Yoga-Inspired Ab Exercises, Part 1

Looking to change up your abdominal exercises in class or at home?  Try these yoga-inspired moves that are sure to get your abs firing!

The Exercises

Here are a few exercises to add into your ab sequence during your jazz, modern or ballet warm-up.  If you’re not sure how to do them, click on the name for a more detailed explanation from Yoga Journal.  All photos unless otherwise noted are from creative commons on Flickr.

Downward Facing Dog

Yoga basics.  Stretches the hamstrings and gets the blood flowing.  Keep the shoulders pressed down away from the ears.

Yoga- Down Dog
Downward facing dog – photo from Flickr.

Variation – Dolphin Pose:  From downward dog, lower your elbows to the floor while keeping your heels pressed down.  To strengthen arms, you can slowly mover from dolphin to downward dog and back a few times.

Plank or Dolphin Plank

Begin in down-dog and move the shoulders over the palms and hold.  A variation is dolphin plank, which is done on the elbows.

Kumbhakasana (Plank pose)
Photo from Flickr.

Added challenge:  Lift up one leg a few inches off the ground.  Hold.  Switch legs.

Hatha Yoga Core Abs Video - Plank Pose
Dolphin pose with lifted foot, photo from Flickr.

What to watch for:  Make sure your students are keeping their abs tightened and not allowing their back to sway.  Students with arm or shoulder injuries should avoid this exercise.

Hands and Knee Balance

Begin on hands and knees.  Keeping abs tight stretch out opposite arm and leg.  You can make this a moving pose by bringing the knee and elbow in and out while still balancing.  The motion challenges the dancer to use their core to maintain balance.

Watch that students are keeping their hand and leg in line and are not tempted to work their extension by arching the back or kicking their leg higher than the hip.

Side Plank and Dip

Hold side plank position.  For added difficulty, raise and lower and raise hips slowly.  This position strengthens the arms and wrists as well as the abs.  My students found it very hard to balance in this position, especially once we added the dips. Some of them modified it by lowering to their elbow.  Make sure you keep the shoulder stacked over the elbow or wrist.  Also watch out for hyperextended elbows.

Ask A Yogi - 4
Added challenge:  Lift your top leg off the ground – you can do this just by a few inches or all the way until it is perpendicular to the bottom leg (like a side battement).

Plank Cross

From the plank position (on hands), lift the right leg and tuck the knee into touch the outside of the left elbow.

High Lunge

From down dog, step one leg through to a lunge.  Exhale and sweep the hands overhead.

Avoid arching the back or sticking the ribs out.  The ribs should feel “drawn down into the torso”.

Crescent Lunge

Half Moon

From the lunge or Warrior III, rotate the body to face the side and reach one hand down to the floor. Smoothly push up into the half moon pose, stacking the hip bones on top of one another.

Half Moon

To deepen the pose, lift the lower hand off the floor and rest it on the supporting leg so that the student is balance only on the leg.

For a further challenge, raise the top arm perpendicular to the floor (as shown above). Imagine there’s a wall in front of you, and press the top hand actively into this pretend wall. Then, if balance is steady, slowly change the gaze up to the raised hand.

Another option is to perform small circles with the raised foot to challenge the balance.

Three-leg Down Dog

From downward dog, lift one leg so that it is parallel with the torso.  This is the three-leg Down Dog.

Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana Tri-pod down dog

To work the abs, tuck the knee and bring the knee to the right elbow, shifting the body weight over the arms and hands.  Stretch the back out and up, the bring the knee to the left elbow, stretch it back out, and knee to the forehead.  Repeat 3-4x total and then repeat on the other leg.

Putting It All Together

5-minute Ab Sequence #1:   Hands and Knee Balance with knee tuck (4 per side),  Downward Facing Dog, Plank, Side Plank w/Dip (4 per side), Plank, Lunge, Half Moon, Lunge, Plank, Downward Dog, repeat Lunge, Half Moon, Lunge with other side.

5-minute Ab Sequence #2: Hand and Knee balance with knee tucks (7 per side), Down Dog (20 second hold), Plank Cross (4 per side), Down Dog to Three-Leg Down Dog with knee tuck (3 repetitions per side), Dolphin Plank w/small leg lift on each side (hold for 10 seconds each side).

Photo Guide and resource list for each sequence after the jump

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