Summer’s here and bikini season is in full swing. It’s not too late to work on your ab game and slay this Summer ‘18. And beyond the rewarding feeling of looking great in your bikini, a strong core is correlated with many health benefits including improved posture, reduced low back pain, and better breathing. Yoga is an excellent way to get great summer abs while also working on your mind, body, and spirit. By taking a mindful approach to working on your core, you also have a chance to increase self-confidence as you balance your third chakra. Also, yoga gives you the ability to target specific muscles in the abdomen that crunches can’t offer. Keep reading to learn 5 yoga poses that are sure to give you great summer abs and a boost of confidence!
Try these poses below start aiming to hold each pose 30 seconds and slowly build up your stamina to hold them for longer periods of time.
1. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Along with strengthening many other body parts such as the thighs, low back, and arm muscles, this pose strengthens the entire abdomen. This pose also massages the abdominal organs and helps with digestion.
Start in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), with your arms by your side and your feet together planted firmly into the ground. At the same time lift the crown of the head to the sky, and relax your shoulders down. Take a moment to connect with your breath, particularly noting the rise and fall of the abdomen. On an inhale root down into your feet and lift your arms up to shoulder level. On your exhale, lower down as if sitting in a chair. Use your abdomen to support you as you lower down while keeping a straight back. If you feel comfortable with arms at shoulder level, see if you can draw your upper arm bones up by your ears. Relax your shoulders down, and continue to breathe.
Key Alignment Points:
- Thinking of your pelvis as cup, tilt it back to lengthen the tailbone down.
- Suck the lower belly in, while drawing the rib cage back.
- Keep the chin parallel to the floor
- Variations: Raise up on the balls of the your feet.
2. Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)
This pose is extremely helpful in strengthening the core muscles. Because this is a powerful pose, if you experience low back pain you should start this pose using modifications such as practicing with one leg up at a time instead of two.
Start seated on the ground with knees bent. Place your hands under the knees, and as you inhale lift your feet a few inches off of the ground. As you exhale, try to find balance on your sit bones. Continue to focus on your breath and lift your lower legs parallel to the floor, creating a ninety degree angle. Once you find balance here, on an inhale lift the lower legs up into the air while keeping a straight spine. Release the hands from the knees and bring them up to shoulder level. As you continue to breathe holding this pose, be sure to engage the abdominal muscles to support the pose.
Key Alignment Points:
- Maintain openness in the upper chest by drawing the upper arm bones back.
- Be sure to relax the jaw bone, and stay conscious of letting go of resistance.
Add Cardio: Matching the flow of your inhales and exhales, alternate between this position and opening the legs while reaching the arms in between the legs.
3. Plank to Side Plank Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana/Vasisthasana)
Plank pose helps to improve posture while sculpting fabulous abs. Adding side plank to this pose is a great way to target the sides of the abdomen.
Begin on your hands and knees in tabletop position. Spread your fingers wide as you press firmly into them. On an inhale engage the abdomen and step your right foot back, and exhale stepping the left foot back with toes curled under. Continue to breathe as you lift your core muscles to support your lower back. Press firmly into your hands.
Key Alignment Points:
- Keep your head in line with your spine and your neck soft
- Lift your thighs up to help stabilize the pose
Challenge: Alternate between plank and side plank.
From plank pose, move your hand to align under chest and press into the ground. On an inhale, turn to face the right as you lift your right hand into the air. As you balance over your left arm exhale as you lift the body up by engaging and lifting your core. Hold this side arm pose as you stay connected with your breath. Return to plank position, lowering the right arm down and repeating on the other side.
4. Warrior Three Pose (Virabhadrasana III)
This balancing pose requires engaging the core to create stability. The key to maintaining balance in this pose is maintaining a stable point of focus once the head is parallel to the floor.
Start standing tall in Mountain Pose, bring your hands to rest on your hips. Step your right foot forward about two feet and lift the knee cap up to engage the leg muscles. Pressing the right foot firmly into the ground, lift the left leg up behind you as you tilt your torso forward. Continue to move your torso forward until your torso and back leg are parallel with the ground. The arms may come into a T-position raised at shoulder level, or hands may come into prayer position at the heart. Focus on breath, as you set the intention to balance using your core strength. Release the pose and repeat on the other side.
Key Alignment points:
- Press firmly into the standing leg without locking the knee.
- Keep the neck long and the head in line with the spine.
5. Three Legged Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Savanasana Variation)
From table top position, come into downward facing dog by lifting the hips up into air and keeping the knees bent as they lift off the ground. Press into the heals and focus on your breath. Spread your fingers wide as press firmly down into them. Rotate the upper inner arm muscles outwards so the inner elbows move slightly towards the front. On an inhale, extend one leg into the air. Engage the core muscles in order to stabilize the leg in the air. As you hold the pose, soften the internal abdominal muscles, as you continue to engage the exterior. Release the leg down and repeat on the other side.
Add Cardio: Using the flow of your inhales and exhales, alternate between three legged dog pose and bringing your lifted knee into the chest as you round the back. Alternate for 4 sets before releasing the leg down and repeating on the other side.
Here’s an extra pose that is great to target your lower abdominal muscles.
6. Scale Pose (Tolasana)
Start in lotus pose if that is in your practice, or if not start in half lotus pose. Your legs should be crossed with the bottom of the feet facing up. On on exhale place your hands on the floor next to you, and as you inhale push into your hands while lifting your butt up off the ground. Like the poses above, hold this pose for 30 seconds or gradually start with a shorter amount of time and work your way up. Be sure to draw your belly in and up as you hold yourself up.
Congratulations on taking a conscious approach to summer fitness. Use these yoga poses to strengthen and tone your core for great summer abs. And don’t forget to reward yourself for your hard work and willpower to complete these challenging poses. After completing these powers take a moment to congratulate yourself with a positive affirmation! Most of all have fun Queens, and appreciate the journey towards a strong core.