When it comes to toning up, the stomach is the most common problem area. The stomach muscles are important for more than just looks; they hold and protect your abdominal organs. Whether your goal is to have a flat stomach or six-pack abs, strong abdominal muscles help to improve posture and body alignment, help balance, aid digestion and can alleviate heartburn and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It is important to be consistent and persistent, because it can take some time to see results when toning your tummy.
Sit on the mat with your back straight and your legs extended in front of you. Place your hands firmly on the floor just behind your hips with your fingers pointing toward your feet. Lift your chest and lean back slightly, shifting your weight to your bottom and tailbone. Bend your knees, drawing your feet in, until your thighs are at a 45-degree angle with the floor. Lift your feet off the floor and straighten your legs, maintaining the angle between your legs and the floor. Point your toes. Lift your arms, balancing on your bottom, and stretch them beside your legs parallel with the floor. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. This pose strengthens the rectus abdominis muscle.
Stand straight with your feet together. Bend at the waist to place your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart, with your fingers spread apart and pointing forward. Step back into a pushup position on the balls of your feet. Keep your arms straight and distribute your weight evenly between your hands and toes. Tuck your tailbone under to create a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold this pose by tightening your abdominal muscles for 30 to 60 seconds. The plank pose tones all of the muscles of the core.
Stand with your feet approximately 4 feet apart and your toes forward. Raise your arms straight out from your shoulders, palms facing down. Rotate your left foot so your toes point to the left while keeping your hips forward. Turn your right palm up and bend from the waist to the left. Keeping your arms extended, drop your left hand to the floor beside your left foot and raise your right hand toward the sky. Keep your shoulders and hips forward. With your head steady, look up to your hand. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side. This pose tightens the external and internal obliques.
Sit on your heels with your knees together and your calves parallel to the floor. Rise up onto your knees. Place your hands on your hips. Look up and lean back slowly. Lift and open your chest. Slowly move your hands one at a time to grab your heels. Push your hips forward so they are above your knees. Arch your back and drop your head backward, placing your weight in your arms. Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds. This pose works the rectus abdominis.
An American writer living in the United Kingdom, Christy Mitchinson began writing professionally in 2000, during her career in laboratory science, pathology and research. She has authored training materials, standard operating procedures and patient/clinician information leaflets. Mitchinson is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and creative writing with The Open University.