I posted these photos on Instagram the other day with the following caption, but I figured I would make a blog post about it because I had so many questions and positive feedback hit my inbox and comments.
"Wheel variation. I love this pose because it really helps elongate your midsection by stretching out your obliques, creating those sexy, little vertical abdominal lines. This paired with seated spinal twists and side bend stretches (swipe left) are KEY to achieving a tight stomach, while also helping to cleanse your inner organs and ease digestion. Add these to your practice for a happy tummy and a chiseled core 😊"
I want to start by saying that wheel is considered an advance pose and you shouldn't just throw the pose into your practice without warming up and familiarising yourself with the correct alignment. With that being said, I hope to be able to walk you through a few poses and explain how these asanas can help you with your tummy confidence and health.
Seated Side Stretches
1. Start in a seated position, with your sitbones planted firmly onto the mat. Take a deep breath while simultaneously raising your arms out, up and over your head. Nice tall spine here, as if a string is pulling you straight up by your fingertips. The arms are long and engaged. The breath is steady. As fingertips touch, your gaze may gently follow being careful not to strain your neck muscles. After full inhale, pause and hold the air in for one second.
2. As you exhale, slowly allow your torso to bend at the waist. Make sure you keep your sitbones planted as they tend to lift when we bend. Make sure your heart and chest are facing forward as you reach your straight arm up and over, keeping it in alignment with your shoulders. Your assisting hand or arm is pressed firmly onto the mat, giving you stability as you stretch. Lengthen, lengthen, lengthen! You should feel a nice pull along your obliques,
3. As you inhale, use your abdominal muscles to pull you up as you slowly come up from your bend. Your gaze may follow your hand if you are comfortable. Use your reaching arm as a guide to your breath and how long you should take to return to a straight spine. When your reaching arm finds center again, you can begin to lift your supporting arm up and over to meet the other.
Remember to keep those sitbones firmly planted on the mat, it may feel easier to have some lift, but at the end of the day, it's not about how far you can bend over, but having proper alignment.
4. Allow yourself to take a long and easy exhale here, arms still stretched above. Find your expression—whether that be palms touching at center, both hands reaching towards the sky or another mudra that suits you. Now we inhale, feeling the energy erupt from your lungs and core, and follow that breath all the way up to the tips of your fingers. Repeat on the other side with your next exhale. Do this as many times as you like to promote a healthy happy tummy!
After a few rounds of these, I guarantee you will be feeling it along your sides, especially if you haven't done anything like these in a long time. These stretches help elongate your midsection, and through regular practice, aid in toning your obliques to create sexy vertical lines that run down your midsection. Spinal twists are very similar, though sadly I don't have any footage of these. (Maybe in a future post? Let me know in the comments)
Boat Pose Variation
1. Begin seated on your mat with your knees bent up in front of you and spine long. Take a moment to find that sweet spot of balance by slightly lifting your feet off the ground. You should feel steady before moving to the next variation. If this is difficult, practice trying to find your balance here first. I often recommend finding a small spot on the wall in front of you to concentrate on if you're shaky. Once steady, grasp your shins or bottom of the feet.
2. As you inhale, use your abdominal muscles and keen balance to slowly lift the bottom half of your legs parallel with the ground. As mentioned before, feel free to hold your shins here if it's easier. Either way, your arms should be engaged, shoulders down and away from the ears. The more you utilize your abdominal muscles, the less you will curve your spine, creating a stronger base for this pose. Keep the breath steady and gaze straight ahead.
3. With a steady breath, you can continue to straighten your legs while holding on to your feet or shins. Your stomach should be completely engaged and leg muscles squeezed together. Shoulders remain down and back and the chin is parallel to the ground. Hold this for a breath or two before slowly releasing back down in the same order you came up in. It is important not to rush yourself out of a pose but take the same steps to get out of it as you did to enter it.
Try no hands for a challenge!
This pose really activates your core muscles while rewarding you with both strength and balance practice. Regular incorporation of boat pose helps to tighten your tummy but also fires up your internal organs for healthy digestion.
To be honest, I don't feel quite comfortable guiding this without a full instruction video because there are too many steps to take, alignments to be aware of and potential injuries to consider when practicing this pose. I only advice working on this asanana if you've had experience in the past and are not prone to or have had serious back injuries.
The major cues include keeping your shoulders in line with your wrists and down and back from your ears. Your feet can be planted on the mat, though some may prefer a pointed toe to include some balance as well. Legs should try to remain together, butt is squeezed and your midsection is lengthened.
This is probably one of the BEST poses in the book for lengthening your midsection. You are stretching out your muscles and creating space in between your rib cages. If you'd like a full video on this pose, please let me know in the comments and I'll make a video!