When people think “yoga,” they tend to think “stretching.” “Relaxing.” “Breathing.” In other words, they think, “Not a great workout.” They don’t tend to think, “Whip your butt into shape.” But it absolutely can do that. Or, should I say, AB-solutely.
(I’m sorry! I’ve always been a sucker for a bad pun.)
The three poses below can really get you in touch with the center of your body and strengthen all the core muscles that support you—front, back, and sides. Start with the beginner versions and work your way up to the advanced, and notice how you start walking taller and feeling stronger.
Balance on your sitting bones (officially known as ischial tuberosities—see, yoga can teach you some pretty science-y stuff too) with your hands resting just behind your knees. Lift your shins up so that they are parallel to the floor. Elongate the spine and lift chest up.
From there, if you can, take your hands off the backs of your legs and extend your arms straight ahead on either side of your knees. Stay 3-5 breaths, repeat 2-3 times.
Straighten your legs while balancing on your sitting bones, so that your body makes the shape of a V. Stay 3-5 breaths, and repeat 3 times.
Start in the intermediate version, then lower your legs and torso down so that you are balancing on your sacrum—the triangle-shaped bone on the back of your pelvis. Stay 3-5 breaths, then lift back up to the intermediate version before lowering your legs. Repeat 3 times.
Upward Extended Feet Pose (aka Leg Raises)
For all versions, lie on your back with your arms outstretched over your head resting on the floor. Draw the navel in and seal your low back to the floor. Only do as much of this series as you can do while maintaining that seal. If your lower back pops up into an arch, reduce the intensity until you can keep it flat.
Bend your knees and bring your feet flat to the floor. Lift one leg straight up to the ceiling. Reach out and up through your arms and extend through the toes of your lifted leg so that your abs stay long. Lower the lifted leg to six inches off the floor, pause for a moment, then lift it back up to 90 degrees. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.
Lift both feet into the air with legs straight, so that your legs are perpendicular the floor. Reach out and up through your arms and extend through your toes so your abs stay long. As you exhale, lower the legs about half-way to the floor. As you inhale, lift them back to 90 degrees. Repeat 10 times.
Active Reclined Twist
Lie on your back with your arms in a T, knees bent in to your chest. Lift your knees so they come closer to your head, then slowly lower them to the floor on your left, as close to your elbow as possible, while turning your head to look over your right arm. As soon as your knees touch down, lift them back to the starting position. Repeat on the right to complete one cycle. Do 3-5 cycles.
Do the same as the beginner version, but with legs straight. Bring the toes toward the wrists as you lower your feet to the floor. Do 3-5 cycles.
For many more core workouts that you can do at home with the guidance of a knowledgeable trainer, check out Acacia TV.
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