Guest Author - Terri Johansen
Do you know that Yoga builds strength? Yoga is an excellent source of resistance training, using your own body weight to provide the resistance, and building muscle in the process. Yoga is especially great for upper body strength, sculpting and defining your arms and shoulders with specific poses. Most of the time we think of yoga in terms of flexibility, and of course yoga is known essentially for stretching and long, lean muscle, and relaxation.
Here are some yoga poses that will help you build upper body strength.
Begin this group of exercises from table pose. On your hands and knees, your hands should be parallel, directly under your shoulders. Your knees should be parallel and hip-width apart. Let your spine be long, forming one straight line from your tailbone to the crown of your head.
1. Yoga push-ups #1: Fingers pointing straight ahead, bend the elbows straight back, hugging them in to the chest. As you exhale, lower the chest toward the floor keeping your knees down. Then inhale and press back to table pose. Repeat 5 times.
2. Yoga push-ups #2: Bring your arms into a forearm shaped triangle and clasp the hands together. Then take the arms out in front of your chest, keeping the elbows slightly bent and lined up under the shoulders. Move your body forward until your face is near your clasped hands and then move your butt back to starting position. Repeat 5-8 times.
3. Grasshopper pose: Fingers face forward, and the hands are slightly forward of the shoulders. Tuck the toes under. As you exhale, bend the elbows straight back, keeping them tightly in toward the chest as the chest and chin move forward and down toward the floor. The hips will point up toward the ceiling. Inhale and come back up. Repeat 2-3 times.
4. Dolphin pose: Bring the forearms to rest on the floor in a triangle position and interlace the fingers. Tuck the toes under and press the hips back and up toward the ceiling as the chest melts toward the floor and the armpits open. This is Downward Facing Dog. Press your forearms strongly into the floor and visualize your spine lengthening. Your head should be dropped and dipping towards the triangle forearms. Hold as long as you can safely.
5. Dolphin push-ups: From dolphin pose, exhale and move the chest forward, so that the face comes ahead of the hands and the nose moves toward the floor; then inhale and press back into Dolphin pose. Repeat 3-5 times.
6. Downward Facing Dog pose: From table pose tuck the toes under and press the hips back and up toward the ceiling. Press into your hands; lengthen the spine; draw your shoulder blades toward each other, lift through the armpits, open the chest, keep a strong flow of energy through the arms, legs, and spine, and breathe. (Can you remember all that? That's what teachers are for!) Begin with bent knees; as you are able, move toward straightening the legs and bringing the heels toward the floor. Work on the legs only when you can do so without compromising the length and strength in the arms and back, or collapsing in the pose.
7. Bent-arm Down Dog: From downward facing dog, exhale and bend the elbows, bringing the forearms to the floor, continuing to press the armpits open. Inhale and return to down dog by straightening the elbows. Try to come in and out of the
8. Table top Balance: Start in a standing position, Mountain Pose. Make sure are steady, balanced, and tall. Open your legs wide and fold forward. Place both hands on the floor between the legs. However they are about six inches apart, adjust as you need too. Lean forward and put all your weight into your upper body. Itís okay if your toes lift up. Then reverse and bring all of your weight back and into the lower body. Continue the movement about 8 times.
9. Plank Pose: Begin in table pose on your hands and knees and both in alignment. Lift yourself onto your arms and they are held straight. Donít get sloppy and start sagging with your ears dropping towards your shoulders. Take your right leg straight out behind you on your toes and then take the left leg also. This is a hard pose to hold. You must engage your core muscles and donít depend totally on arms and legs. In the proper position your backside will be in one straight line. Keep your butt dropped, but not too low.
10. Reverse Table: You will start this position in staff pose, seated with legs straight out in front of you. Bend your knees keeping your feet flat on the floor. Take both arms and bring them out behind you, fingertips pointing towards your butt. Just two movements here Ė straighten your arms lifting your upper body up, keeping arms are lined up under shoulders. Then lift your butt, keeping your knees directly above your feet. Hereís the real challenge, lift your butt and abdomen, and anything else that may be sagging, you want your table to be a flat service. Engage your core, drawing your navel back towards your spine. Try holding it for a count of 8 and then working up to 30 seconds.
These are challenging poses and warn you to be cautious. If you canít do it then stop. Your teacher will provide a modification for you. Always check with a medical professional before this or any exercise program. Live well, practice yoga.
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