Content originally posted in the ALOHA Mag.
Practicing yoga on a regular basis can enrich our lives with a multitude of benefits. Some days, a meditative slow flow is exactly what we need to stretch out our body, quiet down our mind, and then luxuriate in a long savasana. But yoga isn’t all about being bendy. The postural practice of yoga creates grace, flexibility and strength in the body! In fact, in a well-rounded practice, many poses build up and strengthen our muscles. Keeping our core engaged should be part of a regular practice, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take it one step further. If you’re looking for some ways to sneak abdominal work into your everyday yoga, try these moves.
The Pose: Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
The Variation: From your triangle posture, raise your bottom arm to frame your ear. Draw your other arm to frame the other ear. Keep your shoulder blades drawing down your back, and keep both of your legs engaged. Hug your femur bones in and up into your pelvis and wrap the front hip underneath you and back towards your back foot. As you turn your chest open to the side, pull your low belly in. Stay for five breaths.
The Pose: Vashistasana (Side Plank)
The Variation: Lift your top foot up into the air up as high as you can off your bottom leg. Imagine that your top foot is reaching towards the hand that is up in the air. Keep your bottom hip from shifting up too much to keep the lower body in one straight line.
The Pose: Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Legged Staff Pose)
The Variation: Before lowering from your plank to chaturanga, raise one leg up. Keep the leg engaged and the body in one straight, strong line. Keep engaging the muscles of your abdomen. Place the top of the foot back down before you head into your upward facing dog!
The Pose: Fallen Triangle
The Variation: To come into this modern (read: not ancient, but a newly created posture) yoga pose, begin in a downward facing dog. Draw the right leg up and bring it to your left tricep. Extend your right leg out to the left, behind your left wrist and out to the side of your body. Roll to the outer edge of you right foot and the inner edge of your left foot. Raise your left arm up towards the ceiling. To challenge your core, float your right foot up off of the floor. Hold for five breaths and repeat on the other side!
The Pose: Bakasana (Crow)
The Variation: Bring your knees as high up on your arms as you can—maybe to your armpits! Then come into your crow pose, pull your feet together and up to your seat. Round your spine to pull your core in tight and then extend your arms. Lower one foot down and tap your toes to your wrist. Keeping the lower abdomen engaged, pull your foot back up to meet the other. Repeat on the other side. Try five rounds to test your strength and your balance.
Bonus Pose! Sirsasana (Headstand)
The Variation: Begin in a traditional headstand. Pull your core in tight and engage your mula bandha, or root lock—a lifting of the pelvic floor. Then point your toes and lower your legs to 90 degrees until your body is in an upside down "L" shape. Raise them back up to a full headstand.