Want the lean look and elegant stance of a yoga or Pilates teacher? It all starts with good posture.
The best way to improve your posture is to focus on exercises that strengthen your core -- the abdominal and low back muscles that connect to your spine and pelvis.
Some of these muscles move your torso by flexing, extending, or rotating your spine. Others stabilize your pelvis and spine in a natural, neutral position. Old-style sit-ups used only a few of these muscles, often with jerky momentum. Today's yoga, Pilates, and core fitness programs target your entire core with slow, controlled movements to get the most out of your workout.
Make these posture-boosting exercises a regular part of your routine. Remember to exhale strongly and pull in your core muscles as you work -- a key principle in both Pilates and yoga.
1. Core Stabilizer: Single Leg Extension
Why It’s Good for You: This move trains your core muscles to work together to stabilize your pelvis.
Starting Position: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands behind your head. Press your low back into the floor, and curl your head up off the floor.
The Move: Exhale strongly and pull your navel in and up toward your spine. Slowly pull one knee into your chest, keeping your low back pressed to the floor, while extending your other leg straight at about a 45-degree angle off the floor. Keep your abdominals pulled in and your low back on the floor. If your low back arches off the floor, extend your leg higher toward the ceiling. Switch legs. Start with five to 10 extensions on each side.
Increase the Intensity: Pull both knees into your chest, then extend both legs straight at about a 45-degree angle, using your core to keep your low back on the floor. Or, as you extend your legs, extend both arms overhead, reaching in the opposite direction from your legs.
2. The New Crunch
Why It’s Good for You: Also called a “curl-up,” this exercise works the rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscle) and obliques (which run diagonally around your waist and rotate your torso).
Starting Position: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Press your low back into the floor. Place your hands behind your head, or reach your arms toward your knees if it doesn't create too much tension in your neck.
The Move: Exhale strongly and pull your navel in and up toward your spine. Curl your head and shoulders slowly off the floor. Hold, then slowly lower back down. Repeat three times
Increase the Intensity: Extend one leg straight at a 45-degree angle toward the ceiling. Or hold both legs off the floor, knees bent, with your shins parallel to the floor