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The target: Rectus abdominus, transversus abdominus, internal and external obliques.
A.K.A: The sides of your abdomen, the six-pack area of your abdominal muscles and deep in your core.
Time commitment: 10-15 minutes
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Warm-up: Cat and cow stretches
As with any exercise, warming up is key to getting your muscles and body prepped for a workout – same goes for an intense ab workout. To really reap the benefits (trim waistline, meet my new bikini) and prevent injury to your abdominal muscles, Carvalho says to make sure to do this quick warm up.
- Start on hands and knees (table top position), with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Draw low ribs and navel in towards spine, feeling the abdominal muscles engage.
- Inhale lifting tailbone up and looking ahead, opening chest and arching entire spine.
- Exhale tucking tailbone under, contracting lower abdominal muscles, bringing chin towards chest, rounding spine.
- Repeat 5 times, inhaling and exhaling to a count of 4 seconds.
After your quick warm, these 5 moves will give your waist and abdomen an intense workout.
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Yoga move # 1: Boat pose (A.K.A. Navasana in yoga terms)
Props needed: 1 thin yoga block
- Start by lying on your back with knees bent, feet on floor hip distance apart, holding block between thighs, arms down by the waist.
- Inhale arms up overhead, keeping low ribs tucked in, exhale reaching arms forward toward outsides of knees, lifting head and shoulders off the floor. Chest lifts and if possible, shoulder blades come off floor. Shoulders stay away from ears, back of neck long (chin slightly down towards chest).
- Variation #1: Extend legs just above floor.
- Variation #2: Bend knees, bringing shins parallel to floor; lift torso higher, coming onto sitting bones.
- Variation #3 (advanced): From variation 2, straighten legs bringing body to a ‘V’ shape. Optional: Bring arms up by the sides of ears, keeping shoulders down, palms facing each other.
- Hold for 5 full breaths in variation 1, 2 or 3.
- Exhale to lower body back down, draw knees into chest for a breath to release spine, then return to original lying position.
- Repeat 3 times.
Tips: Keep your chest lifted and back of neck long at all times. Be sure to not round your spine.
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More yoga moves to trim your waist on the next page ... Yoga move #2: Half forward bend (A.K.A Ardha uttanasana in yoga terms)
Props needed: 1 yoga block
- Start standing in mountain pose, with feet hip distance apart, parallel to each other. Roll inner thighs backwards, draw low belly in and up towards spine, tuck tailbone slightly under.
- Holding the block in the widest position between palms, inhale lifting arms straight up by the sides of ears.
- Exhale reaching chest forward and folding over the legs (keep arms by the sides of ears). Knees can be slightly bent.
- Inhale lifting torso halfway up (arms stay by the sides of ears, reaching forward toward the horizon). Hold this posture with the breath in for 4 seconds. Knees can be slightly bent.
- Exhale to release, folding forward over legs, bending knees slightly.
- Inhale arms move forward and up, coming to standing position with arms overhead.
- Repeat 5 times
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- If there is any discomfort in the back, do it without the block, reaching arms sideways instead of forward.
- Avoid rounding the spine at all times, bending knees as much as needed.
- When lifting arms by the sides of ears, keep low ribs tucked in, minimizing space between the floating ribs and hipbones, while keeping the chest broad and shoulders away from ears.
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Yoga move #3: Extended triangle pose (A.K.A Utthita trikonasana in yoga terms)
- From mountain pose, step right foot back, in line with the left foot (feet about one leg’s length apart). Left toes point forward, right heel slightly back (foot in a 60 degree angle, inner rotation in right leg).
- Inhale arms out to shoulder height (above legs), exhale reaching the left hand forward as far as possible bringing torso halfway down, parallel to floor, over left leg; right hand reaches in opposite direction. Pause and hold for one breath, engaging the core muscles and firming legs.
- Inhale again and on the exhale bring the back of left hand down to touch the shin, reaching right arm straight up toward the ceiling.
- Look down at the left foot, lengthening the neck, with the chin slightly toward the chest. Then, lift gaze up toward right hand, stopping anywhere in between the left and right hands, whatever feels right on the neck. Keep left side of waist long by drawing left hip away from left shoulder. From the navel up, twist chest toward the right side. Find as much length in spine as possible, slightly tucking the tailbone.
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- Variation #1: Reach right arm overhead, parallel to floor, palm facing down, right shoulder away from ear.
- Variation #2: Extend left arm parallel to right, palms facing each other.
- Stay in the chosen variation for 5 full breaths.
- To come out, inhale to open arms back to original position, exhale looking down at left foot, firm legs and inhale back up to standing with arms out, exhale arms down.
- Repeat on second side.
- Cultivate a feeling of ‘fullness’ in the lower back and keep back of neck long at all times.
2 more yoga moves for a flat stomach on the next page ... Yoga move #4: Plank
- Start on hands and knees, then extend legs back, placing body into one long line.
- Hands should be directly under shoulders, fingers spread wide (middle fingers pointing forward), even weight in all parts of hands. Keep shoulders away from ears, do not let them roll forward. Feet are hip distance apart, inner heels reaching back to create an inner spiral in the legs. Tailbone energetically moves toward the space in between heels. Draw pubic bone slightly up towards chest to minimize the space between hipbones and low ribs, creating a ‘zipping’ action. Keep shoulder blades down towards hips, reach chest forward, look down at floor, maintaining back of neck long, the back of the head in line with back of pelvis. Those actions should ALL happen at the same time!
- Hold for 5 full breaths. Bring knees down to rest, then back to plank, preparing for variations.
- Variation 1: Without changing anything else, lift one foot slightly of the floor. Hold for 2 breaths, place it back down and switch. Repeat 3 times with each foot.
- Variation 2: From plank, roll onto outer edge of left foot (right foot can be in front of left to start), lift right arm up. Both feet should be flex, pointing toward the right. Arms stay in line with shoulders, shoulders away from ears. Keep body in one straight line, lengthening the bottom waist (left hip away from left shoulder, lifting away from the floor). For more challenge, bring right leg directly on top of left. Option to lift top leg up in line with bottom leg. Keep feet flex and legs fully energized. Hold for 5 full breaths.
- Repeat on other side.
- Avoid collapsing hips, or sticking them back.
- The entire body should be held in one line, maintaining the ‘zipping’ action from pubic bone toward the low ribs -- do not let ribs pop out.
- Back of head stays in line with back of pelvis.
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Yoga move #5: Stomach twist (A.K.A Jathara parivrtti in yoga terms)
- Lying on the back as if in mountain pose, with both legs straight, flex your feet, big toes together and heels slightly apart. Arms out to sides in a ‘T’ position.
- Inhale right leg straight up towards ceiling, exhale right foot towards left hand (turn head right), inhale right leg up, exhale to lower it down by side of left (back to original position).
- Repeat with other leg.
- Repeat 6 rounds.
Tips: Avoid popping out the ribs and shortening the waistline when twisting.
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- To finish, draw knees into chest, arms around shins, forehead to knees, curling up into a tiny ball.
- Then, release body into the most comfortable lying position.
- Rest for 3 minutes, allowing body to integrate practice.