Yoga for Upper Body Strength

Yoga is well-known for helping people increase their flexibility and get rid of those stiff bodies that creep up on us as the years pass. But did you know that yoga is also a great way to strengthen your muscles and build endurance in virtually every muscle in your body? Depending on the type of yoga you choose to practice, you may build strength through movement and flow, or you may build it through the isometric work done when holding poses. This workout focuses on building strength in your upper body. Its partner article, yoga for leg strength, can be done alongside this one for a full body workout or done on different days of the week to balance your workout week. 

How To Strengthen Your Upper Body With Yoga

Below is a list of yoga poses that strengthen upper body muscles. Each pose comes with a photo, a description of how to properly perform that pose and what muscles are being worked. Try each pose in order, remembering that slow, steady breath is important for any yoga practice. Rather than timing yourself, use your breath to guide you through the movement. Try holding each pose for five slow breaths the first time through. As you build strength and endurance, you can increase the time you hold each pose and slow your breath down even more.

Downward Dog

Downward dog
Ben Goldstein

An incredible stretch for the backside of your body, this pose also relies on great strength from the chest, shoulders and back muscles. 

1) Begin in a kneeling position on your mat with hands directly under shoulders, fingers spread wide.

2) Tuck your toes under and engage your abdominals as you push your body up off the mat so only your hands and feet are on the mat.

3) Press through your hands moving your chest gently toward your thighs and your heels gently toward the floor.

4) Relax your head and neck and breathe fully.

Plank

Plank
Ben Goldstein

Planks are known for creating core strength, but there is no denying the use of your arms and shoulders.

1) Begin on your hands and knees. Pull your abdominals in and step your feet back behind you until your legs are straight.

2) Keep hands directly under shoulders and eyes at the front of your mat so your neck remains aligned.

3) Hold the abdominals and legs tight and make sure your back stays long- avoid sagging in the low back.

4) If you struggle to hold the position, lower knees to​ mat while keeping everything else the same. Hold and breathe fully.

Chatarunga

Chatarunga
Ben Goldstein

Skip the dumbbells: this pose will take care of your triceps strength like nothing else can. Say goodbye to saggy upper arms!

1) Begin in a plank position with hands directly under shoulders and body straight all the way to the feet.

2) Slowly lower your chest toward the ground pulling elbows towards your ribs and looking toward the floor in front of you.  Keep your hips just slightly above your chest and squeeze your abs.

3) Breathe as you hold.

Up Dog

Upward facing dog
Ben Goldstein

After pushing your bodyweight around in down dogs and planks, the upward dog keeps the arms and shoulders engaged but gives them, along with your chest, a nice long stretch.

1) Begin lying face down on your mat with head slightly lifted and hand sitting directly under shoulders.

2) Point your toes so the tops of ​your feet are on the mat.

3) As you exhale, press through your hands and the tops of your feet raising your body and legs up off the ground until arms are straight.

4) Keep your neck relaxed and long and quads tight as you hold and breathe.

Side Plank

Side plank
Ben Goldstein

Side planks bring you back down to the floor to work on your shoulder strength from a different angle. Unlike the high plank which gets your arms to work together, the unilateral work here makes your arms and shoulders work on their own individual strength without compensating with the other side.

1) Begin in a full plank with hands under shoulders and feet and thighs touching.

2) Squeeze abdominals tightly and open right arm straight into the air turning your body to the side so right foot rests on the left foot.

3) Lift body through waistline and hold with breath.

4) Return to plank and switch sides.

Reverse Tabletop

Reverse Table top
Ben Goldstein

With so many poses keeping your face down, this one will open up your chest and shoulder muscles and get you to work from the opposite side of your upper body.

1) Begin in a seated position with feet flat on the floor in line with sits bones.

2) Place palms open on the floor behind your back with fingers facing in.

3) Look up and as you squeeze your abs and glutes, lift body upward while gently letting your head relax back.

4) Breathe and hold.

Continue Reading