With Summer, technically starting next week, out comes the bikinis and swim trunks. People are always asking for ways to work their core without doing the standard sit-ups or crunches. There are several poses or asanas within yoga that work your core and can help strengthen your abdominal muscles.
In this post, we will look at going from headstand to crow and a dynamic flow that will strengthen your back, core and arms to help get you beach ready. (Side note: All of us here at Beauty Refined, MD believe that all bodies are beautiful and swimsuit ready. You do not have to have flat abs to be beautiful. Our goal is to help bring a little more health, wellness and peace to your daily living).
I recommend starting your practice with a few rounds of cat/cow, dynamic downward facing dog and surya namaskar A (sun salutations) to get your body warmed up before attempting the next few poses.
If you have never done a headstand, please do NOT try these poses alone unless you have blocks or a wall to support you. Ideally, the first time you go upside will be in the presence of a trained and certified yoga teacher either in a yoga studio or in a yoga class at your gym. Please be safe and be smart about your yoga practice.
The most important thing to keep in mind if you are adding headstands into your practice, is that you should NOT kick up into your headstand. You do NOT want to use your head as a fulcrum to get your legs up and over your head. You want to avoid jumping or kicking up into headstand and you want to keep the weight out of your neck. For this reason, adding headstands into your practice is great to activate and strengthen your core because you need to use your core abdominal muscles to raise your legs over your head.
Start in a wide stance with your legs hip distance apart. Bend over, bend your legs and place the top of your head on the floor or your mat. Bend your arms and place your palms flat on the floor. Once your hands and the top of your head are set in place, slowly start to lift your legs up and over your head. As you lift your legs over your head start to bring them closer together, so that when they are vertical, they are together and straight up and down.
While in headstand, keep your abdominal muscle tight and remember to breathe. You should be pressing into your palms in order to rebound your shoulders away from your ears and providing space into your neck. Keep your legs straight and try not to arch your back.
Headstand Leg Variation
Once in headstand you can play around with your legs to add a little more challenge to keeping your balance which, ultimately, will help work out your core. Try to bend one leg while keeping the other leg straight or bend both legs and then straighten both legs. Any extra time in headstand will work your core and bending and straightening your legs will work your core as well.
Transition to Crow
Now we move into the real core burner: the slow transition from being upside down to balancing on your upper arms. I like to bend both of my legs, in anticipation of having my bent legs resting on my upper arms. Bend both legs and slowly start to lower them down to rest on your upper arm. As your legs make their way to your upper arms, start to lift your head off of your mat or off of the floor.
Pick a spot a few inches in front of your face to focus your gaze. Crow is a beautiful pose because it works all of your muscles. Your arms are holding your body up and your core is keeping your legs elevated as they are resting on your arms. Keep your core activated, keep breathing and remember to keep space between your ears and your shoulders. Once you conquer crow, you can advance to crane by straightening your arms.
Burn baby burn!!!
By Melynda Barnes, M.D. - Co-Founder, Expert Facial Plastic Surgeon & Yogi
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