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Linda Celeste Sims and Clifton Brown of

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By SELF StaffersSELF

These toners also boost mental focus, says Sarita Allen, Linda Celeste Sims‘s pilates teacher (and an Ailey Extension instructor). Try them three times a week.

1. Warm-Up Breathing

Stand with your back against a wall, heels touching, and inhale, reaching arms out to sides and overhead. Pause, then exhale and squeeze lower abdominal muscles, pulling them toward the spine as arms float down. “Firing up your abs is like turning a key in the ignition for the rest of your practice,” Allen says. Continue for 1 minute.

2. Abdominal Scoop

Sit on a mat with knees bent, feet flat, spine long and hands grasping hamstrings. Inhale, then exhale as you round lower back, pulling sitz bones together while very slowly and deliberately scooping abs toward spine, rolling backward until arms are straight. Hold 5 seconds; return to start. Do 10 reps.

3. Pelvic Lift

Lie on a mat, feet hip-width apart. Press arms and palms firmly into mat and lift hips, keeping shoulders on mat. Hold 10 seconds, pressing hips up and pulling abs in, toes pointed forward and knees, hips and ankles aligned. Roll down one vertebra at a time from neck to tailbone, taking time to elongate and separate each segment of the spine. Do 10 reps.

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