Bathing suit season is upon us, but it's not too late to tone your abs. It will not only prevent back pain, improve your balance and posture, and make running and other sports feel easier, but you'll also feel confident in and out of your clothes. Keep reading to learn these nine poses that target your core.
Balancing on one leg really challenges your core! If you're not using your abs to stabilize in this pose, you'll likely tip over. Here's how to find your inner warrior.
- Stand with your feet together. Inhale as you extend your arms out wide in T position or straight overhead for a more advanced variation.
- Exhale as you bend forward at your hips, lifting your right leg straight behind you coming into Warrior 3 . Draw your navel toward your spine, and hold for five breaths. Then come to stand, lower your right leg, and repeat with the left leg lifted for another five.
A classic backbend that increases spinal flexibility, Camel  also works your core muscles and opens tight shoulders.
- Stand on your shins with your knees hips-width distance apart.
- Lean back, and place your hands on your heels, arching back and allowing the head to fall between the shoulder blades.
- Continue to press the hips forward to engage the abs, thighs, and tush, enjoying this pose for five breaths.
Even yogis love elbow planks, but we call them something else. An elbow plank by any other name will still work your abs.
- From Downward Facing Dog , inhale and shift your weight forward coming into plank position (top of a push-up). Exhale as you lower onto your forearms so that your shoulders are stacked directly above your elbows and your body is parallel with the floor.
- Dolphin Plank is an intense pose , so if you can't hold for five breaths, lower one or both knees to the floor.
This pose is a side plank on crack . . . in a good way. Your obliques will certainly feel the challenge while you balance in this starry pose.
- Begin in Downward Facing Dog, and step both feet together. Move your right hand to the left about six inches so it's at the upper center of your mat. Step your right foot forward two inches, and plant the sole of your right foot firmly on the mat, so your toes are pointing away from you. Inhale as you roll open to your right side, and lift your left hand off the mat. Raise your left leg up into the air.
- Gaze at your lifted hand, and hold Balancing Star  for five breaths. Keeping your core engaged will help you stay balanced. Repeat this pose on the other side.
Arm balances require more than arm strength; they're really about your core! Thinking of this as an ab exercise can help you hone in on the balance needed to maintain this pose.
- Begin in a squat, placing your hands shoulder-width distance apart on the mat. Spread your fingers as wide as you can, creating a strong, stable base. Straighten your legs slightly, placing your knees as high up onto your triceps (back of your arms) as possible. Slowly shift weight into your palms and lift your feet off the ground.
- Stay here for five breaths gazing at the floor in front of you.
Boat pose is the go-to move for abs in yoga. It really challenges all four layers of your abdominals, similar to the Balance Point in Pilates . Get ready for some smooth sailing.
- Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Bend your knees, and lift your legs off the floor, bringing your knees in toward your chest with your shins parallel to the floor. Sit up as tall as you can, and take a breath in as you slowly begin to straighten your legs. Your legs don't need to be straight since the action of keeping your spine long and drawing your belly in is what works your abs here.
- Hold Boat pose  for five breaths.
Believe it or not, you're totally working your abs even as you expose your belly to the sky. Pulling your low abs up and in while arching your spine makes this pose feel easier.
- From a seated position with your legs extended straight out in front of you, place your hands behind your hips about six to eight inches, with your fingers pointing toward your toes. As you inhale, press into your hands and feet firmly, lifting your hips into the air. Lift them as high as you can so your spine is in a long line. Slowly release your head back, looking behind you, and open through your throat.
- Stay here in Intense East pose  for five deep breaths, then lower your hips to the floor.
Eight Crooked Limbs Prep
The pose called Eight Crooked Limbs  really works your upper body, but this prep pose for it is a killer move for your abs.
- Sit on your bum with your legs straight in front of you. Bend your right knee, and hold your right foot with your left hand. Bring your right arm underneath your right leg, and use your left hand to help push your right knee as high as you can on top of your right tricep.
- Plant your palms on the floor, and bend your right elbow slightly to keep your knee in place. Press into your palms firmly, engage your abs, and with an inhale, lift your hips off the floor. If it's easy, lift your left leg off the ground, too. You're sure to feel a burn in your belly after five breaths.
Work your abs upside down in this Headstand variation .
- Begin on your hands and knees. Lower your elbows to the floor and interlace your fingers, bringing your lowest pinkie in front of the other pinkie, forming a semicircle with your hands.
- Place the back of your head against your palms, and the top of your head on the mat, so your skull is vertical with the floor. Once your head and forearms feel stable, straighten both legs and walk your feet toward your face as far as you can.
- Shift your hips over your shoulders, and keep your elbows planted firmly on the mat. Lift both legs into the air, coming into Bound Headstand.
- Stay in Headstand for five breaths, relaxing the jaw as well as the shoulders away from the ears. Take a breath in, and as you exhale, slowly lower both feet toward the mat so they are parallel with the floor. Hold here for another five breaths.
- Inhale and then exhale to raise the legs back up into Headstand. Repeat four more times.