Ana knows abs! Indeed, Ana Forrest is known for challenging students and putting them through more ab work than most other teachers. You'll hear moans and groans during her classes, but students exult after the work is done. "The benefits outweigh the difficulty," says the Forrest Yoga founder, who maintains that solid abs are essential. "If the core is weak, abs aren't doing their work and other parts of the body are adversely affected." In addition to toning the abs, the following poses can also alleviate back pain, aid digestion and elimination, and stimulate circulation to internal organs, says Forrest, who created the sequence.
As you work, keep these things in mind: Press the low ribs, low back, and top rim of the sacrum firmly into the floor. To avoid bruising, use sufficient padding—a blanket or a folded-over mat. Keep your feet active, relax your neck, and breathe deeply. You might feel sore the next day, but that's OK. "Congratulations," says Forrest, "you used your muscles in a new way." Do Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) or a sidebend between poses to release ab muscles.
Over time, says Forrest, you'll notice benefits that go beyond the physical. "You'll feel strong, steady, centered, and ready to deal with life's challenges. You'll have less anxiety, clearer thinking, and more energy. You'll feel calm and centered." So when ab work seems unappealing, do a little anyway. The work will build more than just your core: You'll strengthen your practice, center yourself, and hone your life skills.
Breathe: Sit in Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) and place your hands behind you on the floor. Lift your chest, relax your chin down, and slide your shoulder blades down your back. Inhale and hold the breath for 10 to 15 seconds. Exhale and hold for 5 to 10 seconds as you pull your abdominal muscles back and up, flaring the ribs into Uddiyana Bandha (Upward Abdominal Lock). Do a few rounds.
Continue: Your body heats up with abdominal work, so your practice can go many directions from here.
Rest: Close your practice by hanging in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) before Savasana (Corpse Pose).