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How to Exercise Your Abs with Yoga

Our Yoga 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. Conscious breathing, especially the gentle tightening of the front belly on each exhalation, can encourage and then sustain the strength and tone of the abdominals.

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.

  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.

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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 your toes in “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; rather, 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.

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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. Place your hands on the floor, palms down, near your hips.

  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.

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If you have lower back problems, be cautious with sit-backs. If you notice any pain in your back, just stop.

Extended leg slide-ups

A variation of navasana, the extended leg slide-ups strengthen both the upper and lower abdomen as well as the neck.

If this pose bothers your neck, support your head by putting both hands behind it. If the problem persists, stop.

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

  2. Bend your left elbow and place your left hand on the back of your head just behind your left ear.

  3. Raise the left leg as close to vertical (90 degrees) as possible, but keep your knee slightly bent.

  4. Draw the top of your foot toward your shin to flex your ankle and place your right palm on your right thigh near your pelvis.

  5. As you exhale, sit up slowly halfway and slide your right hand toward your knee.

    Keep your left elbow back in line with your shoulder and look at the ceiling. Don’t throw your head forward.

  6. Repeat Steps 1 through 5 six to eight times and then repeat Steps 1 through 6 on the other side.

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The suck ’em up posture

The suck ’em up posture strengthens and tones the abdominal muscles and the internal organs. The posture is especially beneficial for relieving constipation.

  1. Start on your hands and knees with your hands just below your shoulders and your knees at hip width.

  2. Inhale deeply through your nose.

  3. Exhale through your mouth and hump your back like a camel as you bring your chin down.

    When you have fully exhaled, don’t immediately inhale; hold your breath where it is and then suck your belly up towards your spine.

    Wait two to three seconds with the belly up and breath restrained, providing you don’t end up gasping for air.

  4. As you inhale, return to the starting position and then pause for a breath or two.

  5. Repeat Steps 2 through 4 four to six times, pausing for a breath or two between each repetition.

Do this exercise only on an empty stomach, and avoid it if you’re having stomach pain or cramps of any kind because it may intensify the symptoms. Avoid this exercise during menstruation.

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Exhale “soundly”

The use of sound exercise strengthens and tones the abdomen and its internal organs in addition to strengthening the muscles of the diaphragm.

  1. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your spine comfortably upright.

    If you find yourself slumping, sit on a folded blanket.

  2. Place the palm of your right hand on your navel so that you can feel your belly contracting as you exhale.

  3. Take a deep inhalation through your nose and, as you exhale, make the sound ah, ma, or sa.

    Continue sounding this consonant for as long as you can do so comfortably.

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

    Pause for a resting breath or two between each sound.

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