Think you need to do endless crunches or planks to get strong, sexy abs? Think again: You can also do yoga for abs. Yoga not only engages the rectus abdominis (aka the six-pack), but also the deeper core muscles that keep the body steady while holding balance poses.
The core is a group of intertwining muscles in the torso that work together to support your spine and pelvis. The muscles of the core—such as the intercostals, obliques, iliopsoas, and serratus anterior—provide balance, stability, and the power to lift and move the body effectively and efficiently.
Establishing a consistent yoga practice can strengthen all core muscles, which can improve your posture and mobility, as well as take the load off your lower back. Remember, breathing deeply during these exercises—particularly on the exhale as the muscles contract—also engages the core and builds a stable center.
Here are 10 yoga poses to help strengthen your abs.
1. Boat Pose (Navasana)
Plant your sit bones (the bones directly under the flesh of your butt) firmly on the floor, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the ground. Sit up straight (your chest should remain higher than your knees) and brace your core as you raise your lower legs until your calves are parallel to the floor. Keeping the stomach in, spine straight and chest lifted, extend the arms forward just outside the knees, palms facing each other. For a greater challenge, straighten the legs. Hold for eight to 10 breaths.
2. Triangle Pose (Utthita trikonasana)
Stand tall, placing your hands on your hips and positioning your feet three to four feet apart. Point your right toes toward the front of the mat and your left toes toward the side of the mat, with the heel of your front foot aligned with the arch of your back foot. Extend your arms out to the sides. Shift your rib cage to the right, then, keeping the spine straight, reach your right hand toward your right ankle and your left hand to the ceiling. To work the core muscles even more, extend your arms straight above your head while holding a block between the hands. Hold for eight to 10 breaths. Raise your torso back up, switch foot positions, and repeat on your other side.
3. Dolphin Pose (Makarasana)
Begin in a plank position with your weight resting on your forearms instead of your hands. Your shoulders should be directly above your elbows, and your palms should be flat on the mat. Take a deep breath and then exhale, lift your hips, and walk your feet 12 to 24 inches toward your elbows, depending on your flexibility. Hold for eight to 10 breaths.
4. Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Stand tall and focus on a point on the floor about three feet in front of you. Extend your arms straight out in front of your chest, and then “entwine” your arms, wrapping your left arm under and around your right, and gripping either your right hand or right forearm with your left hand. Bend your elbows until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor. If you’re new to this pose, bend your knees and place your left leg on top of your right, so that your feet and knees are stacked. If you’re ready for a challenge, lift your left leg over your right leg and wrap your left foot behind your right calf. Hold for eight to 10 breaths, switch sides, and repeat.
5. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Start by lying on your stomach with your legs together and straight, your elbows bent, and your wrists a few inches behind your shoulders. Press down with your palms and the tops of your feet to lift your chest forward and up toward the ceiling, while squeezing the shoulder blades together and sliding your feet forward an inch or two. Continue lifting until your arms are straight and your thighs come off the mat. Hold for eight to 10 breaths.
6. Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
Support your body with one arm, stacking your shoulders and your feet. Keep your entire body straight from head to heels—do not let your hips sag. Hold for eight to 10 breaths, then switch sides.
7. Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Begin in downward facing dog, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet slightly wider than hip width. Lift one foot off of the floor, bend the knee and drive it towards your chest, and step the foot in between your hands. Keeping your front leg bent and your rear knee off the floor, lift your chest up and raise your arms to the ceiling. Press your hips forward, and keep your front knee pointing straight forward and in line above your ankle. Square your hips and engage your core. Reach your arms high, with the palms facing one another. Keep your shoulders pressed down. Hold for eight to 10 breaths, return to downward facing dog, and repeat with the other leg.
8. Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)
Assume a push-up position with your arms straight and your weight on your hands, with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes and brace your core to lock your body into a straight line from head to heels. Hold for eight to 10 breaths.
9. Dolphin Plank
From plank pose, bring your forearms to the floor with your palms down. Keep your elbows directly beneath your shoulders, squeeze your glutes, and brace your core. Lock your body into a straight line from head to heels. Hold for eight to 10 breaths.
10. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Stand with your toes together and your heels slightly separated. On an inhale, raise your arms above your head and alongside your ears, so your palms are facing one another. Then bend your knees to lower your hips down and back, like you are sitting in a child- sized chair, until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your arms extended and your chest lifted, with your spine straight. Hold for eight to 10 breaths.