5 Yoga Moves for a Flatter Belly

Article posted in: Fitness
woman exercising at home

Looking to lose belly fat, crank up that core and reveal a gorgeous, flat tummy? We’re right there with you!

Yoga is one of our favorite activities because it helps us unwind and balance our hectic lives, plus it gives us a powerful full-body workout—and some killer core moves to boot! The great thing is, strengthening your core goes way beyond the elusive six-pack. “Because your abdominal muscles support the proper curves of your spine, strengthening your core can can help improve your posture and reduce back pain,” says Jennifer Smith, certified vinyasa instructor in Seattle, Wash. Core strength is important, Smith explains, because “it also helps improve balance and reduce your risk of injury in yoga and your other workouts.”

So let’s get right to it—roll out your mat for Jennifer’s five flat-belly moves you can practice right at home:

Lose belly fat with these five yoga moves:

Before you start:
Come to a comfortable seated position. Bring both hands to your belly, palm over palm, and close your eyes. Take a few breaths here, breathing fully into your lungs and belly. Then take a gentle twist to the right, left hand on right knee, gazing over the right shoulder. Hold for two breaths and repeat on the other side.

Move #1: Boat Pose (Navasana)
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How to do it: From a seated position, bend both knees and place feet flat on the mat in front of you, fingertips to the mat on either side of your hips. Elongate your spine, engage your core and roll your shoulders back to open the chest. Keeping your spine straight, lean back slightly, then lift your feet off the mat, bringing your shins parallel to the mat with bent knees. Focus on your core—is it engaged and stabilizing you from moving backward in this pose? Good. Now extend your arms straight out in front of you, palms facing up. If you need a little more challenge, work on straightening the knees and fully extending the legs, bringing your upper and lower body into a V-shape. Hold for five to 10 breaths.

Bonus burn: Slowly lower your back and your legs to a hover just above the mat, arms up overhead, then come back up to your Navasana pose. Use your core strength to stabilize you and move as slow as possible. Repeat this flow five to 10 times.

Move #2: Sleeping Crow Pose (Supine Bakasana)

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How to do it:
Lying flat on your back, bend your knees and bring them into your chest, about hip distance apart. Flex your feet at the ankles. Extend your arms overhead, then engage your core to lift your shoulders off the mat and extend arms up toward the sky, wrists flexed and palms facing the ceiling. As your shoulders and chest lift, align your knees to tuck in to your armpits. Now you’re in Crow Pose, on your back! Your core should be telling you that it’s working here, so if you’re trembling—you’re doing it right. Hold for five to 10 breaths.

Bonus burn: Keeping your core engaged, shoulders and chest lifted off the mat, slowly straighten and lower your legs to six inches above the mat, at the same extend your arms overhead to align with your ears. Hold for three breaths. Using your core muscles, move back into your Sleeping Crow Pose. Repeat this flow five to 10 times.

Move #3: Gate Pose (Parighasana)
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How to do it: Come to kneel on the floor, using a folded blanket or towel under your knees if they’re sensitive. Stretch your right leg out to the right with your foot flat on the floor. Keep your left knee stacked directly below your left hip, and align your right heel with the left knee. Keep your torso facing straight ahead and engage your core. On an inhale, circle your arms up overhead touching the palms together. On an exhale, lower your right hand down to your right thigh, coming in to a side bend with your left arm up. Turn your gaze up to look at your left forearm. Welcome to Gate Pose! Stay here for 10 breaths: On each inhale, contract your right side torso and on each exhale move deeper into the stretch as your right hand moves toward the shin. Repeat on the left side.

Bonus burn: From your full Gate Pose with right leg extended, inhale, circling your left hand up and over to the left, touching down outside of your left knee, as your right hand reaches up and over to the left to stretch the right side body. Exhale, circling both arms back into Gate Pose, contracting your core and right side torso. Repeat this windmill motion of the arms five to 10 times on each side.

Move #4: Plank Pose (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana)
yoga plank

How to do it: Come to hands and knees. Look down and make sure your wrists are aligned under your shoulders. Press into your hands, engage your core, then straighten one leg out behind you at a time, toes tucked, bringing your torso and legs into a straight line. Imagine pushing back on a wall with your heels. Keep your neck long and your gaze down. Firm your shoulder blades to the back and then spread them away from the spine. Check in to make sure your hips aren’t hiked up, or sagging down. Check in with your core—feeling the burn yet? Stay here for 10 breaths, dropping to your knees if needed.

Bonus burn: Lift your right toes six inches off the mat, then lower down slowly, tapping your toes on the mat. Repeat 10 times then switch to the left.

Move #5: Side Plank (Vashistasana)
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How to do it: From your Plank Pose, ground into your right hand and rotate your hips and heels to the right, coming to the outside edge of your right foot. Engage your core to lift your hips up and bring your left hand to your left hip, opening your chest and torso to the left. Stack your left foot on top of right, or for a little more support, bring the left foot slightly behind your right foot for a kick stand. Send breath to the core and keep the hips high. Hold for 10 breaths, then repeat on the left, resting on your knees between sides.

Bonus burn: From Plank Pose on the right side, lift your left leg, toes pointed, then tap left toes to the mat in front of your right foot. Lift through center, then tap left toes behind your right foot. Repeat five to 10 times.

Cool Down: Sphinx Pose
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Give your abs a nice deep stretch with Sphinx Pose. Lay belly down on the mat, bring your elbows directly underneath shoulders, forearms flat and fingers pointed straight ahead. Press into forearms to lift your chest and torso off the mat. Firm your legs and point your toes behind you. Send five deep breaths down to your belly, then lower down slowly. You did it—amazing work!

Heading to yoga class? Here are some tips for surviving your first yoga class!:

By now, we have all heard just how much yoga can do for our health. With a focus on calm, deep breathing, yoga increases flexibility and muscle strength, steadies the mind, relaxes the body, supports the nervous system, deepens sleep, improves balance, increases energy and improves respiration and heart health… just for starters. Yoga can also increase immunity, which is especially important this time of year.

According to the American Osteopathic Association, yoga can even help diminish chronic pain, including lower back ailments, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome, and can lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia. Yoga International says, “Relaxation specifically has been shown to be healing for chronic pain. It turns off the stress response and directs the body’s energy to growth, repair, immune function, digestion and other self-nurturing processes.”

So you know you should do yoga, and you’re ready to embark on your first yoga class. But how do you prep for your very first one? Here’s how:

Tip #1: Come Prepared

Loose fitting tops and pants can shift and drape around you during poses, leaving you a little more exposed than you might like and adding an unnecessary disturbance to your routine. For a confident and comfortable practice, ladies should wear a fitted tee or tank top and fitted yoga pants or leggings, and guys should wear a slim-fitted top and athletic fitting shorts or yoga pants. Be sure to bring a yoga mat with you as well. Some studios do provide them, but often at an additional charge. Also, be sure to bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated in between poses or sequences.

Tip #2: Be Polite

Arrive about 30 minutes early to check in, fill out any necessary paperwork for your first class and to situate your yoga mat and belongings. Maintain a low voice or practice silence within the studio itself, which is considered a sacred space for yogis.

Tip #3: Practice at Home

Use a yoga DVD or do a YouTube search for how-to videos to get acclimated with various common poses, so you feel more comfortable in class. Try these standard postures that you will most likely do in your yoga class: downward facing dog, upward facing dog, child’s pose, warrior 1 and warrior 2.

Tip #4: Keep an Open Mind

This is your first yoga class. Anyone who takes a class has been on your proverbial yoga mat before. Do not expect to walk out after your first call a yogi master. You may stumble and you may struggle to keep a balancing pose. However you feel in the poses, go with it. Embrace your journey, let go and don’t forget to breathe.