Meditation, strength, flexibility… and flat abs? If these appeal to you, yoga might be your calling.
Most people strive to achieve a flat and toned stomach. There are many fitness programs and diets that claim the same result, but these might not work for everyone. Doing 100 crunches is terrible for people with back problems and most people don’t find cleanses and calorie-counting all that fun. This is where yoga comes in.
Yoga is a good way to achieve that flat tummy, and more importantly a strong core. Unlike traditional crunches or sit-ups, yoga poses don’t put the same strain on your neck and spine. When you do yoga, you’re not only strengthening your core, you are lengthening and aligning your body to reverse the strain of everyday life. Yoga also promotes deep breathing and relaxation which has a positive impact on a person’s stress levels and happiness. Happy people are less prone to emotional eating. A regular practice will also help you become more in tune with your body and be more sensitive to the effects of having a clean and healthy diet.
Here are 15 yoga poses to get you on the road to flat abs. Namaste.
The Plank pose works all your core muscles, as well as strengthening your arms and shoulders. Coming from Downward Facing Dog, move into the Plank pose by moving your upper body forward until your shoulders are directly over top of your wrists and your arms are perpendicular to the floor. Make sure to keep your body in one straight line and parallel to the ground. Keep broadening your shoulders and never lock your elbows to avoid hyperextension. Make it easier by lowering your knees to the ground, or more challenging by lifting one leg at a time.
14 Side Plank
Side Plank not only tones your abdominal muscles, it also opens up your hips and hamstrings. The pose also helps you improve your balance and focus. From a Plank pose, move your legs together and put all your weight on your right hand. Slowly, roll your body up and stack your feet over top of each other. Extend your left hand to the sky and keep your gaze at your hand. Similar to Plank pose, make sure to keep your body in a straight line. Make it easier by lowering your right knee to the ground, or more challenging by lifting your left leg.
One of the most popular core-focused poses, Boat pose offers the added benefit of improving digestion by stimulating internal organs such as the kidneys, intestines, thyroid and prostate glands. It also strengthens your hip flexors and spine. Begin by sitting with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lean back slightly and lift your feet off the ground. Start by having your shins parallel to the floor and slowly extending your legs until they are straight. Extend your arms in line with your shoulders, and make sure that your spine is straight. Beginners can keep their knees bent, while those looking for a deeper variation can slowly lower their legs and body to a hover and coming back up to the full posture.
Crow pose is one of the foundational arm balances in yoga. Mastering this pose opens the doors to a number of more advanced arm balances. It requires some focus and a little bit of courage if you have a fear of falling. Start in a squat position. With both feet parallel to your mat, bring your arms, shoulder distance, to the ground. Press your shins to the back of your upper arms, with your knees as close to your underarms as you can. Draw your belly in, lean forward and lift one foot at a time. It helps to focus your gaze on one spot and make sure you are breathing in and out deeply.
11 Dolphin Plank
If you are experiencing wrists problems such as carpal tunnel, Dolphin Plank is a great alternative to the Plank pose. In addition to working out your abdominal muscles, Dolphin Plank also strengthens the arms, legs and the muscles around the spine. Begin with your hands and knees on the floor. Lower your forearms to the ground with your elbows aligned to your shoulders. Step back and tuck your toes, bringing your body into one straight line. Challenge yourself by building up to hold the pose for five minutes or lifting one leg at a time.
10 Reclining Hero
The Reclining Hero is a great pose that improves digestion by stretching out the abdominal muscles, together with the thighs and hip flexors. It also relieves headaches and menstrual pain. Begin in a kneeling position. Keeping the tops of your feet pressed on the ground, sit between your feet. With your hands on the floor behind you, slowly lower to as far as you are comfortable. First, leaning on your hands, and then lowering to your elbows, down to your forearms, until you are completely lying on the ground. Make sure you are not feeling any pain or compression in your spine. If your knees start lifting off the ground, you have gone too far and you should carefully come back a step.
Bridge pose primarily opens the chest and shoulders while stretching the spine. It also stimulates the thyroid glands and abdominal organs which improve digestion and increase metabolism. Two things that is beneficial to achieving that flat tummy. Begin the pose by lying on your back, with your knees bent, your feet flat on the ground, and arms along the floor. Lift your hips towards the ceiling, while pressing your arms and feet firmly on the ground. If this is too much, place a block or a bolster by your lower back, or you can make the pose deeper by lifting one leg towards the sky.
8 Upward Plank
This core strengthening pose is also a full-body stretch – activating the shoulders, abdomen, and legs, all the way to the tops of the feet. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Bring both hands on the floor, several inches behind your hips and shoulder width apart. Press down into your hands and feet, extending your elbows and lifting your hips. If you feel comfortable in this position, start dropping your head back while ensuring there’s no compression in the neck. Make sure that your shoulders don’t collapse and it is aligned with your wrists.
Wheel pose is a deep backbend that opens up the entire body. It lengthens your abdominal muscles while simultaneously strengthening them as well. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and arms on your sides. Move your heels close to the sitting bones and press your palms on the floor beside your head, with fingers pointing towards your shoulders. Press down on your hands and feet, lifting your buttocks off the floor and initially lifting on the crown of your head. If it feels comfortable, lift your head completely off the ground and straighten your arms. Deepen the stretch by slowly moving your feet closer to your hands.
Bow pose gets its name from its similarity to an archer’s bow. The pose stretches the entire front body including the chest, hips, thighs and, of course, the abdomen. It also strengthens the back muscles which can improve your posture. Begin by lying flat on your stomach with arms on your side. Bring your feet close to your buttocks and grab on to your outer ankles. Simultaneously lift your chest and heels higher. Aim high and make sure you maintain proper breathing while holding this pose. Use a yoga strap if you are unable to grab onto your ankles. To make it more challenging, bring your thighs, calves and feet together.
5 Warrior III
Warrior III is one of the intermediate balancing poses in yoga. It not only tones the abdomen, but it also strengthens the whole body – from the shoulders all the way down to your ankles. It also encourages a calm state of mind because it requires focus to hold this pose. Start in a high lunge with your bent knee at a right angle. Reach your arms forward, palms facing each other. Simultaneously, lift your back leg off the ground and straighten your bent knee. Your arms, torso and legs should be parallel to the ground. Beginners can use the back of a chair or a wall for support.
Scale is a strong arm balance that strengthens the abdominal muscles, shoulders and wrists. This pose also massages the internal abdominal organs, which stimulates the digestive system. It also opens up and increases the flexibility of your hips. Start in Lotus pose – a cross legged seated position with each foot resting on top of the opposite thigh. Place your palms on the floor beside your hips. With an exhale, push down against the floor, bring your abdominal muscles in and lift your legs and buttocks off the floor. Hold for 10-15 breaths. Beginners can use blocks to help lift them off the floor, and advanced practitioners can hold the pose longer than 15 breaths.
3 Extended Side Angle
Extended Side Angle pose has lots of mid-section benefits. It not only stretches the side body and abdomen, but it also stimulates the internal organs for improved digestion. It also strengthens the legs, knees and ankles while lengthening the spine. Begin in Mountain pose. Step your feet about 4 feet apart, right foot pointing towards the front and left foot at a 90 degree angle. Extend your arms parallel to the floor. Bend your right knee over your right ankle. Extend your left hand towards the ceiling or the front of the room, while letting your body lower on to your right thigh. You have the option to rest the right elbow on the thigh or bring the right hand to the ground.
Locust pose primarily strengthens the muscles in the entire back body. It is a great pose to reduce the effects of everyday life, like slouching and sitting. In addition, it also stretches the belly, chest, shoulders and thighs. Lie flat on your stomach to begin with your head facing down. Raise your head and lift your chest and arms off the ground. Use your inner thighs to lift your legs towards the sky. Keep your chest lifted while breathing in and out evenly. You can do a Half Locust pose by lifting one leg at a time, or add an upper body challenge by extending your arms in front of you.
1 Headstand B
One of the first inversions that most yogis learn is the headstand. To get into a headstand, start in a kneeling position and setting your forearms on the floor, with fingers laced together and elbows shoulder-width apart. Set the crown of your head on the mat, with the back of your head nestled against your clasped hands. Lift your knees off the ground, and carefully walk your feet towards your elbows until you form an inverted “V.” Then, slowly lift both feet off the floor until they are perpendicular to the floor. To intensify the abdominal workout, move into Headstand B. Slowly lower your feet so your legs are parallel to the ground, and hold it there for five breaths before lifting them back up.