Yoga, as a lifestyle and philosophy, can be practised by all who aspire to because it belongs to all of humanity. - Shri K Pattabhi Jois

This quote, by that famous yogi, goes on to say: "It is not the property of any group or individual, and can be accomplished by anyone, anywhere in the world, regardless of social class, values or religion."

If that doesn't declare that yoga is the most democratic of fitness and lifestyle disciplines, perhaps none can be.

Regarding cardio and strength training - two of the most oft-practised types of sport, it is sometimes difficult to sustain a fitness activity that is both effective and pleasant. To prove that point, we only need to consider the gym memberships that go unused and the exercise equipment regularly listed for sale on Craigslist or other online adverts.

This is why it is important to not only choose a sport you'll stick with but also to make sure you will enjoy its effects.

One reason people are compelled to work out is to get those 6-pak abs or flat, toned stomach that so many go on about on social media. Achieving those results involves working out, of course, but also by strengthening the abdominal and pelvic girdle.

Yoga is the ideal activity to link the principle of pleasure to all work of getting those abs you want.

Connecting the body and the mind is the foundation of yoga. Thus, a series of asanas (postures) allows you to work on breathing, alignment, as well as targeted areas including the belly. Still, you have to know which poses will yield the most benefit to the areas you want to improve.

Some asanas are more suitable for developing the bust, others are perfect for the buttocks, while some postures allow you to dislodge abdominal fat more easily, burn stored calories and even tone that stubborn transverse abdominal muscle.

To lose belly and gain abs, here are the 10 best yoga exercises.

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The Cobra Pose for a Flat Stomach

The Cobra pose ranks among the great classics of yoga. From its original name "Bhujang asana", this posture is perfect for building abdominal muscles and removing fat from the abdomen.

What makes this pose even more beneficial is that the Cobra is ideal for stretching the spine and back.

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Modified cobra poses also work your abs
This modified cobra pose will also work your abs but, for maximum effect, place your hands around your ankles. Photo credit: yogamama.co.uk on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Start this pose by lying facedown on your mat with your legs straight. Place your palms on your mat, just below your shoulders.

Push up on your forearms to raise your chest. As you flow upward, your head remains square atop your shoulders. Extending your arms until they are straight, open your chest up, breathing as regularly as possible. The legs remain stretched on the mat. Hold the position looking straight ahead or, to intensify the move, tilt your head back as far as you can.

Hold the pose for about 30 seconds or ten breaths. The main thing is to listen to your body, do not force yourself to hold if your arms or back cry out for relief! Repeat the pose 3 to 5 times.

Over the weeks, you should feel the Cobra's effects and rediscover your flat stomach. Naturally, you should practise sound nutrition and adopt more than one yoga posture. To help you along, here are nine more.

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Rediscover Abdominal Strength with The Plank Pose

Also called "Kumbhakasana", the Plank is a well-known exercise, executed by military troops and fitness enthusiasts alike. It is very easy to assume the position but much more difficult to maintain it. Still, it is the perfect pose for a flat, sheathed stomach!

The overall sheathing is in the spotlight, especially the abdominal strap known as the transverse muscle that protects your organs. To start, get on all fours with your hands on the floor. And then, position yourself as though you were about to do a few push-ups.

Be sure to keep your head level; you will look down at your mat as you hold this pose. Also, make sure your back stays straight, an inward curve could injure your lumbar muscles and even your spine.

As you plank, the alignment between the shoulders, glutes and heels must be perfect. Once you attain it, hold the pose for about 30 seconds while breathing calmly. You should feel a welcome pull in your abs. Once you do, you know the move is working right. Congratulations!

If you repeat the pose four to five times throughout your yoga session, you should see some results on your stomach in just a short time. Soon, you'll get tons of compliments over your slimmer waistline!

Bonus fun yoga fact: the Plank pose is a transition position in the cycle of sun salutations.

The Bow Pose: Stretch and Reinforce

The Bow pose (or "Dhanurasana") is a yoga asana particularly recommended to those who want a flat stomach. It also serves well to strengthen the abs.

Just as with the Cobra pose, you start by lying facedown on your mat. Your legs are stretched out but, this time, your arms rest along your body.

Again channelling the Cobra, you will raise your torso - but without your arms providing the lift. At the same time, direct your feet towards your glutes by bending the knees. As you do that, raise your arms so that your hands will meet and encircle your ankles.

There's a lot to this asana - indeed, it is an acrobatic position that, if done right, will leave only your abs and pelvis on the mat. If you are flexible enough to attain this position, you may choose to rock gently back and forth, following the rhythm of your breath.

If you're not quite that flexible yet, don't strain! give your body time to adapt to all of the new movements.

The Bow pose stimulates your abdominal muscles and stretches your back but, above all, it massages your abdomen, especially if you rock with each breath.

When you release from this pose, remember to not do it all at once. Go slowly, step by step, in reverse order, until you are once again flat on your mat.

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Holding the boat pose will work your abs well
The boat pose is one of the best ways to tone and condition your abs Photo credit: Matt Madd on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Boat Pose Yoga: a Flat Stomach, Guaranteed

The "Naukasana" (literally 'boat' + asana) is a particularly effective posture to dislodge the stores of visceral fat. It is as effective as it is difficult to hold, if only because it calls for you to balance on your glutes. Are you ready to start?

Sit on your mat with your back straight and your legs straight in front of you, with your arms alongside. Your hands should be flat on the mat. And then, slowly lean your body back. As your back travels, lift your legs one by one, all while keeping your abdominals tight.

At the same time, lift your arms and point them straight ahead, still with your legs raised. (Note: you can intensify the pose by raising your arms and legs to the sky).

Hold the pose  for 30 seconds, mindful of your breathing, and then release slowly. Repeat about five times to create the maximum disturbance on those fat stores.

Fun yoga fact: your arms can benefit just as well from yoga asanas that target them than from lifting weights.

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The Side Plank to Target Your Obliques

We've already discussed the "classic" Plank pose; now let's talk about the side plank. It's always nice to get a bit of change in one's routine and besides, this plank is best for working the obliques. These are the long, strappy muscles that course down either side of your (soon to be rediscovered) six-pack.

It will also work what is known as the inner obliques, the group of muscles that lie deeper inside your abdomen.

You will start from the standard plank, and then pivot into the side plank pose. Your feet should stack atop one another and your legs should remain straight. Hold the pose for a few breaths and then pivot back to the home position. You may then roll the other way or flow into another asana and plank the other side later on.

Basically, it all boils down to planking, but only on one side. The idea is to maintain your balance by working the muscles - specifically, the obliques.

The Wind Relieving Pose to Counter Bloating

A well-known yoga posture, the Wind Relieving pose ("Pavanamukthasana") has many beneficial effects on your interior and exterior. Naturally, the muscles of the abdomen are involved. For all that it works your abs and other muscles, it is nevertheless a very relaxing pose.

The initial idea is to lie face-up on your mat, legs extended and heels together, arms at your sides. Bend one knee, and bring it up to your bust. Encircle it with your arms and squeeze gently. Alternatively, you may bring both legs up at the same time.

Breathe out, inhale, while holding the position for a good minute. Repeat the posture five times. Your belly will be stimulated and the muscles of your abdomen, too.

Note this asana's name, though, and don't be surprised if a bit of wind escapes.

With all of this talk about posture, wouldn't you like to know how you can improve yours?

The Chair Pose to Bust Belly Fat

Like the Plank, the Chair pose is likely one you've done many times before. Essentially, to boils down to sitting in a chair without having a chair to sit on. Unlike sitting in a chair, however, your arms should be raised to shoulder height in front of your body, parallel to the floor.

You might say it's like doing squats - that would be true. Just be sure to keep your back straight and stop when your knees are at 90 degrees.

Here, and thanks to the sensation of warming muscles, you'll know your hamstrings are being worked but, by keeping your back straight, your abs are doing the brunt of the work. That's what we're after, isn't it?

The Camel Pose to Tone Your Abs

With its funny name, the Camel pose (or "Ustrasana") allows you to stretch the belly while stimulating the abdominal organs. To get that magic working, start on your knees, slowly curving backwards. Do it gently lest you injure yourself!

As your curve progresses, let your arms fall back. Once your hands are close enough, take your heels in your hands, and hold the posture for a good minute.

The Camel gradually helps to tone and define your stomach in addition to stretching the entire body.

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No need to do downward dog on water, just do it well
You don't need a surfboard to make the downward-facing dog effective; you only need to execute it well. Photo credit: Sworldguy on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

The Downward-Facing Dog to Gently Work Your Abs

Most everyone knows this iconic asana - and for a good reason, too! Not only does it work the abs but it also incorporates just about every muscle in your body.

You might have adopted this pose when you were a child: both hands and feet flat on the floor, legs and arms straight and glutes in the air. In essence, your body should form a V with your head and spine in a straight line.

Hold the pose for thirty seconds to a minute while breathing regularly. To diversify the posture, you can alternate lifting your legs - the higher the better. This will work on your balance and work your abs even more!

Did you know that Down-Dog is just as good at working your arms, back and legs as it is your abs?

The Perfect Pose for Your Abs: The Table

As you're still with us on this expanded yoga journey, you surely know what a plank looks and feels like. Now, we introduce the Table pose, also known as the "four-legged table" or "Bharmanasana", and a related pose named "Ardha Purvottanasana".

The difference is that one is done with your belly facing down - essentially being on all fours while the other represents the same pose, except your abs point to the ceiling.

As the first pose is already quite familiar, we only need to add that your head should be straight with your spine and your hands should be splayed on your mat, with your shoulders above your wrists and hips directly above your knees.

The reverse table-top pose draws on your sense of balance all while working your deep abdominals, arm and leg muscles and, of course, your joints. It also works wonderfully to open up your chest.

To adopt this pose, sit on your mat with your legs extended out in front of you. Place your hands several inches behind your hips and raise your knees, making sure to keep your feet planted. Now, raise your hips such that your shoulders, hips and knees form a line in parallel to the floor.

With your belly facing the sky, hold the pose for thirty seconds or longer if you can, always mindful to keep your head in line with your spine. To intensify the move, you can spread your feet further apart. Do it carefully, though, the idea is not to hurt yourself!

These ten exercises are as effective as they are different from each other and, by making them a part of your daily routine - along with sound nutrition and good sleep, you should achieve progressive weight loss and, above all, see a set of stomach muscles that will be the envy of all.

Namaste!

Now discover the best asanas to target every area of your body...

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Daniel

A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.