Tone Your Abs With These 6 Yoga Twists

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While yoga is a great way to stretch your hamstrings and open up your back, it's also a great way to get stronger.

Yoga twists in particular are a great way to flex and tone your abs. Even better, twists remove toxins from your body. Like a sponge squeezing out soap, twisting a yoga pose helps your internal organs do their job of cleansing and healthfully maintaining your body.

To maximize toning your abs while you detoxify, get into each core pose first. From there, inhale deeply and exhale into the twist by pulling your belly button in toward your spine. Hold each twist for five to ten slow, deep breaths. Back out of each twist by reversing the steps, then begin again on the other side. Spend an equal amount of time on each side to create balance in your body.

Ready? It’s time to get twisted!

Forward Fold Twist (Parivtrra Uttanasana)

Photo: K. Mae Copham by Robert Oakley

Begin with the core pose standing forward fold. Stand with your hands on your hips, then breathe out and fold forward. Reach your arms toward the floor and lengthen your spine. Bend one knee and place the same side's hand on the ground in front of your foot. If you can't touch the ground, hold on to your shin. Place your other hand behind you on your lower back. Turn your chest skyward and exhale fully.

If you feel balanced, reach your arm up toward the sky and look up. You'll feel a lot of release in your lower back with this twist.

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Twisted Chair (Parivtrra Utkatasana)

From a standing position, inhale and raise your arms. Exhale and bend your knees as if you are sitting down on a chair. Press your hands together in front of your chest. Turn to one side, lean forward, and hook your front elbow over the outside of your knee. Press your elbow against your knee to twist. As you twist, sit down in order to keep your weight in your heels.

Downward Dog Twist (Parivtrra Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward-facing dog is the quintessential core pose that makes for the perfect twist. Begin on all fours. Place your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips (table pose). Inhale, then exhale and press your tail toward the sky. Make yourself look like an upside down letter "V." Press through your hands and heels.

To twist your dog, firmly plant one hand, look back at your feet, and reach the other hand across your body to grab the opposite ankle. Pull your ankle, exhale, and look up at the sky. Turn your body toward the sky while keeping both feet and one hand planted. This pose twists your middle back.

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Twisted Lizard (Parivtrra Utthan Pristhasana)

Twisted lizard is really a low lunge twist, but I couldn't resist using this funny name. Begin in a low lunge with one leg stretched out behind you. Place one hand on the ground inside your front foot, just below your shoulder. Place the other hand on your bent knee for a moment to be sure you feel balanced, then turn your head that direction to look at the sky. Lift your hand and look up to increase the twist.

Twisted High Lunge (Parivtrra Alanasana)

Twisted high lunge challenges your balance while toning your thighs and arms as well as your belly. Begin in a high lunge by taking a big step forward. Bend your front knee so you can see your toes, and stretch your back leg behind you on your tiptoes. Inhale and reach your hands up high to begin. Tuck your tummy slightly. Exhale and bring the arm opposite your bent knee to shoulder level while you stretch the other arm behind you. If you feel balanced, turn your head to face in the direction of your twist. Breathe deeply.

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Twisted Triangle (Parivtrra Trikonasana)

Once you get into triangle pose, it can be addictive. This amazing pose opens up your hips, stretches your chest and arms, and tightens your abs with a gentle twist. From a standing position, take a big step forward. Turn your back foot out so you're facing to one side. Reach your arms out like the letter "T." Keep your legs straight. Breathe in and reach forward over your front leg while keep your back hip cocked. Breathe out while you slowly teeter-totter your arms until your hand touches your leg or the floor. Reach your opposite fingertips toward the sky and look upward. Keep leaning back and breathe.

To twist your triangle, keep your feet firmly planted while you switch your arms. The hand that's reaching toward the sky will touch the ground or your leg, while the other hand reaches upward. Your hips will square up too. Balance, breathe, and twist.

These are just a half dozen of the many yoga poses that are out there waiting to be twisted. Try them today to reap all the wonderful benefits that twists have to offer.

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