A toned abdomen is often considered as a sign of a healthy body. And there are others who crave for a waistline that does not embarrass us and allows us to wear the clothes that we like. For those who are still struggling to tuck in their tummy and get well-toned abs, yoga can be of great help and that too at minimum cost. On the other hand, yoga refreshes your body and mind; improves your metabolism and also helps you reach closer to the goal of a terrific-looking tummy.
The core muscles stabilize two of the body’s most important structures — the spine and the pelvis — and help maintain flexibility throughout the torso. While certain asanas challenge the core more than others, nearly every movement in yoga requires well-developed abs and a strong back. The following five muscle groups are especially relevant for flexing, posing, and stretching:
- The psoas is probably not the sexiest core muscle, but it’s definitely one of the most important. The psoas (try saying that five times fast!) is part of a set of muscles called the hip flexors, which keeps the lumbar spine stable and allows for hip flexion. It’s kind of a big deal — the psoas is essential for everyday activities like walking, running, bending over, or doing abdominal exercises.
- The obliques are responsible for the serious side pain we experience after a few too many bicycle crunches. These muscles (“obliques” actually refers to four different muscles) stabilize the rib cage and spine. This interior girdle allows the body to stay strong while twisting or bending sideways.
- The rectus abdominis is the limelight-stealing front abdominal muscle that, when well-developed, can form a “six-pack.” The long muscle begins at the pubic bone and extends up the front of the torso to the ribs. Besides making you look great in a swimsuit, the rectus abdominis keeps the internal organs safe, aids in digestion and breathing, and helps rotate the pelvis.
- The transversus abdominis is like a crew member in a stage production: It prefers to stay behind the scenes, but it’s absolutely essential for running the show. This muscle is located behind the rectus abdominis and wraps around the waist like a belt, protecting the spine, ribs, and internal organs. Because it’s so deep within the body, the transversus abdominis is tough to engage — instructors commonly describe activating this muscle as “touching the belly button to the spine.”
- The spinalis, longissimus, and iliocostalis muscles are known collectively as the erector spinae. This group of important muscles surrounds the spine, allowing the vertebrae to bend, stretch, twist, and extend.
In fact, spot training any muscle isn’t necessarily the best way to train, since isolating one part of the body can result in imbalanced muscles. In the same way, too many crunches can detract from yoga practice by compromising flexibility and good posture. Here’s a list of yoga postures to get you started on your journey to a jaw-dropping tummy.
A/ Kapal Bhati Pranayama
It is a breathing exercise that specifically targets the abdominal region. From the name it can be deciphered as skull “shining breathing technique” i.e. Kapal = forehead; Bhati = shining; pranayama = breathing technique. It is a very powerful breathing exercise that not just helps you lose weight but also brings your entire system into a perfect balance. Nearly 80% of the toxins in our body are released through the outgoing breath. Regular practice of Kapal Bhati pranayama detoxifies all the systems in our body. And the obvious sign of a healthy body is a shining forehead. A forehead that glows not just from outside but also an intellect that becomes sharp and refined.
- Sit comfortably with your spine erect. Place your hands on the knees, palms open to the sky.
- Take a deep breath in.
- As you exhale, pull your stomach. Pull your navel in back towards the spine. Do as much as you comfortably can. You may keep your right hand on the stomach to feel the abdominal muscles contract. Pull the navel in.
- As you relax the navel and abdomen, the breath flows into your lungs automatically.
- Take 20 such breaths to complete one round of Kapal Bhati pranayama.
- After completing the round, relax with your eyes closed and observe the sensations in your body.
- Do two more rounds of Skull Shining breathing technique (Kapal Bhati pranayama).
The exhalation in Skull Shining Breathing Technique (Kapal Bhati Pranayama) is active and forceful. So just throw out your breath. Don’t worry about the inhalation. The moment you relax your abdominal muscles, inhalation will happen naturally. Just keep your awareness on breathing out.
- Effective in reducing weight by increasing the metabolic rate
- Clears the nadis (subtle energy channels)
- Stimulates abdominal organs and thus is extremely useful to those with diabetes
- Improves blood circulation and adds radiance to the face
- Improves digestive tract functioning, absorption and assimilation of nutrients
- Results in a taut and trimmed down belly
- Energizes the nervous system and rejuvenates brain cells
- Calms and uplifts the mind.
- Avoid practising this breathing technique if you have an artificial pacemaker or stents, backache due to slipping disc, recently went through an abdominal surgery, or are suffering from epilepsy or a hernia.
- Women should not practice Skull Shining breathing technique (Kapal Bhati pranayama) during and shortly after pregnancy, as well as during menstruation as it involves vigorous abdominal squeezes.
- People with hypertension and heart problems should practice this breathing technique under a yoga expert’s guidance.
B/ Viparita Shalabhasana
This posture is particularly helpful in strengthening your lower back muscles and to some extent, it also provides its healing touch to the abdominal muscles. It is nicknamed as Superman Pose which is similar to a flying superman high in the air. It is also can be called as Inverted Locust Pose i.e. viparita = inverted/ reversed; shalabh = locust; asana = pose/posture.
- Lie on your stomach with your toes flat on the floor; chin resting on the ground.
- Keep your legs close together with your feet lightly touching each other.
- Now stretch your arms out to the front as far as you can.
- Take a deep breath in and now lift your chest, arms, legs and thighs off the floor. You resemble a flying superhero – Superman! Spread the smile on your face – superheroes are always happy, especially in flight. Rather than making an effort to raise your hands and legs more, make a gentle effort to stretch your arms and legs away from your torso. So, feel the pull that is occurring at both ends. Ensure that your elbows and knees are not bent.
- Keep breathing with awareness; keeping your attention on the stretch.
- As you exhale, gently lower your chest, arms and legs.
- Stretches and strengthens the muscles of the chest, shoulders, arms, legs, abdomen and the lower back
- Tones the abdomen and lower back
- Massages the spine and keeps the back supple
- Helps stretch the chest
- Improves blood circulation
- Also works at the mind level – when you take off, you can’t but stay in the present moment. Even if you want to, you can’t think about any problem!
- Can be a good workout for the abs and stomach
Do not practice this yoga posture if you have had an abdominal surgery recently or if you are pregnant.
Yoga practice helps develop the body and mind bringing a lot of health benefits yet is not a substitute for medicine. It is important to learn and practice yoga postures under the supervision of a trained Yoga teacher.
Happy practising and feel free to share like and comments. More exciting posture on the topic will be discussed in my next post!!! So do follow me.
Source: Art Of Living