Are your abs ready for beach season? If not, try adding Boat pose to your yoga practice.
- Strengthening the hip flexors and the muscles around the spine.
- Stretching the hamstrings.
- Helping to ease stress.
- Improving digestion and balance.
How to Do It: Sit with your knees bent and feet flat, hands positioned a little behind the hips with fingers pointing toward the feet. Then:
- Engage your core and lean back until you balance on your sitting bones. Keep the back flat and lengthened; arching or roundness will put pressure on your lower back.
- Exhale and lift your feet as you lift the upper part of your body with an open chest.
- Depending on where you are in your practice, you have three options:
- Keep your lower legs parallel to the floor (knees bent); extend your arms and gently hold onto your knees.
- Maintain the bent knees while reaching your hands toward your feet; keep the hands energized.
- Straighten your legs to roughly eye level so that your body assumes a V shape. (You can use a strap if needed.)
Note: Remember to breathe. And while you may have to keep your hands on the floor the first few times you go into Boat, you won’t get the pose’s full value without making your arms work, too.
Variations: If you really want to blast your core, pump your knees in and out with the legs bent.
Be Careful If: You have lower back or neck problems, or have low blood pressure; you should also avoid this pose if you’re pregnant.
Pose: Dolphin Plank
What do you get when Dolphin Pose meets Plank Pose? You wind up with the Dolphin Plank, a great core-building pose.
- Stretching the hamstrings and calves.
- Improving posture by strengthening muscles around the spine.
- Building the shoulders.
- Relieving stress.
How to Do It: You can start in Dolphin and then walk your feet back until your torso is parallel to the floor, shoulders right over your elbows. Or you can start on hands and knees, wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. From there:
- Lower your elbows to the floor, keeping them under your shoulders; forearms and upper arms should create a 90° angle. Your forearms should be parallel to each other with your weight distributed equally between them.
- Step back, keeping your body and head in a straight line. Keep your thighs lifted, and don’t let your hips sink or your bottom stick up.
- Pull your abs and pelvic floor muscles towards your spine. Widen your shoulder blades east-west; lengthen your spine north-south.
- While gazing between your hands or at the front edge of your mat, breathe evenly for five breaths. Then lower onto your knees and press back into Child’s Pose. Repeat 10 times.
Note: If touchy wrists make it difficult for you to do Plank, this wrist-friendly version might work for you.
Variations: If you can’t yet support your full weight on your arms, lower your knees to the ground; you might have to walk the knees back a bit to keep your body in a straight line, shoulders above elbows. If you need more of a challenge, switch between Dolphin Plank and full Dolphin 10 times.
Pose: Upward Facing Dog
Whatever is strengthened must also be stretched, and Up Dog stretches not only the core but the chest and shoulders as well.
- increases spinal flexibility.
- Firms the butt.
- Improves posture.
How to Do It: Start by lying prone on the floor with your legs stretched back, the tops of your feet on the floor and your hands (fingers spread) alongside your waist. Then:
- Inhale and press the inside edges of your hands down and slightly back; straighten your arms while lifting your torso and your legs a few inches off your mat. Your elbow creases should face forward.
- Press your tailbone down while lifting your pubic bone toward your navel. Keep your butt firm.
- Push your shoulder blades into your back while looking straight ahead or tipping the head back slightly.
Note: Don’t push your front ribs forward, which is tough on the back, or compress the back of your neck.
Variation: To make this pose a bit easier, position a blanket roll under the tops of your thighs for light support.
Be Careful If: You have a back injury or carpel tunnel syndrome.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.