5 Yoga asanas to tone your abs

Sculpt your abs with these poses that reduce belly fat, strengthen muscles, and improve flexibility.

Side plank or Vasisthasana
The asana uses your abdominals to help you balance on one arm and a leg. Other benefits include stronger arms, legs, and wrists and improved balance. Start by lying down on your right side, feet together. Put your right hand near your right shoulder and push up so that your arm is extended and your hips are off the floor. Your body should be supported by your right hand and the edge of your right foot. Ensure your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Lift your left arm towards the ceiling, in line with your shoulders, and point your fingers up. You can keep your head in a neutral position or turn it to look at your left hand. Hold the pose for 30 seconds. Then relax and lower your body to the floor. Repeat on the left side.
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Boat pose or Paripurna Navasana
This challenging asana is great for strengthening the abdomen, spine, and hip flexors. Sit on the floor, with your back straight, and stretch your legs out in front of you. Place your hands on the floor a little behind your hips. Slowly lean back a bit and raise your legs up off the floor. Remember to hold your belly in and not to round your back. Then raise your arms up, near your legs so that the palms are facing each other. If this proves to be hard, keep them near your hips. Adjust your pose till your body resembles a wide ‘V’, with you balancing on your tailbone and sitting bones. Hold the pose for about 20 seconds, and increase the time as you get more comfortable. Lower your legs as you exhale and sit up.
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Tree pose or Vrikshasana
Balancing on one leg is hard work and this pose will work your abdominals overtime. Stand with your spine straight and hands by your sides. Shift your weight on to your left leg and bend your right knee, bringing it towards your chest. Holding your right ankle, press the sole of your right foot flat into your left thigh. Find your balance. Then, raise your hands above your head and press your palms together. Push your abdominals into your spine to help balance yourself. Make sure to breathe slowly. Now fix your gaze on a point in the distance and focus. This will help drown out distractions while you hold the pose for 10 deep breaths. Now repeat the pose with the other leg.
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Bow pose or Dhanurasana
This asana stretches the entire front of your body, especially the abdomen, chest, and thighs, while strengthening all the muscles along your back. Lie on your stomach with your legs a little apart. Place your hands alongside your torso. Bend your knees and bring your heels as close as possible to your buttocks. Use your hands to hold your ankles; your knees shouldn’t be wider that hip-width. Inhale and lift your thighs off the floor and your heels away from your buttocks. As you do this, press your shoulder blades back and your chest off the floor. Make sure to continue breathing. Hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds. Release the ankles and exhale as you relax in the starting position. You can repeat the pose if you wish.
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Warrior pose III or Virabhadrasana III
This balancing asana engages your core, strengthens legs, ankles, and shoulders, while toning your abdomen and improving balance and flexibility. Stand straight, with your heels and toes touching. Raise both your arms above your head and spread your fingers. Shift your weight onto your right foot and bending at your hip extend your left leg behind you, parallel to the floor; toes should be pointed down. Stretch your arms in front of you so that your body takes a ‘T’ shape. Your body should be in straight line from the tips of your fingers to your back and all the way to your left heel. You can bend your right knee if you’re having trouble maintaining your balance. Stay in the pose for a few minutes. Slowly returning to the standing position and then repeat with the other leg.
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