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5 Yoga Moves That Tone Your Abs

Each of these poses works your entire core for a no-nonsense workout.

Ever noticed how women who hit the yoga mat regularly have strong, flat stomachs (perhaps in addition to a monk-like sense of calm)? It’s because certain yoga moves are basically boot camp for your abs. We asked Heather Peterson, the chief yoga officer for CorePower Yoga, to demonstrate 5 poses that are particularly effective at toning and tightening your middle.

Fallen Star

How to do it: Start in high plank, with the center of your wrists under the outside edge of your shoulders. (This is a little wider than most people think.) Draw your right knee to your left elbow, extend your right leg out underneath your left side and lift your left arm up toward the ceiling, so you’re balancing on both feet and your right arm. Engage your left hip muscles and lift your hips up. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths, then move back to high plank and repeat on the other side. Repeat 2 to 4 sets.

Make it harder: From Fallen Star, lift your bottom leg up off the ground and pulse it up for 8 reps. Repeat on the other side for 2 to 4 sets.

Boat Pose

How to do it: Start in a seated position. Bend your knees and bring your hands behind your knees to lift your chest and draw your shoulder blades together on your back. Focus on lengthening your spine. Lift one foot off the mat, then the other, until your shins are parallel with the floor, or extend your legs straight, then extend your arms forward. Hold for 1 to 3 breaths and repeat 4 to 6 sets.

Make it harder: Put a yoga block between your thighs. Don’t have a block? Fold a towel in half then roll it up and use that instead. If you want even more of a challenge, try taking the block between your hands and pressing your palms into the block, then twisting side to side while keeping your spine long and extending the opposite leg long in front of you.

Table Top to High Plank

How to do it: Start in Table Top pose and check that your hands are active, with your fingers open wide and center of your wrists under the outside edge of your shoulders. Step your feet back to plank pose and lower your hips in line with your head and heels. Think about drawing your tailbone toward your heels and pulling your front ribs up toward your shoulders. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths, then move back to Table Top. Repeat 4 to 6 sets.

Make it harder: From High Plank, bring your right knee to your right elbow, then back to plank. Bring your right knee to your nose or forehead, then back to plank. Bring your right knee to your left elbow, then back to Plank. Rest in Table Top pose, then repeat on left side.

Donkey Kicks

How to do it: Start on all fours and step your legs back into Downward Facing Dog pose. Step your feet in about a foot to a “short” Downward Facing Dog. Bend your knees, draw your thighs together, bring your shoulders over your wrists and look at the mat between your hands. With control, jump your feet together and off the mat, and move your pelvis over your shoulders. Repeat 5 to 8 sets. You can do this against a wall if you’re worried about keeping your balance.

Make it harder: Add a block or rolled towel between your thighs as you jump. This intensifies the inner-thigh and pelvic-floor work and helps you focus on controlling your jump up and down.

Forearm Plank

How to do it: Lie with your belly on the mat. Come up to your forearms and bring your elbows underneath your shoulders. Even though your elbows are not moving, it should feel like you’re dragging them to the back of your mat as you simultaneously lift the pit of your abdomen up and slowly peel your ribs, belly, hips, thighs and knees off the mat to Forearm Plank. Hold for 20 seconds then roll back down. Repeat 3 to 5 sets.

Make it harder: Put a yoga block between your thighs, then return to Forearm Plank. Lift your right foot off the mat and bend your knee to 90 degrees. Squeeze the block with your thighs, then press your heel to the sky. Repeat for 16 to 24 reps. Roll down to rest, with your forehead on your stacked forearms, then repeat with the left leg.

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