Yoga Toning Exercises

Yoga improves breathing, calms the mind, increases flexibility and strengthens and tones the muscles. The ACE Fitness article “Does Yoga Really Do the Body Good?” by Mark Anders cites a study that proves regular practice of Hatha yoga significantly improves flexibility, endurance, balance and muscular strength. Standing yoga poses tone the lower body and core, while sitting and floor poses tone the core and upper body. Anders recommends holding poses for a minimum of 30 seconds each to achieve maximum benefits.

Tree Pose

The tree pose improves balance and tones the lower body and core. This pose is a standing pose and should begin with your feet shoulder-width apart and shoulders upright over your hips. Shift your weight slightly onto the left foot and slowly lift your right foot off the floor. For beginners, place the right foot on the left ankle and slowly move up the leg until you feel your balance start to stammer. Hold the pose at that point. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute and then slowly bring the foot back to the floor. Repeat this sequence on the opposite side. For a more advanced version, take the foot up to the inner thigh of the opposite leg and raise the arms overhead.

Plank Pose

The upper body and core are the primary muscles engaged in the plank pose. This pose has varying levels from beginner to advanced and can be held for 30 seconds to two minutes per pose. Begin with hands and knees on the floor, shoulders square over the wrists. Slowly lift the knees off the floor, so only the toes and hands are supporting you. Engage the core by pulling the belly button in and squeezing the glutes. Hold the pose and slowly release back to hands and knees. For a more advanced version, in the pose slowly bend the elbows and lower the entire body down to 5 or 6 inches off the floor.

Crane Pose

The crane pose requires major upper-body strength and tones the shoulders and back of the arms. Begin this pose in the downward-dog position and walk the feet forward until your knees touch your arms. Bend your elbows and slowly lift your heels off the floor while resting your knees against the inside of your elbows. Hold this for five to 10 seconds and then release. To increase the level of difficulty, with your fingers spread wide on the floor, slowly move your body forward until all of your weight is on your arms. Draw your abdominals inward and lift your feet off the floor, balancing completely on your arms.

About this Author

Based in Malibu, Calif., Shannon Sukovaty has been writing health-related articles since 1992. Her articles have appeared in “Colorado Health” magazine, “Health and Fitness Journal” magazine and on various prominent websites. Sukovaty is a certified personal trainer with undergraduate studies in exercise physiology and credentials from IDEA, ACSM, AFAA and IPPA.