Yoga, from its advent thousands of years ago, was a spiritual discipline that was born in the East. Over time, yoga has changed significantly, and modern practitioners place much more emphasis on strength, flexibility and relaxation. Most yoga poses are full body exercises, but some place greater emphasis on one body part over another. Unfortunately, it is impossible to tone just the stomach without significant changes to your diet and exercise habits. Eat nutritious, well-balanced meals and aim for at least 150 minutes per week of cardiovascular activity in addition to yoga. Consult your physician before beginning a new diet and exercise plan.
Begin the setu bandha sarvangasana or bridge pose lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet together on the floor. Draw your feet in as close to your sacrum as possible. Extend your arms by your sides, palms facing the ceiling. Engage your core muscles. Exhale and tuck your buttocks under and up. Contract your gluteal and thigh muscles and press your pelvis toward the ceiling. Continue the upward motion until your thighs are nearly parallel with the floor. Tilt your chin up slightly to press your shoulder blades into the floor. Keep your knees in line with your heels. Hold the bridge pose for 30 to 60 seconds, then roll your torso back to the floor starting at the top of the spine.
The paripurna navasana is a very challenging exercise. It may be helpful to do the pose in front of a mirror so you can check your form. Sit on the floor with your legs extended and your toes pointed away from your body. Pull your shoulder blades back and down and elongate your spine. Place your hands on the floor by your hips, palms down with your fingers pointed at your feet. Lean back slightly, but keep your back absolutely flat. Exhale and bend your knees toward your chest while lifting your feet off the floor. Attempt to extend your legs fully and point your toes at the ceiling. Lift your hands off the floor and extend your arms at the shoulder joint so they are parallel to the floor. Breathe deeply and hold the pose for 10 to 20 seconds. To make the pose easier, keep your knees bent and your palms on the floor. Work your way up to the full boat pose.
Lie on your stomach with your palms under your shoulders and your toes curled toward your torso. Your feet should be together with your heels pointed at the ceiling. Engage your core, thigh and gluteal muscles. Exhale and press your body off the floor until your arms are fully extended. Your shoulders should be in line with your wrists. Pull your shoulder blades out and down and make sure your back is perfectly flat. Don't arch your buttocks or allow your waist to sag toward the floor. Breathe deeply and hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
The cow pose or bitilasana is a good way to stretch after a workout. Begin in a hands and knees position with your shoulders directly above your wrists and your knees in line with your hips. Flatten your back and look down at the floor. Inhale and tilt your buttocks and chest toward the ceiling. Pull your belly button down so your torso makes a U-shape. Exhale and slowly return to the start position. Repeat the exercise 10 to 20 times.
Carolyn Robbins began writing in 2006. Her work appears on various websites and covers various topics including neuroscience, physiology, nutrition and fitness. Robbins graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology and theology from Saint Vincent College.