3 Basic Yoga Ab Exercises

These yogic postures for the abdominal muscles incorporate a team approach that values slow, conscious movement, proper breathing mechanics, and the use of sound. The emphasis here is on the quality of the movement rather than sheer quantity.

Exploring push-downs

Push-downs strengthen the abdomen, especially the lower abdomen. In addition to a floor exercise, you can do push-downs in a seated position by pushing your lower back against the back of your chair. You can perform this exercise sitting in a car, on a plane, or at the office.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor, at hip width.

    Rest your arms near your sides, palms down.

  2. As you exhale, push your lower back down to the floor for 3 to 5 seconds.

  3. As you inhale, release your back.

  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 six to eight times.

    [Credit: Photograph by Adam Latham]
    Credit: Photograph by Adam Latham

Trying yogi sit-ups

Yogi sit-ups strengthen the abdomen, especially the upper abdomen, the adductors (insides of your legs), the neck, and the shoulders.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor, at hip width.

  2. Turn in your toes “pigeon-toed,” and bring your inner knees together.

  3. Spread your palms on the back of your head, with your fingers interlocked, and keep your elbows wide.

  4. As you exhale, press your knees firmly, tilt the front of your pelvis toward your navel, and, with your hips on the ground, slowly sit up halfway.

    Keep your elbows out to the sides, in line with the tops of your shoulders. Look toward the ceiling. Don’t pull your head up with your arms; instead, support your head with your hands and come up by contracting the abdominal muscles.

  5. As you inhale, slowly roll back down.

  6. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 six to eight times.

    [Credit: Photograph by Adam Latham]
    Credit: Photograph by Adam Latham

Strengthening with yogi sit-backs

Yogi sit-backs strengthen both the lower and upper abdomen. This posture is a variation of navasana. The Sanskrit word nava, pronounced nah-vah, means “boat.”

  1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the floor, at hip width.

  2. Extend your arms and place your hands on the floor, palms down.

  3. Bring your chin down, and round your back in a C curve.

  4. As you inhale, roll slowly onto the back of your pelvis, dragging your hands along on the floor.

    Keep the rest of your back off the floor, to maintain the contraction of the abdominals, but don’t strain to hold this position; if you have any negative symptoms, don’t use this posture.

  5. As you exhale, roll up again, sliding your hands forward.

  6. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 six to eight times.

    [Credit: Photograph by Adam Latham]
    Credit: Photograph by Adam Latham

Sit-backs are easier on the neck than most sit-ups. However, if you have lower back problems, be cautious with sit-backs. If you notice any pain in your back, just stop and work with other exercises.

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