If you’re tired of doing countless sit-ups and crunches, maybe you need to rethink your abs workout routine.
While the Indian yoga sages are best remembered for their pretzel-like flexibility and their inner stillness, yogis also sported enviably-toned abs. Even though walking around with a six-pack 5,000 years ago may not have carried the allure it does today, we can still learn a lot from these ancient bendy-types about developing strong and lean abdominal muscles.
Yoga for abs is an excellent way to not just look amazing in a midriff, but solid core muscles also help to prevent back pain, support proper posture and develop a sense of groundedness.
Here is what you need to know about yoga and abs.
Yoga offers a different approach to strong abs than Western fitness, which heralds rock-hard abs. Instead, yoga tones and strengthens abdominal muscles and the lower back muscles, which make us less vulnerable to back injuries. In doing so, there is a suppleness to the muscles. So, rather than being tight and limited in their motion, abdominal muscles are actually toned, flexible and strong. In addition, yoga for abs brings greater awareness to our center of gravity, thereby allowing us to move, breathe and feel with a sense of stability.
While all yoga poses contribute to a strong core, here are a few key asanas, or postures, that acutely target the muscles supporting your torso:
- Boat pose (Navasana): Perhaps the yoga posture that is most frequently used as a core-builder, Boat Pose strengthens your inner and lateral abdominal muscles. Start by sitting down on your mat with your knees gently bent and feet planted on the ground. On an inhale, lift your legs and arms together so that you’re balancing on your bottom. If you can, straighten your knees, toes pointed up and straighten your arms so that they are parallel with your legs, palms facing each other. Hold steady in this posture for a minimum of five breaths.
- Revolved Triangle pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana): This balancing posture engages the internal and external obliques, which are important muscles for developing a firm abdominal wall. Start with your feet three feet apart and turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees. Next, twist to the right as you lift your left arm over your head and extend over your right leg. Place your left hand just outside of your right foot, (use a block if your hand doesn’t reach the ground) and extend your right arm up towards the sky. Gaze at your right hand as you inhale and exhale deeply for a minimum of five breaths. Rotate and perform the posture on the opposite side.
Women who are pregnant should only do these postures under the supervision of a trained prenatal yoga instructor. Also, those who have neck pain or a neck injury should do Boat Pose with the back of their head flush against a wall.