As summer nears, most of us look forward to donning swimsuits and lighter, more form fitted clothing. For many people, however, that excitement is coupled with a bit of hesitation. After all, winter clothing tends to hide “a multitude of sins” and some may not feel toned and ready to bare all just yet.
Fortunately, toning the core isn’t difficult. And no, you needn’t do hundreds of sit-ups!? In fact, there are many ways to work the muscles of the core and back (they work together to tighten up the mid-section, so it’s most effective to strengthen both the abdominals and the back muscles). Walking/hiking is a great way to strengthen the core. Swimming is a great core workout, as is Pilates. And then there’s my personal favorite, yoga!
Because a key component of yoga is balance, most asanas/postures require that one utilize some degree of core strength. There are, however, a few key postures that will work deeply into the core to tone and tighten. They’re super effective and, in just a short time, you’ll see noticeable results – an increase in strength as well as a firmer mid-section.
Do these exercises a few times a week, along with whatever cardio you like best and you’re likely to be strutting your summer stuff in no time!
Here’s the sequence:
- Mountain Pose:
Begin in Mountain Post, feet hip width apart and weight evenly distributed. Pull the navel in and up, long straight spine, shoulder blades back and down. Sweep the arms overhead and inhale. If it’s comfortable, join your hands together, otherwise keep them separated, palms facing each other.
- Standing Side Stretch:
On the exhale, reach up and over to the right. If it’s comfortable for your neck, you may turn your head and look under your left arm. Hold here for one full breath. Inhale and bring arms back to center, then exhale and lean towards the left. Hold for one complete breath. Return to center.
- Forward Bend:
Swan dive out and over, coming into a forward bend. If your lower back is tight, keep your knees bent.
Plant the palms into the mat and step back into a plank pose. Feel as if you’re pushing the floor away from you. Keep the heels reaching back and maintain a straight spine. You should feel as if you are one long line of energy from the heels to the crown of head. Hold this posture for as long as you can (try to work up to a minute or two).
- Locust Pose:
Keeping the elbows close to the body, bend at the elbows and lower the body down to the ground. Rest for a moment. Then, reach the arms back, palms facing the sky and lift both the upper body and lower body off of the ground. Be sure to keep the chin slightly tucked so that the neck is in line with the spine. Hold for 30 seconds or as long as you can.
- Child’s Pose:
Bring the arms and legs down and push back to Child’s Pose. Rest for a moment.
- Staff Pose:
Come up to a seated position with legs extended out in front of you.
- Boat Pose:
Keeping the spine long, lean the torso back and lift your legs approximately 45 degrees from the floor and balance on your ‘sitting bones’ (if, like me, you have a sensitive tailbone, you may wish to do this on a blanket or towel). Hold for 30 seconds or so. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, lower the legs and torso a bit. You may repeat the motion of lifting and lowering the legs/torso several times, if you wish. Play around to see what feels best to you.
- Forward Fold:
Return to a seated position, arms extended overhead. Then, fold over into a Forward Bend. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Knees to Chest:
Lie back and pull your knees into your chest. Smile and take a well deserved rest!
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