Due to the insufficient use of the arms, chest, and back, connecting to the upper body can be a serious struggle—but not for long.
These six arm-strengthening yoga poses will help you get back to your prime and strengthen your upper half. Remember, these poses are meant to gradually build your strength. In practice and time, you will notice a difference.
Plank pose (Phalakasana)
Don’t underestimate Plank pose. It doesn’t seem like a muscle builder, but Plank is pivotal in building stamina and upper-body strength.
- Begin on the forearms and glide your body forward until your shoulders are directly above your wrists—activating the biceps and shoulders.
- To activate the core, the body’s central power house, support the torso and keep the back straight.
- Hold Plank pose on the forearms for a few breaths. Then push your hands into the floor, with fingers spread apart, and straighten your arms.
- Set your gaze slightly in front of you, softening the neck and jaw.
- To build strength in your upper half, hold the pose for five breaths.
Four-Limbed Staff pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
Chaturanga can be performed with the knees on the floor until you are more comfortable with your arm strength. You can also use a yoga strap around the upper arms to stabilize the body and maintain alignment in the pose.
- Come into Plank pose and find a connection with your core.
- As you look ahead, lean forward and lower your body until it is parallel to the floor.
- Bend the elbows until your arms are at a 90-degree angle. Make sure to hold your elbows in close to your sides. Don’t let your shoulders come lower than your elbows.
- Maintain stillness and length in the spine without dropping the hips or lifting them too high.
- As you push your hands into the ground, muscle builds in the arms, and you strengthen your core, wrists, and legs.
Four-Limbed Staff pose is vital for Sun Salutations and Vinyasa-style classes.
Dolphin pose (Makarasana)
This is a dynamic pose that starts in a Forearm Plank and moves into a Forearm Downward-Facing Dog. It works on the shoulders and core to maintain stability and control during the movement.
- Come onto all fours, keeping the arms parallel to one another, and slowly lower one forearm to the ground at a time. Press your forearms firmly into the mat.
- Exhale and curl your toes under, then lift your hips toward the sky. Keep your knees slightly bent and lengthen your spine. Then engage your core and extend your legs.
- Move slowly and with control. This will maximize the pose’s benefits by deepening the connection between movement and breath.
- Don’t collapse the shoulders too far forward. Continue to press the forearms down.
Side Plank pose (Vasisthasana)
Side Plank pose—named after Sage Vasishtha, a guru whose name means “most excellent”—challenges our balance. Just like Plank pose, this posture focuses on anatomical alignment through bone stacking and engaging the muscles for stability.
- Begin in Downward-Facing Dog. Lower your hips and come forward into Plank pose, aligning your shoulders over your hands and wrists.
- From Plank pose, bring your body weight to one arm by pressing into the fingers. Stack the opposite shoulder over the supporting wrist.
- Roll onto the outer edge of your right foot, and stack the left foot on top of the right. Press the outer edge of your foot firmly into the mat for better support.
- Press through your supporting hand, and lift the ribs and hips upward.
- Extend your left arm upward, allowing your gaze to follow.
Crow pose (Bakasana)
Crow pose or Bakasana uses all the techniques from the poses above to keep you balanced.
- Begin in Garland pose. Place your hands on the ground, shoulder width apart, keeping your elbows aligned with your wrists.
- Place your knees on top of the triceps, as close to the armpit as possible for a snug fit.
- Lift your hips up and start bringing your weight forward. Place your elbows over your wrists and press all of your fingers into the ground to counteract the forward movement.
- Squeeze the elbows and feet toward each other as much as you can to maintain your midline power. Press down into the earth with your hands and arms and lift your body higher. If your elbows flare out use a strap to keep your alignment.
G.I. Jane Planks
This series of movements incorporates Plank pose and Forearm Plank pose, making it the most challenging asana in the sequence.
- From Plank pose, bend one elbow and place the forearm down on the ground.
- Bend the other elbow to land in Forearm Plank pose.
- Push through the ground with one arm and then the other to return to Plank.
As you move through this pushing motion, you are toning and stabilizing your muscles to control the shifts of body weight. Alternating the arms from a bent position to a straight position builds up the chest and back muscles, as well as the core and legs. This complete body conditioning helps with arm balances and inversions, as it teaches the body to control itself during movement.
This series is a blend of yoga asana and full-body training exercises. To get desired results, try to do this series at least three times a week for 10 minutes.