In my last post, we worked on the smaller muscles to engage the abdominal wall. This time, we're going to engage the whole body!
Here are a few tips to help you make this sequence as badass as possible:
- Engage all your muscles without adding tension, emphasizing the back muscles.
- Keep your eyes focused (your drishti gaze) on one spot.
- Move slowly so you don’t lose your muscular engagement.
- Breathe rhythmically and consciously.
- Even if your body is working hard, your mind stays relaxed and focused.
- Rest whenever you need to.
Yogi’s Choice: You can do the whole sequence on the right side of your body first, followed by the left side, or do one pose at a time, alternating sides. Be sure to warm up with a few rounds of Sun Salutations before you begin.
1. Forearm Plank
Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana
From a high plank position, lower to your forearms. Be sure your elbows are underneath your shoulders and your forearms are parallel. Push down in order to round your back slightly.
Walk your feet back slightly until your spine is straight, and keep your hips lifted. Look forward without lifting your head. Engage your quads and spiral your thighs in toward each other. Take 5 deep breaths here.
2. One-Legged Plank, Knee-To-Chest
Press yourself back up to a high plank. Lift your right knee and bring it in toward your chest as you lean forward so that your arms are straight and your shoulders are slightly in front of your wrists. Push the floor away from you.
Engage the back leg and contract the abdomen. Bring your knee as close to your face as possible, and try to kiss your knee.
The less space between the thigh and the chest the better. Take 5 deep breaths.
3. One-Legged Plank, Knee-To-Opposite-Elbow
Next draw your right knee toward the left elbow and round your back. Push the floor away from you with your hands and keep your shoulders slightly in front of your wrists — this will activate your core muscles even more.
Squeeze the right knee in toward the elbow and keep the back leg engaged. Take 5 deep breaths.
4. Side-Plank, Tree Pose Variation
Lift yourself up into a plank position and come to the outside of your left foot. Stack your right shoulder above your left shoulder and your left shoulder directly above your left wrist.
Make sure your left middle finger is pointed forward and spread your fingers to have more surface area. Engage your whole body and lift your right leg up to plant it on the inside of your left thigh (above or below the knee) for a Tree Pose.
Lift your hips up and extend your right arm up into the sky, activating the whole arm. Take 5 breaths.
5. Side Plank With Big Toe Grab
From your Side Plank Tree Pose, grab your right toe with your right hand, and with a lot of balance (and focus!) start lifting your right leg up toward the sky.
Go very slowly, and make sure you are supporting your whole body with a strong core and strong arm. See if you can straighten the leg entirely with both arm and leg extended, but don't force it.
Keep the hip lifted during the process and your gaze fixed on one spot. Take 5 deep breaths.
6. Half Moon Pose
Bring yourself back to a plank and transition into Downward Dog for one breath. On an inhale, step your left foot forward between the hands. Walk your left hand about 6 inches in front of your left foot, and about an inch over to the left.
Use your core and back muscles to engage the left leg as you push off it to extend the right leg long behind you. Open through your chest as you maintain the lift the of the right leg, keeping it parallel to the floor. Your right arm lifts up toward the sky and your whole body is strong and supported by your muscles.
Make sure that you only have about 5% of your bodyweight on your hand, as most of your weight should be on your standing leg. Take 5 deep breaths here.
7. Sugarcane Pose
Ardha Chandra Chapasana
From Half Moon, bend the right leg and try to reach for it with your right hand. Keep the left hand barely on the floor so that you ensure your standing leg is doing most of the work. This helps build your core (back and abdominal muscles) more.
With your right hand grabbing the right foot, push the right foot into the right hand and arch your back like you would in Dancer's Pose (Natarajasana). Keep your standing leg engaged and take 5 deep breaths.
8. Scale Pose
Now for the grand finale! Lower to your knees and sit back on your heels and rest for a few breaths before you begin. When you're ready, place your hands on the outside of your knees with your fingertips in line with the edge of your knees. Bend your elbows so that your chest touches your thighs.
On an inhale, press the hands firmly into the floor so that your arms straighten and your back rounds slightly. As you straighten your arms, lean forward and keep your thighs pressed up against your chest as much as you can. The legs will drop a bit, because of the need to build strength in the abdomen and quads.
Keep leaning forward as you try lifting one or both feet off of the floor and contract your hamstrings so that your heels touch your glutes.
Even if your legs don’t come up off of the floor, keep pushing the floor away from you with your hands and keep trying. Eventually it will happen! Be patient. Take 5 deep breaths or 5 push attempts.
When you're ready to release the pose, you can also try my, "Fire Up Your Core With These 7 Yoga Moves" sequence if you've still go some fire left in your belly.
Otherwise, lay down on your back and rest your whole body for a few minutes, to disengage all of your muscles and reap the benefits of your hard work.
Gallery Credit: Nicholas Oscoff/mindbodygreen