Leaving yoga classed totally blissed out and centered is a great feeling, but knowing that you also got a killer ab workout takes the amazingness up a few notches. (Otherwise, you’d just skip chair pose all together, right?)
When it comes to working the core, YoYoga! founder Rebecca Weible goes harder than most instructors—even her regular power yoga classes are ab-centric, particularly when it comes to that easy-to-neglect lower region. It’s why people flock to her studio in Midtown East. (That, and her amazing rooftop classes.)
“You should be asking yourself things like: ‘What’s happening in my lower back? How is my core working here? How can it help me in this pose?'”
“Every yoga pose is going to engage your core, whether on a light level or a deeper engagement,” Weible says. “Checking in with your core should be on your mental checklist. You should be asking yourself things like: ‘What’s happening in my lower back? How is my core working here? How can it help me in this pose?'”
Here, Weible zeros in on five poses that really target the lower abs. But keep in mind that all of these moves are about so much more than wearing crop tops. “The stronger your core, the more yoga you can do because you won’t be just relying on your back muscles or legs—and that’s going to help you power through any sport,” the yogi explains.
Keep reading for your step-by-step guide to the 5 yoga moves with lower-ab superpowers.
1. Leg lifts
Start by lying on your back and bring your legs to your chest and rock a little, side to side, to lengthen your lower back. That way, when you lift your legs to the ceiling, your lower back will really be anchored onto the mat. Line your ankles up with your hips, keeping your lower back on the mat. Your legs can be bent or straight, whichever you prefer.
With your core engaged, raise the legs up toward the ceiling, then lower them between 6 to 12 inches. From there, push your lower back into the mat with your core engaged and use your lower back to lift your legs back up. Inhale as you raise, exhale as you lower.
Be mindful that the movement is controlled and you aren’t swinging your legs—this will engage the core more.
Do 2 sets of 10 reps
2. Hip raises
This move uses a yoga block, but a pillow or other object will work just as well—it’s just something you’ll be balancing between your feet. Put the block right at the soles of your feet, and go back to the same position as you were in for the first move, lying on your back with your ankles over your hips.
Try to lift the back of the hips and lower back—gentle movements, up and down, almost like you are trying to press the block flat up to the ceiling and then back down. Inhale as you lift, exhale as you lower back down.
Trying to keep that block on your feet really isolates your lower ab muscles—it’s that same principle of using control to access your core.
Do 20 reps
3. Block pass
Take your block—or whatever object you’re using—and hold it between your hands, lying flat with your arms overhead. Extend your hands out in front of you, hovering above the mat, almost sitting up in a little crunch to bring the block forward and fitting it between your feet.
Then, stretch your legs away from you (with the block between your feet), extending your arms overhead and coming back into your start position. Reach forward, grabbing the block, and bring it back overhead.
Do 10 to 15 reps
Move into downward dog. Then, extend your right leg up and back behind you for three-legged dog, keeping your hips nice and square. Bend your knee forward and try and touch it to your forehead. Shift your weight forward, almost coming into plank pose.
Your shoulders come over your wrists and your back is going to round a bit, just like for cat pose, and you’re going to feel the navel pulling deeply into the spin, really engaging the lower abdominals. Try to keep the shin as far away from the mat as possible—it will cause your core to really lift.
Then, extend the right leg up and back, into three-legged dog. On the last rep, step the foot between your hands.
Do 10 reps on each side
5. Warrior III
Stand with two feet on the mat, shifting the weight into your right foot. All five toes should be on the mat, without squeezing it, and there should be a softness in your knees. Pick up the left foot, bending the right knee. Pull that leg to your chest and interlace the fingers around your left knee, really opening up your chest as you do so. This will help engage the core and you’ll feel the navel and the lower abs lifting in and up.
Lower your leg back down and move into warrior III. Your back should be nice and flat, not curved. This will help keep the core engaged, pulling the lower abs in and up. It will also help keep the chest open, and that action in the core will really anchor you into the pose and help you stay still.
Do one rep—with four breaths—on each side