Beginner's guide to yoga: top toning poses and why they work

Amanda Spackman
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Images: Getty

There's a reason why A-listers such a Gwyneth Paltrow, Miranda Kerr, Denise Richards, Kate Bosworth and Madonna all have rock-hard abs and buns of steal. These yoga-toned stars are no novices when it comes to manoeuvring from a downward-facing dog to a crescent moon pose. Every day they roll-out the yoga mats to sculpt and tone their figures.

We got the low-down on the best yoga moves to help you define your silhouette and have you standing taller in days from fitness experts Adele and Lisa Rancan, from Rancan Sisters Fitness.

Tree pose

If you're a little jittery when is come to balancing or if you have bad posture, you're going to love the benefits from stepping into a tree pose. It's probably the most simple of yoga moves, yet one of the most effective for firming and toning, developing your posture and balancing the mind.

How to get there: "Shift your weight slightly onto the left foot, keeping the inner foot firm to the floor, and bend your right knee," Lisa Rancan says. "Reach down with your right hand and clasp your right ankle. Plant your bent knee against the thigh and once stable lift arms towards the sky, with palms facing each other."

Results: The tree pose is best for assisting with balance, stability and has a full-body calming effect.

Crescent pose

This manoeuvre focuses on strengthening your legs and increasing flexibility.

How to get there: "From a forward bend, bend your knees and, with an inhale, step your left foot, with the ball of the foot on the floor," Adele Rancan says. "Step back far enough so that your right knee can form a right angle. Keep remaining leg straight."

Results: Opens hips, prevents lower back pain and strengthens thigh muscles.

Full boat pose

No rowing required — it's easier than it sounds, we promise, and if you stick these beginner tricks, you're guaranteed to see tummy toning results.

How to get there: "Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Press your hands on the floor a little behind your hips," Adele Rancan says. "Lift through the top of the sternum and lean back slightly. As you do this make sure your back doesn't round."

Results: Lymphatic drainage, core strength including tummy toning and abdominal strengthening.

Downward-facing dog

The downward-facing dog is best for building upper-body strength and chiselling away unwanted fat on your arms. Other benefits include, strengthening the immune system and improved digestion.

How to get there: "Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders," Lisa Rancan says. "Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under. Step on feet and hands and lift your hips."

Results: This all-over stretch builds arm and leg strength, and tightens body all over.

Trikonasana pose

Trik-a-what? Pronounced as tree-cone-ah-sa-na, this yoga move involves deep breathing and maneuvering at the hips to touch your toes. If you can't touch your toes, tip-toe your way down and go as far as you can. After a few weeks you'll be doing the trikonasana with ease.

How to get there:
"Stand straight and tall with feet hip-width apart. With an exhalation, step or lightly jump your legs apart," Lisa Rancan says. "Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades-wide, palms down. Lean towards the foot, from the hips."

Results: Calming and stress reliving, this pose increases upper-body flexibility.

Chair pose

This is an easy-peasy yoga move, which you will give you a tightly toned booty. Don't delay, start today.

How to get there: "Stand straight and tall with feet hip-width apart. Inhale and raise your arms perpendicular to the floor," Lisa Rancan says. "Keep the arms parallel and vertical, palms facing inward, exhale and bend your knees as if to sit in an imaginary chair."

Results: This pose strengthens ankles, buttocks and the upper back.

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