Want to look your best this summer in flirty sundresses, strappy tank tops, and a belly baring bikini? Then all-over toning exercises should be your focus to get arms, abs, and legs looking fit and fabulous. You don’t have to hit the gym to tone and strengthen your total body, however. You can do these six body toning yoga poses to get strong, lean muscles this summer. Bonus points if you take your mat outside and tone up in the glow of the warm summer sun!
Plank pose is the ultimate love-it or hate-it yoga pose. This pose tones and strengthens the abdomen, arms, wrists, and spine. It can be far more effective than hundreds of crunches and situps, but that doesn’t mean it is any easier. Master the plank pose and you will have arms and abs to show off all summer long.
- Start in downward facing dog pose.
- Inhale, drawing your torso forward until your arms are perpendicular to the floor.
- Your shoulders should be directly over your wrists, with your torso parallel to the floor.
- Press your outer arms inward, firmly pressing the base of your index fingers to the floor.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades against your back, then spread them away from your spine.
- Spread your collarbones away from your sternum.
- Lift your front thighs upward to the ceiling, keeping your tailbone lengthened towards your heels.
- Look straight at the floor with the base of your skull lifted away from the back of your neck.
- Your gaze and throat should be soft.
Upward Plank Pose
Upward Plank Pose, Purvottanasana, stretches and tones the wrists, arms, shoulders, chest, back, hips, and legs. Upward Plank Pose is the perfect counterpose to Plank Pose or Chaturanga.
- Sit in Staff Pose, with your legs stretched out straight in front of you, feet together, and spine straight.
- Place your hands several inches behind your hips, pointing your fingertips forwards towards your feet.
- Do not bend your arms.
- Inhale, bending your knees, and place your feet hip-width apart on the floor.
- Lean back, supporting the weight of your body with your hands.
- Exhale, pushing through your hands and feet to lift your hips to the same height as your shoulders.
- Your arms should remain straight.
- Keep your core muscles engaged, and roll your shoulders onto your back as you lift your chest.
- Without compressing the back of your neck, slowly drop your head back.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then slowly sit back down.
Dolphin Pose, Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana, strengthens the core, arms, and legs, while also nicely stretching the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and arches. In addition to toning and strengthening the upper and lower body, dolphin calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression.
Begin on the floor on your hands and knees.
- Your shoulders should be directly above your wrists and your knees directly below your hips.
- Firmly press your palms together and your forearms into the floor.
- Exhale, curling your toes under and lifting your knees away from the floor.
- With a slight bend to your knees, lift your heels up and away from the floor.
- Lengthen your tailbone and lift your sitting bones towards the ceiling.
- Draw your inner legs up into your groin from your inner ankles.
- You can straighten your knees if it feels comfortable, but if your upper back begins to round it’s best to keep them bent.
- Actively press your forearms into the floor as you firm your shoulder blades against your back and widen them away from your spine.
- Your head should be held between your upper arms, and not allowed to hang or press heavily against the floor.
- Stay for 30 seconds, then exhale and release your knees to the floor.
Boat Pose, Paripurna Navasana, will strengthen your core, as well as the deep hip flexors that attach the inner thigh bones to the front of the spine. You can practice a preparation for boat pose periodically throughout your day from the comfort of your chair. Sit on the front edge of a seat with your knees at right angles. Grab onto the sides of the seat with your hands and lean slightly forward. Firm your arms and lift your buttocks slightly off the seat, then raise your heels slightly off the floor (but not the balls of your feet). Let the heads of your thigh bones sink into the pull of gravity and push the top of your sternum forward and up. Ready to try it on the mat?
- Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
- Place your hands on the floor slightly behind your hips, fingers pointing toward your feet.
- Feel strength run through your arms.
- Lift your chest through the top of your sternum and begin to slightly lean back.
- Keep your spine straight and don’t allow your back to round.
- Lengthen the front of your torso, and anchor yourself on the “tripod” of your two sitting bones and tailbone.
- Exhale, bending your knees and raising your feet off the floor.
- Your thighs should be at a 45-50 degree angle from the floor.
- Lengthen your tailbone into the floor and lift your pubis toward your navel.
- Slowly straighten your knees, and raise the top of your toes at or slightly above the level of your eyes.
- Reach your arms alongside your legs to be parallel to the floor and each other.
- Spread the shoulder blades across your back and reach strongly out through the fingers.
- Alternately, reach forward and hold lightly to the back of your thighs.
- Keep your lower belly firm and flat, but not hard.
- Dip your chin slightly toward your chest, lifting the base of your skull slightly away from the back of your neck.
- Remain in the pose for 30 seconds, then release.
Chair Pose, Utkatasana, will strengthen the muscles of your arms and legs, providing upper and lower body toning. Chair Pose will strengthen your thighs, helping to stabilize your knees. Your ankles will become more limber and sturdy, and your core is targeted as your stabilize your abdominal muscles.
- Begin by standing in Mountain Pose with your feet together and your weight evenly distributed.
- Inhale and raise your arms to shoulder height directly in front of your body and perpendicular to the floor.
- Turn your palms to face one another, and draw your shoulders back to open your chest.
- Lift your arms high overhead without letting your lower ribs pop out.
- Bend your knees, taking your thighs as parallel to the floor as possible.
- Keep your weight in your heels.
- You knees will project out over your feet as your torso leans slightly forward over your thighs.
- Keep your inner thighs parallel to one another, and press the top of your thigh bones down towards your heels.
- Your front torso should form a right angle with the tops of your thighs, and your lower back should stay long.
- Remain for 30 seconds, then release by straightening your knees and releasing your arms back to your sides as you return to Mountain Pose.
Warrior Pose, Virabhadra’s Pose, is named for a fierce warrior described as having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet, wielding a thousand clubs, and wearing a tiger’s skin. Warrior I strengthens and tones the shoulders, arms, back, thighs, calves, and ankles, while stretching the chest, lungs, shoulders, neck, abdomen, and groin. Talk about your total body workout! This is the first of three Warrior asanas.
- Begin in Mountain Pose.
- Exhale while stepping or lightly jumping your feet about four feet apart.
- Raise your arms perpendicular to the floor.
- Hold them parallel to each other as you reach actively through the little-finger sides of the hands toward the ceiling.
- Angle your left food in 45 degrees to the right, and your right foot out 90 degrees to the right.
- Align your right heel with your left heel.
- Exhale and rotate your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis as much as possible with the front edge of your mat.
- Your upper torso arches back every so slightly.
- Anchor your left heel firmly to the floor as you exhale and bend your right knee over your right ankle.
- Your shin should be perpendicular to the floor.
- Reach through your arms with strength, lifting your ribcage up and away from your pelvis.
- Ground down through your back foot and lift the back of your legs upwards.
- If possible, bring the palms together. Spread the palms against each other and reach a little higher through the pinky-sides of the hands.
- Remain for 30 seconds, then release by pressing your back heel firmly to the floor and reaching up through your arms as you straighten your right knee.
- Turn your feet forward as you release your arms.
- Repeat the sequence on your left side, then return to Mountain Pose.