Tired of crunches? Flatten your belly with yoga. Almost every yoga pose engages and tones your abdominal muscles, says Kathryn Budig, yoga instructor and author of The Women's Health Big Book of Yoga. "Yoga makes your core strong by forcing you to be in tune with how it engages and moves." Bonus: Most core work in yoga has the added benefit of simultaneously toning and strengthening the shoulders and upper back. Here, Budig shares seven yoga exercises that will fire up your abs and tighten your tummy.
Discover the power of yoga to tone your thighs, sculpt your abs, and calm your mind with The Women's Health Big Book of Yoga.
"Boat pose strengthens abs, quadriceps, back muscles, and hip flexors," says Budig. You can also modify the move to fit all fitness levels--feet can hover above the ground, be parallel to the mat, or extend into full boat, she explains.
1. Start seated with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lean back just far enough so your feet can float off the ground.
2. Begin to straighten your legs together so that your body forms a V shape, keeping your arms extended and parallel to the ground.
3. Balance on your tailbone and sit bones, chest lifted, and gaze forward. Hold for five to 10 breaths, and repeat two to five times.
Do boat pose with these detailed instructions and step-by-step images.
Do half boat pose in reps -- lift your arms and legs off the mat into position and then relax down onto the mat, says Budig. “It creates an awesome total-body tremble that strengthens the lower abs.”
1. Begin in Boat.
2. Lower your body until your legs and chest hover above the ground in almost a straight line. Keep your shoulder blades off of the mat and hug your thighs together.
3. Extend your arms and keep your gaze forward.
Do half boat pose with these detailed instructions and step-by-step images.
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Plank engages your core and teaches you how to use your body as a full unit, says Budig. It activates front and side abdominal muscles.
1. Begin on all fours with your arms straight and shoulders stacked over your wrists. Have your palms flat and shoulder-width apart. Curl your toes under and step both feet back until your legs are straight and your feet are hip-width apart. Bring your shoulders, hips, and heels into one straight line with the core and quads engaged.
2. Press your outer arms inward and distribute the weight of your knuckles evenly, gazing slightly past the fingertips. Hold for five to 10 breaths.
Do plank pose with these detailed instructions and step-by-step images.
Similar to plank, forearm plank works front and side abdominal muscles, but offers a slightly deeper shoulder opener, explains Budig.
1. Begin on all fours with your forearms parallel to one another and shoulder-width apart on the floor. Curl your toes under and step both feet back until your legs are straight and hip-width apart.
2. Stack your shoulders directly over your elbows. Your shoulders, hips, and heels should all be in one straight line. Keep your front ribs in and tailbone extending toward your heels. Gaze slightly past your fingertips.
Do forearm plank pose with these detailed instructions and step-by-step images.
Side plank pose tests your balance and strengthens abs (obliques), shoulders, and glutes, says Budig.
1. Begin in Plank. Bring your left palm to the center of your mat and roll onto the outer edge of your left foot. Stack your right foot on top of your left. Press deeply into your left palm to bring your shoulder away from your earlobe, and stack your right shoulder directly above your left.
2. Engage your obliques by lifting and stacking your hips. Extend your right arm straight up and gaze sideways or upward. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
Do side plank pose with these detailed instructions and step-by-step images.
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Target your lower belly and oblique muscles with the windshield wiper abs pose, explains Budig. The move also strengthens the lower back.
1. Lie flat on your back with both legs straight up in the air. Rest your arm straight and wide on the ground so that the palms are facing down and in line with your shoulders. Exhale, and keep your legs straight and together as you reach your toes toward the opposite fingers.
2. Inhale to come back up to center, and then switch sides.
Do windshield wiper abs pose with these detailed instructions and step-by-step images.
Related: Calm your mind and tone your butt and core with The Women's Health Big Book of Yoga.
The knee-to-nose pose helps you learn how to round your upper back, which strengthens belly and chest muscles, says Budig.
1. Begin in Downward Facing Dog.
2. Lift your right leg up into the air. Bring your shoulders over your wrists, keeping your arms straight, and draw your right knee tight into your chest. Keep your hips in line with your shoulders.
3. Try to kiss your knee as you press the ground away and round your back.
Do knee-to-nose pose with these detailed instructions and step-by-step images.