Get sculpted for summer with these asanas from yoga teacher Susie Howell
Not only is yoga a great tool for relaxing, focusing and calming the mind, but it also offers effective strengthening and toning benefits and can help to improve body image and awareness. Even small things like our posture and how we hold ourselves impact our appearance and how we feel about ourselves. To get you started, we’ve teamed up with yoga expert and co-director of Ibiza Retreats (ibizaretreats.com) Susie Howell to bring you five of the best body-sculpting moves. Enjoy!
1. Tadasana (mountain pose)
Stand on your mat with your feet hip-width apart and suck your pelvis in towards your spine. Make sure the spine is elongated, your tailbone is neutral and your arms are down by each side of your body with palms facing towards your thighs. Keep your whole body active in the pose, engaging the muscles in your arms, core, back and legs, and hold for 45 – 60 seconds.
Top tip: Imagine a thread coming up through the centre of your body and out of the top of your head, pulling up towards the sky
2. Phalakasana (plank position)
Begin on your hands and knees then lift the knees, allowing your toes to slide backwards until your body is in a straight line and your hands are directly under the shoulders. Alternatively you can come down onto your forearms. Keep your back straight, pulling your tailbone in towards your spine so your bum isn’t sticking up in the air. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds.
For further intensity, exhale and dip your nose to the floor, then inhale as you come back up. Repeat 20 times.
Top tip: To help retain the correct alignment, breathe slowly through each movement to connect the mind, body and breath
3. Utkatasana (chair pose)
Begin in tadasana and bend your knees until the thighs are parallel to the floor and your bum is sticking out, keeping the legs strong. Raise your hands above your head, making sure the arms are straight and pointing towards the sky. Pull your belly in towards your spine and lift your heart upwards and forwards. Feel the burn in the bottom half of your body and hold for 45 – 60 seconds, then repeat three times.
For further intensity, bring your hands into prayer position and lean your right elbow against the outer thigh of your left leg to create a lower spinal twist. Take five breaths in this position, another five in neutral, then switch sides and hold for a further five breaths. Repeat three times.
Top tip: Position your body as though you’re about to sit in a chair
4. Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior 3)
Begin in tadasana, then rest your hands on your hips. Press down into your right leg, keeping your hips square and facing forward, and gently lift your left leg up behind you as you transfer your weight to your upper body. Continue to raise your leg until your whole body is in a horizontal line from your lifted foot to the top of your head. Elongate both legs and press down into the big toe of your right leg to improve balance and poise, then straighten your arms and rest them alongside your body. Be mindful of how you are holding your body, focusing on the areas that you wish to tone as you engage your muscles. Take 10 – 15 breaths, then switch legs and repeat on the other side.
For further intensity, bring your arms out in front of you, keeping them straight, active and in line with your spine and lifted leg. Look to the floor to avoid hurting your neck.
Top tip: A kitchen sideboard is the perfect height to help you as you find your balance. Once you’ve mastered the pose, let go
5. Navasana (Boat pose)
Begin by sitting on your mat with your legs out in front of you and hands resting on the floor next to your hips. Lean backwards, engaging the core and back, then exhale, bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor until your thighs are at a 45 degree angle and your shins are horizontal to the floor. Lift your arms so that they are straight and also horizontal to the floor, reaching through the fingers. Keep the whole body fully engaged and breathe slowly and calmly for 45 – 60 seconds.
For further intensity, straighten the legs so that they are at a 45 degree angle and your toes are slightly above eye level.
Top tip: Tilt your chin down towards your chest to avoid compression in your neck
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