Abs by Ana

Many people complain of constantly working to tone their cores with no results! The usual culprits are tight hip flexors and/or a tight solar plexus. When these areas are gripping, we cannot engage the deep support muscles of our cores. What we cannot engage cannot change!

Next time you are doing simple crunches, try this: with feet flat and knees bent, let your knees fall together slightly to relax your hip flexors. As you crunch up, consciously soften your solar plexus area. You will feel a deeper engagement in your lower ab region. These are the deep support muscles of your core, exactly what you want to have working for you!

Here are some of my favorite exercises for a strong and beautiful core.

One of the best exercises for the transverse abdominals (intrinsic to a flat look in the midriff) is Plank Pose: Lie on your belly and push up in to a front push-up position. Press the area between your shoulder blades towards the ceiling (this takes tension out of the shoulders and helps to engage core support). Do Long Deep Breathing with your eyes open gazing at one point. 1 min.

The following Alternate Arm & Leg Lift exercise is one of my favorite all-over toners for your core (it also balances the brain hemispheres and I love multi-tasking!):

Lie on your back with your arms above you on the floor. Inhale. Exhale as you raise your right arm and left leg perpendicular to the floor. Inhale as you lower them. Exhale as you raise your left arm and right leg straight up. Exhale lower them. And continue. Inhaling down and exhaling up. Flex your feet as the legs rise. Point your toes as they descend. Continue for 1 - 3 min.

Practice Tips: Press your lower back ribs into the floor. Really press the leg on the floor into the floor as a counterweight to the rising leg.

And one more for the lower abdominals: Double Leg Lifts. Have your arms alongside your body, palms down. You can also have your palms slightly beneath your buttocks for support. Inhale and raise your legs to 90 degrees. Exhale lower them. Go slowly enough to be sure that you are not using momentum. Continue for 1 - 3 min. .

I often do 2-3 sets for each of the above.

I like to add a Kundalini twist or side bend to my Navel workout either before, between each set or at the end. Example: hands on shoulders, fingers in front, thumbs in back, inhaling left and exhaling right. Or, with your hands clasped at the base of the skull, twisting with the Breath of Fire. Do what is fun for you!

You can end this powerful ab toning session by doing Breath of Fire over an extended tongue for 3 minutes, consciously releasing the upper abdominal region throughout. Afterwards, sit still for a moment and continue to experience this release. Even sitting, or going about your day, when the solar plexus and hip flexor areas are released, you will feel the support muscles of the lower abdominals and pelvic floor automatically take over.

Our Navel Power DVD has some great sets for all over abdominal toning. Plank Pose and Alternate Leg & Arm Lifts can be found on our Yoga for Beginners & Beyond: Stretch, Strengthen, Be Stress Free DVD.