The one area of their body that most people would like to improve is almost always their abs! With sedentary lifestyles and easily accessible high-calorie foods, everyone (even the thinnest people) seems to be struggling with bulging stomachs and weak abs. This has spawned weight-loss and diet industries that only seem to be growing by the day. So, is there an effective lifestyle solution to this modern-day phenomenon? While many exercise and diet routines claim to be able to blast the fat and whatnot, Yoga appears to offer the most holistic approach to strengthening your Core muscles. Here are 5 Yogic steps to a flat stomach! (If you have any chronic Back pains, please consult a qualified Yoga Teacher before practicing these techniques.)
1) Agnisaar Kriya: Before worrying about Calories consumed and burnt, first fix your digestive system! Most people continue to eat the same food and same quantity as they did when they were much younger, but the fact is that at that time their digestive system could cope with it. As we grow older our digestive system becomes less effective. Agnisaar Kriya is a Yogic technique to stimulate the digestive ‘agni’/ fire. Practicing this every morning will improve your digestion dramatically. In fact yogic scripture says that practicing this daily will make you strong enough to digest glass!
>> How to do Agnisaar Kriya! Stand with your legs wider than shoulder width and place your hands with your palms facing inwards on your thighs. Exhale and without breathing anymore; flap your stomach in and out – drawing in and releasing your stomach muscles!
2) Surya Namaskaar: Your basal Metabolic rate (BMR) is maintained by Thyroxin hormone and hormonal secretions also control most bodily functions. Yoga has a deep understanding of the inner workings of our bodies and so positively affects your ‘homeostasis’ or internal hormonal environment. This also keeps your weight under check. How to do Surya Namaskaar!
Surya Namaskaar is perhaps the most complete exercise for a variety of reasons! Apart from affecting your hormonal system positively, practicing Surya Namaskaar is a fantastic Cardio exercise, and also trains your Strength, Flexibility, Breathing and Focus. Practice 10 minutes of Surya Namaskaar daily, and soon you’ll be able to complete 60 rounds effortlessly! This is a far more effective cardio exercise than running even, as you’ll be using many more muscles of your body. If you’re a beginner, start with 11 rounds daily.
3) Chakrasana: Before you work on your Abs muscles, you need to stretch your Core area. Chakrasana does 2 important things. Firstly, it provides an intense stretch to the entire Core muscles. This prepares the muscles for the Core-strengthening exercises that follow. Secondly, it strengthens your Back muscles. It’s impossible to have a flat Stomach and strong Abs if you have a weak back! How to do Chakrasana >
4) Naukasana and Kati Naukasana: Yogasanas are isostatic exercises that strengthen and stretch your body. The focus of Naukasana is muscle endurance and strength of the abdominal muscles, since Yogis need a strong Core and Back in order to sit straight in Meditation for hours! Without a strong core, you can’t sit straight and you’ll start slouching in no time. Naukasana will tone your core area more effectively that conventional crunches. Hold Naukasana for 1-2 minutes and Kati Naukasana for 1 minute on each side. Focus on deep, rhythmic breathing and drawing in of your stomach every time you exhale. If you’re a beginner you can start with 30secs in each pose. How to do Naukasana >
5) Sampattasana: To finish your Yogasana sequence, practice Sampattasana for 1-2 minutes. This is similar to a modern plank pose. Here though, your focus is on deep, rhythmic breathing. Ensure that you are drawing in your core muscles every time you exhale, thereby creating a ‘crunch’-effect with each breath. You should try to bring down the number of breaths to about 10 for 1 minute in Sampattasana. How to do Sampattasana >
Once you have done these exercises, take a 5-minute rest in Shavasana (lying flat on your back) so that the nervous system and muscles can relax. Of course, you’ll also need to look into your food choices – let’s look into that in our next blog post!
– Manish Pole (Yogi, Writer) has taught over 11,000 Yoga classes over decade-long career! He is the Founder-Director of Total Yoga and a freelance writer on all aspects on Yoga and Zen Living.