Your external obliques are muscles that cross your belly from your ribs to near the top of your pelvis. These muscles help you bend over and pull your chest toward your pelvis. Your internal obliques wrap around your waist below your ribs. These muscles help you twist your waist and bend from side to side. Stretching and strengthening your obliques through yoga exercises can help to stabilize your spine and strengthen your core. The gentle stretches and poses can improve your overall fitness by increasing strength and flexibility and improve your mood. The controlled breathing, poses and meditative quality of yoga helps to reduce stress and promotes relaxation.
Revolved Abdomen Poses
The Jathara Parivartanasana, revolved abdomen pose, works both the internal and external oblique muscles to firm up the abdomen and stabilize the spinal column. Perform the revolved abdomen pose by lying on the floor on your back. Stretch your arms straight out from the shoulders. Bend your knees and bring them upward until your shins are parallel to the floor. Exhale and then lower both of your knees to the right. Make sure to keep your shoulders flat against the floor. Inhale deeply as you bring your knees back to the center, and then lower your knees to the left. Do this exercise five times on each side.
Twisting poses really work the obliques. The Trikonasana, or triangle pose, rotates your torso and works against gravity to strengthen and stretch your abdominal muscles. When you perform the triangle pose to the left, your obliques twist your torso to the right. Stand with your feet about 4 feet apart. Turn your right foot until your toes point to the right and your right heel points toward your left foot. Bend your right knee until your knee is directly over your right heel. Slowly scoot your left foot back to expand your stride. Stretch your arms out in a “T” position straight out from the shoulders. Rotate your torso and lower your right hand to the floor behind your right foot as you stretch your left arm toward the ceiling. Lift your right hip until your right leg straightens and you lengthen your reach toward the ceiling. Repeat this pose on the other side to work the left obliques.
Half Moon Pose
The half-moon pose, or the Ardha Chandrasana, stretches and lengthens your obliques. This position requires good balance. Stand up straight with your legs about 4 feet apart. Turn your right foot to the right until your toes point toward the right and your heel is facing the inside of your left foot. Stretch your arms out in the “T” position, as if you are going to perform the triangle pose. Breathe out and lower your body toward the right until your hand touches the floor. Rotate your torso so your left hand is pointing toward the ceiling. Simultaneously lift your left leg up toward the ceiling. Hold the position for 30 seconds to one minute and repeat on the other side.
Health and Safety
Yoga can be safe for most everyone, but if you have certain health conditions you should see your doctor before doing yoga. Pregnant women and women who have balance problems should take precautions to avoid some difficult poses and stretches. Women with osteoporosis should not do yoga unless their doctor deems it safe. Women with artificial hip and knee joints or uncontrolled high blood pressure should see their doctor before doing yoga.
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.