by Heidi Kristoffer for SHAPE.com
Say goodbye to back pain and hello to a strong, sexy midsection with these six poses!
Side plank1. Side plank: Side plank strengthens the obliques, while the abdominals work to stabilize the entire body.
How to do it: Assume a pushup position, keeping your arms straight and palms flat on the floor. Raise your left arm to reach up toward the ceiling as you shift your weight onto your right arm and the outside of your right foot. Rest your left foot on top of your right foot so that it does not touch the ground. Keeping your wrist, elbow, and shoulder in one straight line, open your chest as you look toward the ceiling. With each breath, contract your abs and breathe deeper into the posture. Hold for 30 seconds.
Floating triangle2. Floating triangle: This post lengthens and strengthens the obliques, abdominals, and back.
How to do it: From warrior II, straighten your right leg so both legs are straight. Lean your torso forward over your front leg, keeping both sides of your torso long. Rest your right hand on your shin or bring your fingertips to the ground if you can. Lean back, open your shoulders, and extend your left arm up above your shoulders into triangle. From triangle, reach your left arm over your head, palm faces down, reach your right arm under your head, palm facing up. Stay here for five long, deep breaths.
Boat pose3. Boat or low boat pose: Every little (and big) muscle in your abdominals is engaged during boat or low boat pose. Low boat engages the transverse abdominals particularly well.
How to do it: Sit on the mat with your knees bent in front of you and your feet flat on the ground. Hold your arms, palms face up, in front of you so that your hands brush the sides of your knees. Lean back so that your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Slowly, lift your feet off of the ground as you straighten your legs, forming a "V" with your body . Use your core muscles to hold you in the position, and bring your arms slightly away from your body for more balance. Hold the pose for 10 counts.
For Low Boat: From boat pose, lower your middle back to the floor, keeping your abs engaged and your head and shoulders off the floor. Simultaneously lower your legs, so that your feet are about six inches off the ground. Engage your quads and abdominals (and breath!).
Dolphin pose4. Dolphin: Dolphin pose works the abdominals while toning the shoulders and opening the spine.
How to do it: From all fours, lower your forearms to the ground, elbows underneath your shoulders, then tuck your toes, and lift your hips high, keep your heels reaching towards the ground (it's down dog on your forearms.) Stay here for five long, deep breaths.
Warrior III5. Warrior III: Warrior III builds strength and length in your torso, abdomen, and spine while also strengthening the legs. Warrior III is also great for improving balance and concentration.
How to do it: Stand at the back of your mat, toes and heels touching. Draw your hands up above your head. Then spread your fingers as you reach towards the ceiling. Step forward with your right foot and swing your body into a "T" shape from the side, your torso and left leg should be parallel to the floor. Find a spot on the floor in front of you to keep your balance, and as you breath in, lift your leg a little higher. Exhale and inhale again bringing your torso up. As you stand, simultaneously reach your left foot behind you as you reach your fingertips forward. Hold for 10 counts. Then, step back and repeat on the other side.
Locust pose6. Locust pose: This pose strengthens the muscles that surround the back of the spine. It also provides a gentle opening for the spine. This is a great counter pose to all of the others that target the abdominals.
How to do it: Lie with your stomach down on the mat. Place your hands, palms faced down, next to your chest, elbows bent like chicken wings. Glue your legs together and point your toes as you lift your chest off the mat (only use your back muscles , not your arms!), curving your spine upwards. Then, lift your feet and legs off of the mat as you reach the crown of your head up to the ceiling.
One hand at a time, bring your arms behind your back and lock your fingers together. Straighten your elbows and use your breath to keep your chest lifted and feet and legs lifted off the ground. With each inhale try to bring both sides of your body off the ground as you reach backwards with your arms. Hold for 10 counts as you breath deeper into the posture.