Strengthen & Tone Your Upper Body with Yoga

By Maggie Chung

The weather is warming up. Time to get back into moving the body in a different, more vigorous way to get rid of the cobwebs we’ve gotten over winter. Now is the time to start working on strengthening & conditioning.

Strengthening the arms and core is a good way to start and you don’t have to do 100 sit-ups! I often go to patients, who fall over and simply cannot get themselves off the floor! We have greater muscles in our legs which we tend to rely on but if the legs fail, what else can we rely on? Our arms & upper body to push us up off the ground. Working the arms is also a great cardio workout!

On another level, working the arms and upper back muscles is a really good way to ‘loosen’ them especially if you have a desk job or have poor posture. Often, many people think stretching out the back is what they need but the pain or tightness is still there. What they really need is to strengthen the weakened muscles because they’re already overstretched!

Here are some strength building asanas for you to practise at home. You may have done them before in other arenas of life but they are simple and effective. For those who want something more challenging, email me directly.

1. Plank

This simple pose is great for everyone especially those with a weak core or lower back issues. Great for post-natal mums as well to get those stretched belly muscles working again. If you have wrist or hand issues, do this one on your forearms. You want to try and hold this for approximately 2 mins.

 

plank

Variation 1 – Full plank

Plank pose strengthens the arms, shoulders, core and back muscles. If you find 2 minutes is too long, drop down onto your knees but keep lengthening your tailbone towards your heels. This activates your core and pelvic muscles simultaneously.

Remember: Press outer arms in & index fingers to floor; lift front thighs up to the sky; lengthen tailbone down; press heels back; relax buttocks.

kneeling-plank

Variation 2 – Kneeling Plank

Make sure you keep your buttocks down and lean into your arms. You’ll feel your core muscles switch on if you’re doing it correctly.

low-plank

Variation 3 – Plank on forearms

Good prep for other poses such as forearm balance & dolphin pose.

 

forearm-table

Variation 4 – Forearm tabletop position

This variation is for those who aren’t quite ready for the kneeling plank.

 

2. Chaturanga (four limb staff)

From plank pose, lower yourself down to chaturanga. For those who know how to do push- ups, this is one part of a tricep push-up. Yes, that’s right! It’s great for triceps & will give you great looking arms ready for summer! Challenge yourself by going down for a count of 10 or do a series of lower down then up (3 – 5 reps) before lowering all the way down.

chaturanga

Variation 1 – Full Chaturanga

You may not be able to see it very well in the photo but the only things touching the mat are the tops of my toes and my hands.

You can strengthen your arms, upper body, core and especially the triceps by doing triceps push- ups. That’s simply just going up and down from Plank to Chaturanga 5-10 times.

If you find moving from plank to chaturanga a bit too challenging, here are some variations that will still help you work those triceps!

kneeling-chat

Variation 2 – Kneeling plank to Chaturanga

This time, my feet, knees and hands are touching the ground. My hips and butt are still lifted because you want to get your chest to the ground first.

basic-chat

Variation 3 – Baby Chaturanga

From plank variation 4, lean forward and try and pull your chest to the floor. Gently grip your fingertips into the floor to help activate the arms.

REMEMBER: When you’re going down from plank into chaturanga, keep your elbows as close to your waist as you can. It’s hard but that means your working your triceps correctly.

 

Happy Planking and Chaturanga-ing!

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