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Beginner Yoga for a Strong Core and Flat Belly

By Rachel Land for DYI Active.
If you’re anything like me, the idea of doing abdominal crunches for toned abs and a flat belly is enough to send you running away from the gym. Fortunately, you don’t have to do crunches to have a strong core… Here are 4 beginner yoga poses that anyone can do for a strong core and flat belly!

Using yoga for a flat belly! Here’s how:

Learning how to engage the deeper muscles that support the trunk, hips, and even shoulders allows you to co-ordinate the power of the lower body with the agility of the upper body. Using your core this way, especially while you’re moving, creates functional stability in everything you do – from sports, to lifting up your kids, working in the garden, or walking safely on icy or slippery ground.

Here are four simple core stability exercises you can do at home, with no equipment other than your own body. If you’re new to exercise, or have back, shoulder or wrist injuries, do check with your doctor or physical therapist to ensure these exercises are safe for you.

1. Knee Lifts

Rachel Land Knee Lifts
This simple exercise connects you to your deepest abdominal muscle, which wraps around the waist and supports the lower back. Think of it as your corset muscle.
Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent at 90-degrees. Place the heels of your palms onto your front hipbones, thumbs toward your navel and fingers toward your pubic bone. Imagine tying a string around your waist, and feel how the belly becomes flat and firm as you hug all four sides of your waist into the midline. You can keep your hands here, or relax them by your sides.
Maintaining this set up, lift your right foot off the floor, keeping the same 90-degree angle at the knee. Swap feet in mid-air, keeping your belly flat and firm, and your hips as still as possible. Repeat 10 times per leg, then return both feet to the floor. Windshield wipe your knees side to side to rest, then repeat.
Need to back off?
If you feel your lower back pulling away from the floor, or your belly bulging, bring the first foot back to the floor before lifting the second one. You could also press your palms down to the floor beside you for extra support.
Want to amp it up?
Next time, start with both feet lifted, knees stacked over hips with a 90-degree bend in your knees. Keeping the same angle in the right knee, touch the toes to the floor. Swap legs in mid-air, still keeping your belly flat, your hips steady, and your breathing relaxed.

2. Walking BridgeRachel Land Walking Bridge

This exercise builds on the waist activation we created above, adding stability work for your hips.

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Set your feet hip-width apart, close to your buttocks. Re-create the feeling of “hugging in” around your waist, then lift your hips until you have a straight line between shoulders and knees. Rather than clenching your buttocks, lengthen your sit bones towards the backs of your knees. You might even feel your buttocks with your hands to ensure they aren’t gripping your lower back.

Maintaining this alignment, slowly hover your right foot just above the floor, keeping your hips as still as possible. Swap sides, slowly walking the feet while aiming to keep your hips from rocking side to side. Repeat 10 times per side, before settling both feet and your hips back down onto the floor. Hug your knees into your chest for a rest, then repeat.

Need to back off?
If you can’t keep your hips stable, try lifting to tiptoes, one foot at a time, rather than lifting your foot entirely off the floor.

Want to amp it up?
Next time, try the exercise with your support foot on tiptoes. This decreases the amount of surface area on the floor, making it more challenging for you to retain your balance.

3. Bird Dog Flow Rachel Land Bird Dog Flow

Here we continue to engage waist and stabilize the hips, and add some work for the small, deep muscles that stabilize your shoulders.

Set up on all fours, wrists under shoulders and knees a little narrower than your hips. Feel your shoulders and hips parallel to the floor, firm your belly and narrow your waist. Extend your right leg straight out behind you, lengthening your tail and spinning your inner thigh towards the ceiling to keep your hips square. Press into your right hand to lift your ribcage away from the floor and send your right shoulder down your back to lengthen your neck. Then reach your left arm forward, extending hand away from foot. Return back to all fours to swap. Continue flowing from side to side, extending opposite arm and leg, keeping your shoulders and hips as steady as you can. Complete 10 times per side, before returning to all fours. Stretch your hips back to your heels to rest in Childs Pose, then repeat.

Need to back off?
If you are struggling with your balance, keep both hands on the floor and simply flow your legs from side to side.

Want to amp it up?
Next time, hover your support foot, reducing the surface area in contact with the floor so that you’re balancing just on your support knee and hand.

4. Side Plank Flow

Rachel Land Side plank flowThis exercise maintains core, hip and shoulder engagement while challenging the muscles of your side waist.

Lie on your right side, setting your elbow under your shoulder and your feet on top of each other. Extend your left arm to the ceiling, feeling your shoulders and hips stack, your belly firm and your waist narrow. Press down into your right elbow to draw your right side ribs away from the floor, and contract your right side waist to lift your hips high. Without allowing hips or shoulders to twist, or collapsing into your right shoulder, bring your hips down to hover just above the mat before raising them again. Do 5 hip lifts, then slowly lower to the floor to swap sides. Roll onto your back to rest, then repeat.

Need to back off?
If you are unable to maintain stability, bring your lower knee to the floor for some extra support.

Want to amp it up?
Next time, raise your top leg off your bottom leg, or try turning your body down toward the floor into a forearm plank to swap sides.

Wrap-Up
And there you have it beginner yoga for a strong core and flat belly! Without doing a single crunch, you’ve learned how to use the deep muscles of your core to stabilize your hips, spine, and shoulders even while you’re moving.

“As you continue your day, notice that you can use these same muscles to create a sense of stability in everything you do.”

Get more yoga poses for a flat belly and toned muscles here! Click here to visit the original article on DYIactive.com.

Rach-Headshot-06About the Author:

Rachel Land is a full-time yoga teacher in New Zealand and senior teacher with Yoga Medicine. Click here to learn more about Rachel and the Yoga Medicine team.

About the Author

Rachel Land

Rachel Land

Rachel found yoga as a teenager. It challenged her body, then calmed and clarified her mind. Over the next 20 years, through a Business Degree, a stint in corporate marketing, and international travels, it became a touchstone that she returned to repeatedly until it sparked the idea of something more. In 2011 Rachel finally became a Yoga Alliance registered teacher. Since then she has completed courses in Anatomy & Physiology, Nutrition, Sports Training & Development, Mentoring and Yin Yoga, and completed a 500-hour yoga teacher training with Tiffany Cruikshank and Yoga Medicine. She is a regular contributor to Yoga International and Yoga Journal, and a proud member of the Yoga Medicine teacher training team.

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