The Ab Exercises That Will Take Your Yoga Practice To The Next Level
Ever wonder how people manage to lift one leg up in downward-facing dog and then step forward into a low lunge —without taking two or three or ten steps forward or landing with an echoing thud? Here are some secrets that will help you smoothly and silently pull off the same feat:
Not your biceps, your spine. It may seem counterintuitive to the "don't round forward" poor posture cue you hear all the time, but you have to round, round, ROUND your back as much as you can to create enough space for your leg to move forward.
Enjoy the ride.
If you're only thinking about your starting place (down dog) and your ending place (low lunge), you're likely ignoring all the moments in between and your transition forward might be clumsy and awkward. Bring your attention to each moment as you step forward to enjoy the process and make this move more fluid.
Befriend your abs.
This move requires attention to your abdominals. Instead of the 100-crunches-a-night type of abdominal exercises, think breath-focused ab and plank work that flows and makes your midsection stronger. To that end, I developed this sequence of five moves to build your arm strength, increase flexibility in your back and hamstrings, use breath work to strengthen your core, and—of course—let you practice stepping your foot forward silently.
Start on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Inhale into cow pose. Arch your back to broaden across your chest and lift your sit bones up to the ceiling. Exhale into cat pose (as shown) and focus on rounding your spine in order to make an even curve through your back. Stay in cat pose as you inhale, then exhale and draw your belly up to deepen the curve. Breathe like this in cat pose for 2 more breath cycles. Release and then repeat the entire cycle 3 more times.
Cat/Cow Leg Lift
Start on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
Inhale into cow pose and simultaneously reach one leg back behind you (as shown). Exhale, round your back into cat pose, and draw your knee into your forehead. Round your back as much as you can and lift your belly up toward your spine. Do this move 4 times on this leg, then repeat on the other side.
Start in downward-facing dog and lift your heels up away from the ground. Round your back as if you’re going into a cat pose (like the spinal flexion you practiced in the previous exercises—as shown) and ripple forward like a wave into a plank. Your head should be the last part to unravel into the plank. Crease at your hips to lift up and back to downward-facing dog. Repeat 3 more times.
3-Legged Plank With Twist
Start in a downward-facing dog and lift one leg up (as shown). Come forward into a plank as you bring your knee into your chest and across to the opposite arm. Stay in the plank for a full breath cycle and draw your knee up and in as close to your chest as possible. Move back to 3-legged down dog and do this move 3 more times. Repeat on the other side.
Start in a downward-facing dog and lift one leg up. Come forward into a plank and bring your knee as close as you can to your inner elbow. Stay in your plank and move your knee to the outside of your upper arm (as shown). Go back and forth between the inner arm and outer arm 3 times. Return to 3-legged down dog and repeat on the other side.
Now put all of these moves together to step forward from down dog to low lunge!