Last week while taking my dog child out for his morning stroll, just when I was about to slip on the ice and give up on the prospect of this winter ever ending, I heard the most beautiful sound - the birds chirping! Ah, the first sign of spring! It was such a welcome addition to our morning ritual I couldn’t help but smile, even though I still had to dodge piles of snow and pull my hood over my ears.
After I returned to the warm cocoon of comfort that is our apartment, I got to thinking: what would be the harm in taking my flip flops out of storage? Not to wear, but just to look at. They can sit next to my boots and wait their turn. Even though I know its going to be weeks - probably months - before I can use them, what’s the worst that can happen? The worst that can happen is that they collect dust or that my aforementioned dog child chews them up, but the best that can happen is that my little bit of intention puts a spring in my step and makes for a more optimistic day.
But why stop at flip flops? Why not incorporate some summer optimism into my fitness routine and get the ball rolling on a bikini body? Now’s the time to start prepping folks, because once summer is here, you’re not going to want to waste time planking and push-pressing when you could be beach-side with a margarita in hand.
Yoga Poses for Your Summer Bod
Yeah, yeah. You knew I had to start with this. If you’re being smart about your exercise, you’re engaging your core actively throughout workouts, weight lifts, or yoga poses. Many people confuse “engaging your core” with “sucking in.” When I ask people to stabilize their core throughout a movement, what I am really looking for is the conscious contraction of the whole core, not just the rectus abdominus (the “six pack” muscles). When someone is struggling to get the hang of this, I (gently) poke into the side of their abdomen below their ribs. Then, I give them the cue to bear down a little bit (like they are lifting something heavy) and if I feel their abs contracting against my poke, they’ve got it. This is what I have been referring to when I say “if you can’t maintain core stabilization in a difficult pose, you shouldn’t be holding it.” If you’re not accustomed to this movement, this addition alone to your yoga practice will be a challenge for your abs. Once you get the hang of it, many poses will come much more easily to you. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a little more challenge, consider focusing on the following poses:
High Plank Pose and variations
Butt and Thighs
The Warrior Series, Extended Side Angle and Triangle Pose are all absolutely excellent ways to improve endurance in the legs and butt. Many of these have the added bonus of giving your arms and shoulders a good challenge, too! Chair Pose is s fantastic way to gain strength and tone your lower body, and it should be challenging! This is an easy one to slack off in, so check in with yourself that the weight of your body is in your heels and you are sinking deeply into the squat with a proud chest. Bridge Pose is just an all-around great glute workout and there are many options for variations, including leg raises from a bridged position or bridging with your feet on a wall or stability ball.
The Warrior Series
Extended Side Angle
Arms and Shoulders
Low Plank or Chaturanga is an obvious choice for this. My first few Chaturangas involved a couple of choice four-letter words. But once I got a feel for what its like to hover in this position, I realized it’s such a perfect pose to use as transitions in Sun Salutations or on its own as a gold standard for arms and shoulders. This is an excellent core exercise, too, but just make sure your butt isn’t hiked up in the air! Side plank and Down Dog (or Down Dog push-ups), are also awesome challenges for your shoulders.
So get after it, make the pseudo-spring more exciting, uplifting and use it to make yourself even better than ever!
Rachel Wiegand has been an athlete her whole life but yoga has been the only constant throughout moves and life changes. A former personal trainer, she is now a practicing chiropractor in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and enjoys helping patients find a physical activity that fits their lifestyle best. In addition to yoga, she practices Pilates and is an avid Crossfitter. On her weekends you can find her teaching yoga at CrossFit Sheboygan, with her hubby at Lake Michigan on her paddleboard, or at the dog park with her boxer, Dug.
And be sure to check out our founder's latest guest post over on HotelsCheap.org all about how Yoga Travel Tree got started and how you can #findyouryoga all over the world. Check out the interview here!