Friday, October 12, 2012

Ab Workout

Rib-Cage Reach
Helps stretch and lengthen the sides of the body, opening up the muscles around the solar plexus.  Stand with feet 2 to 3 feet apart, toes turned slightly out and knees bent. Extend arms to your sides. Keep your shoulders down. Inhale, and then exhale as you reach right with your arm and rib cage. Inhale as you come to center, and then reach left as you exhale. Repeat 16 times (eight on each side).
Toe Reach
Works the upper portion of the abdominal muscles, building heat and strength in the solar plexus. Start on your back. Lift your legs straight up. Breathe in. Lift your shoulder blades and reach your right arm up and across toward your left foot as you exhale (your other arm should be relaxed, but not resting on the floor). Inhale as you come back down to start, with shoulder blades still raised.
Exhale as you reach your left arm toward your right foot. Keep your hips still. Alternate arms for 20 counts.
Quiet Your Mind: Solar Plexus Meditation
Quiets your mind and hones your focus so you are fully present in this workout. Because the solar plexus is associated with the third chakra, you focus on the color yellow, which is linked to this energy center of the body and believed to inspire confidence, will, and personal power.  Lie back in Corpse pose, palms facing up. Picture a yellow flower, its petals fully open, at your solar plexus. With eyes closed, imagine it floating up with each inhalation and down with each exhalation, riding a slow, gentle wave. Focus on your breath and the flower for two to five minutes.

Fish Pose
Releases and opens the solar plexus; also opens the body and facilitates breathing. This pose gives you the invigorating experience of a back bend without an actual back bend. By countering the ab contraction from the prior exercise, this pose helps to open and stretch the core muscles while relieving tension.  Start by lying on a mat. Sit up on your elbows, bringing hands underneath your buttocks, palms down. Slowly arch your back, pressing your weight into your elbows and buttocks (not your head), until the crown of your head touches the ground. Breathe through your nose, with eyes open, for 30 to 60 seconds.
Pilates Saw
Aligns the body and helps with posture; strengthens and stretches the back muscles, also pivotal to core strength.  With your feet 3 to 4 feet apart and slightly turned out, extend arms to the sides at shoulder level. Take a breath; on the exhalation twist your torso to the left, and then reach down and across to your left foot. Inhale as you return to center and repeat on the other side, being careful not to round your back. Alternate right and left. Repeat sequence 10 times (five on each side).
Using a Hula-Hoop may seem like child's play, but it requires coordination, drawing on all the dynamic muscles of your core, particularly ones you don't regularly use.  Stand with your feet firmly on the ground and the Hula-Hoop around your waist. With the hoop up against your back and your hands holding on to the sides, throw the hoop to the right and catch it with your hips, rotating your hips to keep the hoop circling high around your waist. Aim to keep the hoop going for about three minutes. And have fun!

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