Sit-ups and crunches have long been the norm when it comes to strengthening the abdominal muscles, but there are alternatives to these oft-begrudged exercises. One such alternative is yoga, the unsung hero of core-strengthening exercises. According to Miami-based yoga instructor Rosario Chozas, having a good posture that is able to hold up your body in a comfortable meditative pose is at the root of traditional yoga. "To develop a good posture means you have to develop a good core (front and back) and that is what OG yoga was designed to do," she explains.
Additionally, because crunches and sit-ups are often done incorrectly, the core work you do when practicing yoga can end up being far more effective. It's all about alignment, Chozas tells MyDomaine. "The abdominal work that you exercise in yoga is more centered around a total body pose, the alignment of that makes it more complete but also safer," she says. If you're ready to start using yoga for the core, try out this sequence from Chozas specifically designed to work your abs from front to back.
1. Start in a strong tadasana—mountain pose.
2. Heels rooted, thighs active, tailbone tucked in, belly pulled up, shoulders open and relaxed.
3. Take a deep inhale as you reach your arms up toward the sky, and exhale as you hinge from your hips to a forward fold—relaxing the muscles around your neck and bringing the weight toward your toes.
Uttanasana (Halfway Lift)
1. Take an inhale as you come up to your fingertips, reach your heart forward, and pull your belly button toward your spine.
2. Exhale as you once again fold forward.
3. Repeat this, using your breath to guide you two to three more times.
Virabhadrasana Three Variation I
1. Come to a half-way forward fold.
2. Adjust the weight evenly along the entire surface of your feet, pull your sits bones up, and continue to pull your belly button toward your spine.
3. Reach your arms forward, shoulders relaxed and fingers sparked and reaching forward.
4. Take three to five slow, steady inhales and exhales here.
Virabhadrasana Three Variation II
1. Keep your torso light and active, and swim your arms back on an exhale so that your fingertips now reach backward.
2. Keeping your shoulder soft, face soft, and belly pulled up, take three to five slow steady breaths.
Uttanasana to Chaturanga Dandasana
1. Release on an exhale to a forward fold, and then move through a vinyasa of choice (up dog to down dog) until you make your way back to a downward-facing dog.
2. Continue to pull your belly button upward and your sits bones to the sky.
3. Open up your shoulders, making them wide and relaxing your shoulders.
Ardha Pincha Mayurasana
1. From your down dog, drop your forearms to the mat, pop your heels up and tiptoe your feet toward the front of the mat, making your way into dolphin pose.
2. Once again, pull sits up to the sky, wrap your rib cage in, and use your core to help lift your torso so that you aren't collapsing into your shoulders.
Ardha Pincha Mayurasana With Leg Lifts
1. Lift your left leg up, keeping your hips aligned for three breaths, and then place it back down.
2. Lift your right leg, keeping your hips aligned, and then place back down.
Ardha Pincha Mayurasana Plank
1. Walk your feet back to a forearm plank position. Imagine balancing a glass of wine on your shoulder blades so make sure to use your core to help lift you out of your shoulders.
2. Take three slow inhales and exhales.
Vashistasana (Side Plank)
1. Bring your left forearm to line up with the top edge of your mat and take vashistasana (side plank) on your forearm.
2. Take three to five slow, steady breaths.
3. Bring your right forearm to line up with the top edge of your mat and vashistasana on the other side.
4. Take slow three to five breaths.
Ardha Pincha Mayurasana to Adho Mukha Savasana
1. Come back to a forearm down dog and push your hands into the mat so that you lift yourself into a downward-facing dog.
Plank to Chaturanga Dandasana
1. Pop your heels once again, roll your hips up, over, and forward like a wave until you make your way to a plank pose.
2. Move through your vinyasa (up dog to down dog).
Repeat sequence as desired.