Practicing yoga is one of the best ways to relieve stress, but since you’re holding yourself in challenging positions, it’s also a killer workout for your upper body. Superstrong, sculpted arms not only look good in a strapless dress, but also enable you to do more advanced yoga poses. Here are some ways you can build a stronger upper body with yoga.
Practice, practice, practice. Taking a class once a week is better than nothing, but you’ll really notice a difference in your upper body when you take three or more classes per week. Choose 90-minute classes, rather than 45- or 60-minute sessions.
Skip Child’s Pose. While resting is important during a yoga class, if an instructor suggests coming into a relaxing child’s pose and you don’t feel you need it, stay in Downward Facing Dog to work your shoulders and upper back.
Link poses with vinyasas: If you’ve taken an Ashtanga or Vinyasa class, you’re familiar with doing vinyasas, a series of poses (like a mini sun salutation) that involves jumping back from a seated position and coming into Four-Limbed Staff (similar to the bottom of a push-up), inhaling your chest forward into Upward Facing Dog and exhaling as you lift your hips coming into Downward Dog. Here’s a video demonstrating how to do a vinyasa. Doing vinyasas between poses not only strengthens your upper body, but also makes your yoga practice more like a fluid dance, increasing the meditative feel.
Hold arm-strengthening poses longer. Five breaths are the standard when it comes to holding most yoga poses, but if your instructor has you do an arm-toning pose such as Beginner’s Sage, Three-Legged Dog, or Full Wheel, stay in it for a few extra breaths to really feel the burn.
Lift those arms. For poses that involve working the legs, make sure you don’t forget about your arms. Lift them whenever possible and take advantage of opportunities to hold your arms in more challenging variations, such as extending your arms straight in front of you in Warrior 3 instead of out wide in T-position.
Do some variations while in Down Dog. Downward Facing Dog is a killer move for your upper body, but if you’re up for it, try a more challenging variation. Come into Quarter Dog or shift your weight forward so your shoulders are over your wrists in a push-up position. Be respectful of the teacher and your fellow students — if you think going into your own pose will be distracting, incorporate variations into your home practice instead.
Try advanced poses. Instructors often lead students through a series of poses that build up to a more advanced move. Don’t be afraid to try it, since it often works your upper body. Inversions like Headstand, Forearm Stand, and Handstand are great upper body poses, as well as arm balancing poses like Crow.
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