The core is the source of energy in the body, so strong abs are more than something to look for in the summer. Powerful abdominal muscles support your daily movements, improve your posture and stabilize your lower back. On the mat, strong abs create more efficient movements with every pose. There is power in leaving your physical center and cultivating core strength.
These 5 poses target crucial core muscles, engage and build your total body strength. In this sequence, we will focus on toning and strengthening your abs. I suggest starting with 3 to 5 rounds of Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B as a warm-up.
Cat Pose Crunches
Come on the table on your hands and knees, hands rooted under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Tuck your toes in to help stabilize yourself. Lift your lower abdomen and tuck it in so that your core is engaged and your back is long. Extend your right arm forward at shoulder height, turn your palm towards the left wall and open your fingers with a spark. Extend your left heel to the back wall at the hips and flex your foot. As you breathe out, squeeze your right elbow and left knee in your arms to touch yourself. Round your back in a cat pose, lifting your lower abdomen. With your inspiration, extend your right arm forward and your left leg back. Exhale, embrace yourself in the crunch. Continue one motion breath for 5 turns. Get back on all fours. Repeat on the other side.
The plank is an ignition pose that cultivates both upper and lower body strength and connection to the core. Stack your shoulders on your wrists and extend your heels to the back of your mat. Press down on your outer shins and firm your leg muscles to the bone. Extend your crown forward and reach back your heels. Extend your tailbone towards your heels and lift your lower abdomen up and inward, fanning your inner fire to your heart as you hold for 10 breaths.
Side Plank integrates the upper and lower body and uses your body weight as resistance to tone and strengthen the abs and arms. Massage through your lower hand and lift your opposite arm to the sky. Press the outer edge of your lower foot into the ground, stack and flex your feet, and squeeze your leg muscles against the bones. Press your tailbone towards your heels and lift the pit of your belly up and in to build your inner fire in your heart. Look at your upper hand and spread your fingers apart. Lift your hips as high as possible and open your chest, expanding from the inside out. Hold for 5-10 breaths. Return to Plank, take a break, and hug your centerline. Repeat on the other side.
Dolphin Plank activates and tones all the muscles in your heart. From Plank, move on to your forearms. Firmly press your forearms, elbows, and palms to the floor and create a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Widen your collarbone and melt your thoracic spine (mid and upper back). Anchor your tailbone towards your heels and squeeze your lower abdomen upward. Activate your leg muscles and push your heels toward the back of your mat while extending the crown of your head forward. Fix your gaze on the mat and take 10 full Ujjayi breaths.
Rotated chair pose
Revolved Chair Pose tones the trunk and strengthens the middle and lower back by pressing and flushing the organs in the middle part. Bring your feet closer to the center of your mat and sit deep in the chair posture. Keeping your big toes together, crush all four corners of your feet, and put your weight back on your heels. Lengthen your tailbone and lift your lower abdomen. Draw your hands in the center of the heart. On an inhale, lengthen your spine and on your exhale, twist and hook your opposite triceps on the opposite thigh. Continue to raise your breath, expanding on the inhale and twisting more deeply with each exhale. Hold for 5-10 breaths, move into the Chair Pose to re-center, then repeat on the other side.