Yoga might not be the first place you turn for washboard abs, but I’m about to show you why it should be! The poses outlined below won’t just slim your waistline; They’ll strengthen your entire midsection (AKA your core) and leave you feeling better than ever. In addition to the confidence boost, having a strong core reduces the occurrence of back pain and improves our overall balance. Explore the following poses and find what ones resonate with your body, taking modifications or challenging yourself as it feels appropriate. Get ready to feel the burn!
Paripurna Navasana — Boat Pose
Start seated with knees bent and feet planted on the floor.
Bring your arms out parallel to the floor with palms facing.
Slowly shift your weight back and let the feet lift from the floor.
Bring your shins parallel to the floor with knees bent for Half Boat Pose.
Avoid letting the spine round by keeping the chest open and the core engaged.
If you can, straighten your legs to a 45-degree angle.
As you balance on the sit bones, let the shoulders relax away from the ears.
Hold for five breaths before releasing the feet back to the floor.
There are several ways to take Boat Pose to a new level. Once you’re in a full Boat Pose, try straightening the legs as you lower your entire body to hover off the mat. Inhale to rise back up to a full Boat Pose and repeat five more times. Another option is to experiment with Russian Twists, turning the upper body back and forth to work the obliques!
Phalakasana — Plank Pose
Come to all fours with wrists stacked under shoulders and knees under hips.
Extend one leg straight at a time.
Keep the shoulders stacked over the wrists as you engage the legs and tighten the core.
Press into the palms to broaden the upper back.
Bring a little extra heat by running through some alternating leg lifts while in plank – Remember to keep the core tight and upper body strong! Another fun trick is to use your breath to flow between Downward Facing Dog Pose and Plank Pose. If an upper body workout is what you’re craving, do some alternating arm lifts!
Trikonasana — Triangle Pose
Come to stand at the head of your mat.
Exhale and step the right foot back into a wide stance with the foot turned slightly out.
Lift your arms out to the sides in a T-shape.
Direct your left toes towards the front of the mat.
Exhale as you reach your left fingertips straight over the front leg.
Rest your left hand on your shin, ankle, or a block inside your front foot.
Reach your right arm straight up towards the ceiling.
Hold for thirty seconds on each side.
For an extra kick in your Triangle Pose, bring both arms by your ears and rely solely on the core to maintain the position as you extend through the fingertips. You could also try pulsing the top arm towards the ceiling to fire up the obliques.
Adho Mukha Svanasana — Downward Facing Dog Pose
Come to all fours with knees under hips and palms just forward of the shoulders.
Tuck the toes and press firmly through the hands to lift your hips towards the ceiling and straighten your legs.
Spread the fingers wide and roll the forearms in to root through the thumb and index.
Rotate the biceps away from the ears and relax the shoulder blades down the back.
Engage your quadriceps.
Release your heels towards the floor, tip the tailbone up, and internally rotate the thigh bones.
Take five deep breaths here.
Challenge all parts of the body with a Three-Legged Dog flow – Inhale to extend your leg up and back, and exhale to draw the knee towards your nose while shifting forward into a Plank Pose.
Chakorasana Pose — Bird Dog Pose
Find a tabletop position with knees at hip-width and hands planted under the shoulders.
Firm your abdominals.
On an inhale, reach one arm straight in front and the opposite leg straight back.
Breath into the line of energy extending from the front fingertips out the back toes.
Hold for thirty seconds on each side.
While holding your Bird Dog Pose, exhale and draw the elbow and knee together as you round the spine. Inhale to lengthen back out and repeat five more times.
Utkatasana — Chair Pose
Stand tall at the head of your mat.
Bend your knees, bringing the thighs as close to parallel with the floor as possible.
Brush your fingertips against the floor before reaching the arms up by your ears.
Pull the lower belly up and in while continuing to sink low in the hips.
Relax your shoulder blades against your back as you drop your tailbone towards the floor.
Take five full cycles of breath.
Chair Pose is notoriously challenging on its own, but you could really amp things up with a Revolved Chair Pose. Bring your hands together at heart center and twist the upper body in one direction, hooking elbow on knee. Repeat on the other side.
Virabhadrasana III — Warrior III Pose
Start standing at the head of your mat and take a wide step back with your left foot.
Turn your left foot out and right toes forward, lining the front heel up with the back arch.
Inhale the arms out in a T-shape and gaze beyond your right fingertips.
Exhale to bend the right knee and stack it over the ankle.
Keep the spine straight as you take five cycles of breath here.
Work the arms and legs simultaneously by inhaling to straighten the legs while bringing the arms overhead, and exhaling to settle back into Warrior II. Repeat this movement five to ten more times on each side.
Salabhasana — Locust Pose
Start lying on your belly with arms by your sides and palms facing down.
Rest your forehead on the mat and root the tops of the feet down.
Roll your shoulders back to open across the chest.
Inhale and lift your upper body off the floor, reaching your arms towards the wall behind you.
Engage the legs to the point where your knees lift.
Stay here for three to five breaths before exhaling to release to the floor.
While in Locust Pose, work the lateral muscles by sweeping the arms forward on an inhale. As you exhale, pull the elbows towards the back wall and repeat this motion several times.
Ardha Pincha Mayurasana — Dolphin Pose
Starting in Downward Facing Dog Pose, slowly lower the forearms down to the mat.
Bring the arms parallel to each other and ground down through the palms.
Keep the hips lifted and the belly pulling in as you let the head and neck relax.
Hold for five to ten deep breaths.
‘Dolphin Pushups’ are sure to leave you sweaty and sore! On an inhale, shift forward into a Forearm Plank, and as you exhale, send the hips back to traditional Dolphin Pose. Do as many reps as you can muster!
Vasisthasana — Side Plank Pose
Begin in Plank Pose.
Start to transfer weight into your right hand as you roll to the outer edge of the right foot.
Stack the left foot over the right as you reach the left hand towards the ceiling.
Keep your legs straight and engaged as you open your chest towards the left.
If it feels okay on the neck, take your gaze up to meet the left fingertips.
Hold for thirty seconds per side.
On an inhale, lift your top leg straight up with energy reaching through the toes. Exhale to hover the leg over the bottom leg and inhale to lift it back up again. Flow through this motion ten more times on each side.
Bakasana — Crow Pose
Start standing at the head of your mat.
Bend your knees and plant both palms on the floor in front of you at shoulder-width.
Tighten your core and rise high on the balls of the feet.
Slowly lift your hips skyward as you start to direct the knees towards the triceps.
Bend the elbows to make a resting place for the knees.
Gaze forward and mindfully shift your weight into the upper body.
Let the feet slowly lift from the floor and draw the heels towards the sit bones.
Hold for thirty seconds or longer before slowly dropping the feet back to the floor.
Crow Pose is already an incredibly challenging posture that requires strength, balance, and flexibility. Once you feel secure in this position, try experimenting with Side Crow by bringing both knees to one arm.
Purvottanasana — Reverse Plank Pose
Find a comfortable seat with both legs extended straight in front of you.
Plant your palms just behind the hips with fingers pointed towards the feet.
Press down to lift your hips and torso towards the ceiling.
With arms and legs straight, take your gaze skyward.
Form a straight line with your body by engaging every muscle group.
Hold for thirty seconds before slowly lowering down.
You can try a One-Legged Reverse Plank with only one foot on the ground supporting you and the other leg lifted as high as possible.
Ashwa Sanchalasana — High Lunge Pose
Starting in Downward Facing Dog Pose, step your left foot between your hands.
Inhale to bring the torso perpendicular to the floor as your arms come overhead.
Stay high on the ball of the back foot and lift through the back leg.
Let the pelvis soften and the tailbone descend as you continue to reach up through the arm bones.
Hold for thirty seconds on each side.
Take your High Lunge to new levels by adding some dynamic arm and leg movements. As you exhale, hover the back knee off the mat and cactus the arms down. As you inhale, reach the arms back overhead and lengthen through the back leg. Flow through this exercise for a total of ten reps per side.
Dhanurasana — Bow Pose
Start lying flat on your belly with feet at hip-width and both arms down by your sides.
Bend the knees and reach your hands back to take the outer edges of the feet or ankles.
Inhale to slowly lift your chest and legs off the ground by pressing the feet into the hands.
Take three to five deep breaths before releasing back to the floor.
Give your abs an extra burn and a gentle massage at the same time by gently rocking back and forth in your Bow Pose.
Vrksasana — Tree Pose
Stand tall at the head of your mat and slowly begin to shift weight into the left foot.
Lift your right foot off the ground and place the foot on either your left ankle, calf, or inner thigh.
Keep your left leg straight without locking the knee.
Press your hands together at heart center and breathe for thirty seconds.
Test your stability by bringing your arms and your gaze overhead. If this isn’t difficult enough, try closing your eyes!
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After spending nearly two decades as a relationship therapist, Patricia journeyed down the path of writing as a vehicle for sharing her wisdom. Her work reflects a sincere interest in readers’ wellbeing and is abundant with helpful advice and fascinating insight.