Women love yoga. As a proven form of stress relief — something every woman can enjoy — yoga offers a chance to unplug and unwind. But for those who have done serious yoga, you know it can also be an incredible workout, especially for the abs. With a variety of moves, yoga can challenge these core muscles, which are responsible for maintaining posture, preventing injuries and conducting daily activity. With the number of poses available, though, it can be hard to find the right ones to target the abs. Instead of searching and sorting through endless pose options, try a few that involve the pelvic area. You’ll not only get a great ab workout, you’ll also get a little of that much-needed stress relief to boot.
As a basic yoga pose, the Bridge can do wonders for the abs. It both strengthens and stretches these muscles while offering extra stability to the others in the core including the glutes and hips. According to the Yoga Journal, the Bridge pose is also great for reducing the common problems associated with PMS and relieving symptoms of menopause. For a great ab workout with the Bridge pose, aim to get your thighs as close to parallel with the floor as possible and contract the glutes, hips and abs. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to a minute and then relax and repeat.
Upward Bow or Wheel Pose
In a pose similar to the Bridge, but far more challenging, the Upward Bow or Wheel pose can give you an intense ab burn that lets you know you’ve done some work. The Upward Bow focuses on the abs while also strengthening the glutes, arms, legs and spine. Plus, with side health benefits including increased energy and open lungs, the Upward Bow can be a great way for you to increase total health. As an advanced move, beginners should be mindful of common form problems in the upward bow including the tendency of the knees to spread as you rise. Consider placing a band around them to start until you are able to hold the pose with greater ease.
Warrior III Pose
Build up a sequence that leads you to the Warrior III pose. As a standing pose that positions you to balance on one leg while bending at the pelvic area, this pose forces the abs to contract in order to maintain its form. Along with toning the abs, the Warrior III also strengthens the shoulders, arms, legs and back. It’s great for balance and, according to the Yoga Journal, has been linked to lower blood pressure. In order to get to Warrior III, most yoga students lunge forward at the torso, which causes them to fall off balance. Instead of allowing the torso to pitch forward, focus on pressing the head of the thighbone back as you arise and straighten the front knee. Doing this helps ground the heels into the floor and enhances stability.
If you’re looking to move that pelvis away from the floor while tightening the abs, try the Side Plank pose. This is a great move for strengthening the obliques, which can be tough to target when doing yoga. In a variation that stems from the standard Plank pose, the Side Plank offers a chance to engage the arms, glutes and back while working the obliques and overall abs. According to the Yoga Journal, however, it's an exercise that should be done with caution if you have wrist, elbow or shoulder injuries to consider. And remember to squeeze the upper ribs down while lengthening the right ribs during the Side Plank in order to engage the quadratus lumborum, a deep hip muscle that is often attributed to lower-back pain when weak.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.