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Simply Core Program

The Best Exercises for Core Strength

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Get in Shape Without Setting Foot in a Gym

Visit home practice with Ana Forrest ab-solutely centered!

to begin

Breathe Sit in Baddha Kona-sana (Bound Angle Pose) and place your hands behind you on the floor. Lift your chest, relax your chin down, and slide your shoulder blades down your back. Inhale and hold the breath for 10 to 15 seconds. Exhale and hold for 5 to 10 seconds as you pull your abdominal muscles back and up, flaring the ribs into Uddiyana

Bandha (Upward Abdominal Lock). Do a few rounds.

to finish

Continue Your body heats up with abdominal work, so your practice can go many directions from here.

Rest Close your practice by hanging in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) before Sava-sana (Corpse Pose).

Work from your core to find strength for your entire practice.

Ana knows abs! Indeed, Ana Forrest is known for challenging students and putting them through more ab work than most other teachers. You'll hear moans and groans during her classes, but students exult after the work is done. "The benefits outweigh the difficulty," says the Forrest Yoga founder, who maintains that solid abs are essential. "If the core is weak, abs aren't doing their work and other parts of the body are adversely affected." In addition to toning the abs, the following poses can also alleviate back pain, aid digestion and elimination, and stimulate circulation to internal organs, says Forrest, who created the sequence.

As you work, keep these things in mind: Press the low ribs, low back, and top rim ofthe sacrum firmly into the floor. To avoid bruising, use sufficient padding—a blanket or a folded-over mat. Keep your feet active, relax your neck, and breathe deeply You might feel sore the next day, but that's OK. "Congratulations," says Forrest, "you used your muscles in a new way" Do Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) or a sidebend between poses to release ab muscles. Over time, says Forrest, you'll notice benefits that go beyond the physical. "You'll feel strong, steady, centered, and ready to deal with life's challenges. You'll have less anxiety, clearer thinking, and more energy You'll feel calm and centered."

So when ab work seems unappealing, do a little anyway. The work will build more than just your core: You'll strengthen your practice, center yourself, and hone your life skills. diane Anderson

{ If you're pregnant, skip ab work altogether. }

home practice with Ana Forrest

1 Seated Sidebend

Bring your feet together in Baddha Konasana. Take 4 breaths with each arm position. First, place your left hand straight out on the floor one foot from your left hip. Inhale and stretch your right arm up over your ear, root your right sitting bone, and lean left. Exhale, pulling the left shoulder away from the left ear. Inhale and stretch your right ribs. Exhale. Relax your neck. Now, stretch your right arm to the right until the fingertips are one foot above the floor, and breathe for 4 breaths. Bring your torso back to center and use your left hand to gently guide your head up, rather than yanking your neck. Repeat on the other side.

2 Elbow to Knee

Lie on your back and bend your knees to 90 degrees. Clasp your hands under your head. Inhale and lift your head and shoulders up. Hold your inhalation as you curl your tailbone up. As you exhale, reach both elbows toward your right knee and straighten your left leg. At the end of your exhalation, pull your belly in. Keep your head up as you inhale back to center, and bend both knees. Hold your inhalation and lift your tailbone. Exhale and reach both elbows toward your left knee; straighten the right leg. Beginners, do 5 repetitions per side; intermediates, do 8 to 10.

3 Abs with a Mat

Roll up a mat, lie back, and place the mat between your legs. Clasp your hands behind your head and lift your legs. Inhale, press the low back into floor, hold the breath, lift your tailbone, and squeeze the mat. Exhale, curl your head and shoulders up, lift your tailbone again, squeeze the mat, and pull your belly in. Inhale and slowly lower your head and pelvis. Beginners, do 3 to 5 times; intermediates, do 5 to 10.

4 Straddle Lifting Through

Clasp your hands behind your head. Inhale and lift your legs up. Exhale and let your legs open to a wide straddle. Inhale and lift your head and shoulders. Exhale, curl your tailbone

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