7 Yoga Poses That Will Sculpt Your Side Abs


Crunches are so old school, and planks are effective, but totally boring. To get the killer side abs of your dreams, forget snooze-worthy, repetitive moves—and bust out your yoga mat instead.

Apparently, the trick to nabbing a not-so-common core may just be a regular yoga practice. "Yoga is all about integration and using your center line," says Lyons Den Power Yoga cofounder and instructor Bethany Lyons. "All of the movements come from a strong core and solid foundation." Try adding these seven poses to your weekly workout routine


1. Side Plank Curl
How to do it: Start in side plank position, directing focus to reaching hand to ceiling (A). Engage both legs and flex both feet. Make fist with top hand (B). Bend top elbow, and start to draw top arm down and in toward body (C). Curl underneath ribcage as much as possible to twist torso while engaging obliques (D). Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Why it works: "The use of your own bodyweight, combined with the twisting motion, is the perfect exercise to engage the obliques," says Lyons. "You can physically feel the twisting and engaging of the inner and outer pocket muscles of the abdominals."


2. Modified Extended Side Angle With Reach
How to do it: Begin in Warrior II. Come into modified side angle by dropping front arm to front thigh and reaching top arm overhead, keeping bicep by ear. Create right angle with front knee, and make front thigh as close to parallel to floor as possible. Press firmly into both feet so weight is in legs. Don't rest weight onto bottom arm—just let it lightly rest on leg (A). From there, extend bottom arm to meet top arm while engaging abdominal muscles in and up. Then add slight rotation, taking bottom lung under top lung, opening chest toward ceiling (B). Hold five breaths or longer.

Why it works: "Feel that instant shimmy-shake and quaking of your body, from your feet to your fingertips? That's the pose working," says Lyons. "You're adding instability when you extend your bottom arm, which causes your core muscles to work harder to create stability."


3. Three-Legged Dog
How to do it: Start in Downward-Facing Dog, hands shoulder-width apart, and feet hip-distance apart. Take right leg up toward ceiling and roll open hip so right toes are facing right side of mat, foot flexed. Press firmly into floor with hands and standing foot, and then with control, bring right leg on a right-angle trajectory, toward right side of room, engaging side waist. Bring back to center, and repeat 5 times.

Why it works: "It's all about the instability again," says Lyons. "But instead of the arms, you're extending through the legs, causing instability that way. Bringing the leg to the side forces the side waist to engage."


4. Table Top With Extension
How to do it: Begin on all fours, hands under shoulders, knees under hips. Pull belly in toward spine (A). Extend right leg back and left hand forward. Hold for two breaths (B). Move left arm to a 90-degree angle to side (C). At the same time, rotate right thigh externally, and move to a 90-degree angle in opposite direction. Hold for two breaths, then return to starting position (D). Switch sides, and repeat sequence 5 times.

Why it works: "This move works the entire core," says Lyons. "You'll strengthen your transverse muscles and your obliques—and you have to engage them to make this pose work. Otherwise, you'll sink into your wrists and low back."


5. Row, Row, Row Your Boat
How to do it: Come to seated position and balance on sit bones, lifting knees toward chest and pulling spine in. Grab hold of backs of thighs to create better integration of core, keeping spine in (A). Now reach arms toward front of room and clasp hands together. Imagine an oar in your hands and turn to one side, bending both elbows, creating circular motion with arms back to start position (B). Repeat on the other side, and do 10 sets.

Why it works: "The figure-eight twisting and crunching movement hits both sets of obliques—the inner and outer pockets," Lyons says. "Plus, it's fun to sing the song as you go."


6. Straddle Bend With Reach
How to do it: Take wide straddle on mat, feet parallel, left hand on floor (or a block) at center line of body. Lengthen spine, reaching tailbone back and sternum forward to create length in waist. Twist to open chest to right, reaching right hand to ceiling and plugging shoulders into back (A). Take top hand and reach diagonally down to opposite side (B). Repeat 5 times, and then perform on other side.

Why it works: "It's a combination move that strengthens the legs, glutes, and back, and all the core muscles attached to the pelvis," Lyons says. "People think of core as just abdominals but that's not the case."


7. Criss-Cross Plank Sauce
How to do it: Start in plank. Take right knee to left elbow while lifting and twisting through side body. Return to start and repeat on other side. Complete up to 25 times.

Why it works: "This rotational movement specifically targets the oblique muscles," says Lyons. "Trust me—you'll feel it working."