging for you stomach, try lifting your butt off the ground. To do this you must press into the floor with your hands, pull your abs in and get your chest as close to your legs as you can. You should still be focusing on your posture but your chest will be leaning forward because of the tight contraction in your core.
Remember in elementary school when you had to do crab walks in P.E class? Well that is basically what crab pose is without the moving. In this pose your chest is facing up towards the sky and your butt is off of the ground. Both your hands and feet will be on your mat with your fingertips facing your heels. In crab pose you want to keep your core tight and squeeze your butt. If you have a wrist injury or find this uncomfortable modify in bridge position or half wheel pose.
* For an extra challenge, combine the advanced staff pose and crab pose by transitioning from one to the other without allowing your butt to touch the ground. For a visual image of this, check out my Bridal Boot Camp Abs Workout. You will see me demonstrate this challenging movement around the twelve-minute marker.