We’ve all heard about the amazing benefits of practicing yoga, from flexible muscles to calm minds. It all sounds great, but can it actually help tone our trouble spots? Yes! says Stefanie Eris, National Yoga Director for Exhale Spas. We asked Eris to break it all down and share the best yoga move to sculpt our arms, abs, butt, and thighs.
The Dolphin pose targets biceps, triceps and deltoids, “Which are the primary muscles that define our arms,” says Eris. This pose is like a downward facing dog, but resting on your forearms instead of your palms (here‘s a good visual). Next, try a Yoga Pushup: Stack your wrists directly over your elbows and keep your elbows pressed against your ribs while you roll your shoulders back (don’t hunch). Lower yourself until your arms form a 90 degree angle, but, “No more,” Eris warns. Dipping any lower can cause misalignment, which can lead to injuries. Explore the position as you gain strength by “Moving through a series of vinyasas (downward dog -> plank –> upward dog –> downward dog) throughout your practice.” Your arms will be burning!
“Deep breathing is crucial to connect deeply to your core,” stresses Eris. She explains that learning how to engage your deep abdominal muscles, the ones “That contract when you sneeze or bear weight” is a must. In order to strengthen your deepest core muscles, she suggests the Revolved Chair pose (see visual here). Begin in a chair pose and bring your hands to prayer position in front of you, then take turns twisting slowly to each side. The reason this pose is so effective in toning the abs is because, “While one side of your body is stretching, the other side contracts.” Remember to breath deeply while holding the twist, and keep your abs tight by knitting your ribs into your body.
The butt is one of those areas that almost everyone wants to improve. Eris suggests two moves that will strengthen the glutes and help us achieve a toned tush. First, the Down Dog Split: Start in a downward dog pose and slowly lift one leg behind you, reaching through your inner heel and lifting the leg as high as possible (example here). Next, lower the leg if necessary to square your hips so that they both face flat to the floor. “You will definitely feel your bum when you work to square the hips,” explains Eris. Next, it’s time for Half Moon, which Eris says “tones the outer hips and makes your butt look more narrow.” Start standing, and lean forward as you lift your left leg behind you to hip height (it’s OK to rotate your hip outward for this pose), placing your right hand on the floor in front of your right foot for balance (here‘s an example). Once your left leg is parallel to the floor and you can balance, lift your left arm straight up towards the sky. Hold for as long as you can, then repeat on the other side.
Isometric poses are particularly effective in toning thighs. “When you hold a yoga pose, you are isometrically engaging your muscles helping you to build endurance,” says Eris. The Devotional Warrior, described by Eris as a “truly humbling pose,” takes advantage of this type of work. From downward dog, step one foot through your hands and bend deep into the front knee (up to a 90-degree angle) keeping your back leg straight, toes pointed outward. Reach your arms behind you and clasp your hands together, then slowly lean forward while maintaining your balance (here‘s a great visual to go by). Next, try the Goddess pose. For those who took ballet, this is a deep second position plié (here‘s a good visual). Make sure that your ankles are stacked directly beneath your knees and your feet are pointed outward. Try pulsing in this pose staying as low as you can, and then holding at the lowest point for as long as you can to “really feel your thighs burn.”
Practicing these poses will result in increased stamina and muscle tone. “You will also benefit from a long, lean body that is as flexible as it is strong,” says Erin. Try these moves at home, or head to an ExhaleS pa near you for a group fitness class. Exhale is offering a combination of 5 award-winning Core Fusion, Yoga and other signature classes for only $50 during Spa Week at these locations:
exhale – Santa Monica
exhale – Harbor Point
exhale – Atlanta
exhale – Chicago
exhale – Dallas