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Yogis have known the secret to a beautiful abdomen for thousands of years. Practice these exercises regularly and enjoy the benefit of a strong back, slim torso and confident posture.

 

1. Begin by finding your neutral spine

Finding Your Neutral SpineBecause the curvature of your spine is unique to you, you must find your own neutral spine. Some people have a flat lower back. Other people have excessive curvature in their lumbar spine.

When you are practicing these exercises, you will want to have a curve in your lower back equal to roughly the width of the back of your hand.

Visualize a round sponge in the center of your abdomen around your belly button and gently squeeze the sponge as you practice these exercises. Make sure your breath is slow, deep and relaxed. Work up to holding each of these exercises 30 seconds to one minute. My yoga students are constantly amazed at the results they achieve by practicing just a few repetitions of these exercises, each held with great awareness of your posture. Notice how these exercises integrate the back and front of the body whole body exercises for most effective results.

 

2. Plank

PlankEMG machine research shows that plank is consistently one of the most effective exercises for the core. Position your hands directly under your shoulders. Spread your fingers with your middle finger forward. Tuck your toes and come up into a straight plank with your buttocks dropped, being aware of maintaining the normal curvature in your lower back. Lift your belly button up to your spine. Squeeze the imaginary sponge around your belly button. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute.

 

3. Forearm Plank

Forearm PlankOn the floor, wrap your fingertips around each of your biceps. Then place your forearms straight out in front of you so that your elbows are directly under your shoulders. Spread your fingertips and lift up out of your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and come up into a straight plank with your buttocks dropped, being aware of maintaining the normal curvature in your lower back. Lift your belly button up to your spine. Squeeze the imaginary sponge around your belly button. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute.

 

4. Upward Facing Boat

Upward  Facing BoatSit on the ground with your knees bent. Lift your sternum and spread your chest. Tuck your tailbone under and pull your belly button to the spine. Slowly lift one knee out in front of you, keeping the knee bent. Bring the other knee up to balance. Then slowly straighten one leg and then the other out into upward facing boat. Keep pulling the belly button to the spine. Pull the arms back into your shoulder sockets. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute.

 

5. Sidearm Balance

Sidearm BalanceCome on to your knees. Place your right arm out to the side and spread the fingers of the right hand with the fingers pointing away from you. Bring the left foot out straight to the side. Then lift your body up and straighten the right leg. Push the big toes down to the ground. Reach the top arm up to the sky. You can look down or look up, depending on which position is most comfortable for your neck. Pull your belly button to the spine. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then repeat on the other side.

 

6. Downward Facing Boat

Downward Facing BoatMany exercisers make the mistake of thinking their core only has to do with the front of their body! Practice downward facing boat to strengthen the back of the body. Lie face down, stretching your arms out in front and your legs behind you, shoulder width apart. Inhale, and as you exhale, lift your belly button to the spine. Simultaneously, lift your arms and legs up. Squeeze your bottom. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute.

 

7. Cobra

Cobra Yoga PoseThis exercise stretches the rectus abdominis and also the lower back. It helps you maintain optimal curvature in your lumbar spine. Lie face down. Place your hands under your shoulders. Pull the belly button to the spine. Gently lift your upper body, keeping your shoulders pulled down away from the ears. Be sure to keep your hip bones on the ground. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute.

 

8. Bicycle sequence

The bicycle is one of the all-time great exercises for the core. However, many people do this exercise incorrectly, flinging their arms and legs, pulling their head forward and forgetting to breathe. Do these exercises in the sequence A to F.

Sequence A

Bicycle Yoga Sequence ALie on your back with your knees bent. Maintain your optimal neutral spine by putting your hand under your lower back. Squeeze the imaginary sponge around your belly button. Then pull your hand away and cross your arms in front of your chest. Put the tongue on the roof of your mouth.

Lift your shoulders off the ground. Keeping your chin over the center of your chest, twist to one side. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute Bring your torso back to the center and release. Repeat on the other side.

Sequence B

Bicycle Yoga Sequence BLie on your back with your knees bent. Maintain your optimal neutral spine by putting your hand under your lower back. Squeeze the imaginary sponge around your belly button. Then pull your hand away and place your hands behind your neck, with fingers reaching across to the opposite wrist. Put the tongue on the roof of your mouth. Lift your shoulders off the ground. Keeping your chin over the center of your chest, twist to one side. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute. Bring your torso back to the center and release. Repeat on the other side.

Sequence C

Bicycle Yoga Sequence CLie on your back with your knees bent, this time with feet off the floor. Maintain your optimal neutral spine by putting your hand under your lower back. Squeeze the imaginary sponge around your belly button. Then pull your hand away and cross your arms in front of your chest. Put the tongue on the roof of your mouth. Lift your shoulders off the ground. Keeping your chin over the center of your chest, twist to one side. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute. Bring your torso back to the center and release. Repeat on the other side.

Sequence D

Bicycle Yoga Sequence DLie on your back with your knees bent, this time with feet off the floor. Maintain your optimal neutral spine by putting your hand under your lower back. Squeeze the imaginary sponge around your belly button. Then pull your hand away and place your hands behind the neck, with fingers of one hand touching the wrist of the opposite hand. Put the tongue on the roof of your mouth. Lift your shoulders off the ground. Keeping your chin over the center of your chest, twist to one side. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute. Bring your torso back to the center and release. Repeat on the other side.

Sequence E

Bicycle Yoga Sequence ELie on your back with your knees bent, this time with feet off the floor. Maintain your optimal neutral spine by putting your hand under your lower back. Squeeze the imaginary sponge around your belly button. Then pull your hand away and cross your arms in front of your chest. Put the tongue on the roof of your mouth. Lift your shoulders off the ground. Keeping your chin over the center of your chest, twist to one side and extend the opposite leg to 45 degrees, maintaining your neutral spine. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute. Bring your torso back to the center and release. Repeat on the other side.

Sequence F

Bicycle Yoga Sequence FLie on your back with your knees bent, this time with feet off the floor. Maintain your optimal neutral spine by putting your hand under your lower back. Squeeze the imaginary sponge around your belly button. Then pull your hand away and put your hands behind your neck, the fingers of one hand touching the wrist of the opposite hand. Put the tongue on the roof of your mouth. Lift your shoulders off the ground. Keeping your chin over the center of your chest, twist to one side and extend the opposite leg to 45 degrees, maintaining your neutral spine. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute. Bring your torso back to the center and release. Repeat on the other side.

As you practice these exercises, be sure to breathe completely, inhaling and exhaling. Finish with 5 to 10 minutes of meditation.

You can continue your yoga practice off the mat with the yoga of eating. Yogis never overeat. Yoga practitioners learn to live in harmony with their mind, body and spirit, and that includes eating in harmony with their true needs. Practice eating mindfully so that you only choose the freshest foods possible with the greatest prana, or energy. Stop eating before you are full. Allow your food to nourish you on all levels by giving thanks to all who created your meal and eat in a relaxed, meditative state.