Let’s face it – nearly all of us would be happy with a little less fat around the waist and a little more muscle. Abs are one of the big muscle groups that are praised by magazines, celebrities, and Instagram influencers. I get it, they’re nice to look at. However, there are much better reasons for wanting to get the abs in shape. Today’s sequence is all about building strong and powerful abs, which will also help you find better stability and balance.
When we strengthen our core, we are able to find better balance in our yoga practice and in our daily lives. It also prevents injury, as we build core stability and train the muscles around it to follow suit. Strengthening the abs will also assist in your posture, increasing the ability to sit up straight and lengthen the spine. Additionally, it assists in improved breathing (use of the diaphragm) and better digestion (when stretching the abs).
This sequence is going to power up the core and help you to build strength.
Here is a break down of each move:
Start seated comfortable, whatever that looks like for you. Ideally, sitting with the legs crisscrossed or half lotus (with one foot tucked onto the opposite hip crease). Press the tailbone into the floor and lengthen through the spine, sitting with a straight back and the top of the head reaching towards the ceiling. Hands can rest comfortably on the thighs, palms up or palms down.
On the inhale, reach both hands overhead, keeping the tops of the shoulders down and away from the ears. On the exhale, twist over to the right side, keeping the spine long. The right fingertips can rest on the floor behind you, bringing the left hand to the right knee. With each inhale, grow taller in the spine and with each exhale, try to turn deeper into the twist without bending the spine.
Start from standing on your knees, with the knees directly underneath the hips. Bring both hands to the lower back, with the fingertips wrapped forward towards the hips. Pull the shoulder blades together and open the chest towards the ceiling while pressing the front of the thighs and hips forward. Remain in this position if it is enough of a stretch for you, allowing the head to drop back if it feels okay on the neck. Option: Bring one or both hands down to the ankles, continuing to press the front of the legs forward. If you cannot easily breathe in this pose, you are going too far.
Downward Facing Dog
From hand and knees, place the knees directly underneath the hips and the feet hip distance apart. Hands should reach out in front of the shoulder with the fingers spread wide and the palms fully pressing into the floor. Lifting the knees off of the floor, reach the tailbone up towards the ceiling and straighten into the legs. Press the heels towards the floor and look up at the belly button, relaxing the tops of the shoulders.
From hands and knees, place the hands directly underneath the shoulders, pressing into the palms, and lifting into the tops of the shoulders. Tuck the toes and step each foot back, bringing your body into one straight line. Tuck the pelvis, pull the bellybutton up towards the spine, and press the thighs together. Aim to make one long line with the body, not allowing the tailbone to lift or the hips to drop too low.
From Downward Facing Dog, shift onto the outside edge of your left foot, and stack your right foot on top of the left. Now swing your right hand onto your right hip, turn your torso to the right as you do, and support the weight of your body on the outer left foot and left hand.Try and make a straight line with the body by not allowing the hips to drop. Options: Increase the intensity by reaching your right hand towards the ceiling or lifting your right leg.
From downward facing dog, step the right foot up in between the hands, making sure that the knee is stacked right over the foot. Staying on your left toes, press into the left heel to straighten and strengthen the back leg. Center your hips forward by pressing your left hip towards the front of the mat. Lift the chest forward and pull the shoulder blades back.
Extended Side Angle
From standing, step or jump your left foot back, about 3.5 to 4 feet apart. Reach both arms out to the side, actively reaching through the fingers. Turn the right foot towards the front of the mat and angle the left foot at ninety degrees. Bending into your right leg, try and get the thigh to be parallel with the ground and the knee directly stacked on top of the ankle. The left leg will remain straight and strong. Bringing the right elbow onto the right knee, continue to reach the left arm overhead. Option is to bring the right fingertips on to the ground or bring hands to prayer pose at heart center for more intensity.
Start in mountain pose and step your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down. Turn the right foot towards the front of the mat and turn the left foot out to a ninety degree angle, heels in line. Reach forward into the right hand, extending the torso, and drop the right hand onto the right shin or ankle. Extend the left hand up towards the ceiling. Keep the body in the same plane, as if pressed into an imaginary wall behind you and do not let the chest fall forward.
Reverse Triangle Pose
From triangle pose, turn your back foot in slightly, at a 45 degree angle to the front of the mat. If the right foot is in front, twist the right hand up towards the ceiling and bring the left hand down to the thigh, shin, foot, or grab the big toe. Notice that this pose may be more challenging than traditional triangle pose, so the hand may not be as far down the leg or you may need to slightly bend the knee.
Upward Facing Dog
Start laying on your belly with the feet stretched back behind you, the tops of the feet pressed into the mat. Bring the palms underneath the shoulders, fingers spread wide, and the elbows are pulled in. On an inhale, press into the palms as you pull the body slightly forward and straighten into both arms. The torso and chest should open forward and the tops of the thighs are lifted from the ground. Lift the tailbone towards the pubis, keeping the buttock relaxed and the hips squared forward.
Start laying on your belly with the feet stretched back behind with the tops of the feet pressed into the mat. Bring the palms underneath the shoulders, fingers spread wide, and the elbows are pulled in. On an inhale, press into the palms as you lift the chest off the ground and pull the shoulder blades back together. The elbows should stay tucked into the sides as the chest opens and the head remains neutral, not allowing the chin to reach upwards.
Use a sticky mat or blanket below your head and forearms for cushioning. Kneel on the floor. Clasp the fingers together, setting the forearms on the floor and the elbows shoulders distance apart. Set the crown of the head on the floor, cradled by the two hands. Lifting your knees off the crowd, walk the feet towards the head until the torso and hips are stacked directly over the shoulders. Using the abs for control, lift both feet off the ground at the same time, taking a small hop if needed, and lift the toes up towards the ceiling. Actively lift into the toes, squeeze the bellybutton in, and press into the shoulders for support. Optional: If it is easier, you can lift one leg and then the other, but this should be slow and controlled by the lower abs.
From hands and knees, bring the big toes together and take the knees out as wide as the mat. Sit back onto the heels and walk the hands forward, bringing the forehead down onto the mat. Allow the belly to drop between the thighs and sink into the hips. Reach through the fingertips, but allow the shoulder blades to stay in place.
Begin with from a seated position with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping the back straight, lean back slightly while lifting the feet to bring the shins parallel with the floor, and reach the arms forward towards the legs (baby boat pose). Lift through the chest, squeezing the shoulder blades together, and balance on the tailbone. To extend into the full boat pose, straighten into the legs at a 45 degree angle while continuing to balance on the tailbone and leaning back. Extend into the pose even further by reaching the hands overhead. Optional movement: Inhale reaching into the full “V” shape of the pose and return to baby boat on the exhale. Repeat.
Double Toe Hold Variation
From boat pose, wrap the two large fingers and the thumb around each big toe. Extend the legs out and up, as straight as it feels good. Begin to slowly open the legs wide, maintaining balance and the chest lifted forward. Continue to open the legs as far as it feels good, keeping a bend in the knee as needed.
Lying on your back, bend the knees and place the feet on the floor, close to the tailbone and about hip distance apart. Place the hands palms down on both sides of the hips. On an exhale, lift the hips and the buttock up towards the ceiling. Try to keep the thighs parallel to the floor and roll the shoulder blades underneath. Option is the clasp the hands together below the lower back, continuing to pull the shoulder blades together.
Support option: Bring the hands to the low back with the elbows on the floor to support the bridge.
Knee to Chest (and Twist)
Start laying on your back with both legs flat on the floor. On an exhale, bring the right knee into the chest, gently squeezing as much as it feel okay, with the shoulders and upper body relaxed. Maintain this position or take the twist. To twist, use the left hand to pull the knee over to the left side of the mat, possibly rolling up onto the left hip. The right hand can reach back behind you, attempting to keep both shoulders on the floor. To deepen the twist, look back at your right fingertips.
Legs Up Pose (with Wall?)
Start laying on your back, bring your legs up onto the wall and scoot your tailbone as close to the wall as is comfortable. If you do not have a wall available, simply reach your feet up towards the ceiling, trying to stack the ankles over the tailbone and the lower back flat into the floor. Allow the arms to rest out to the side, palms up. This allows the shoulders to rest back. Use this pose as your final Savasana. Relax into this posture. Allow the weight of the body to be fully supported by the ground and wall. Release control of the mind, the breath, and the body. Enjoy this pose for as long as feels good (suggest more than 10 minutes).
Ready to build some powerful abs? Keep this routine nearby you by printing out this one page PDF:
Questions about the routine or how to build a powerful, strong core? Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!