***If you are unable to view the video above, watch the class directly on YouTube here.
Yoga to Build Upper Body Strength
Good morning yogis! How are you feeling on Day 5 of our yoga basics challenge?
After yesterday’s heart-opening class, did you feel that your back is less sore from constantly sitting? If you are like me, you should also find that putting a smile back on your face is easier than usual after the class.
If not.. drop me a note and let’s see what went wrong there.
I’m just kidding folks, just kidding
Jokes aside, today takes our challenge one notch further and we are going to work on.. wait for it.. upper body strength.
If you haven’t joined our challenge, you can do by clicking on the button below.
By joining us, you will receive daily emails and resources that give you step-by-step guides and help you build a sustainable practice.
Physical Strength in Women vs Men
If you are a woman reading or watching today’s class, know that strength doesn’t come easy to many of us naturally, as compared to men. Research in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that women exhibited 40% less upper body strength and 33% less lower body strength on average than men!
You’re probably thinking: So this is why it takes so damn long to get Chaturanga right!
Indeed, strength-based yoga poses are the toughest things to do in yoga, but it doesn’t mean it is impossible.
If you haven’t already noticed, I wasn’t born with a lot of talent, or strength for that matter. But I just have a sheer load of grit to practise despite the challenges (thanks to some tough training back when I was in the Band) – because perseverance ALWAYS pays off. And I mean ALWAYS.
Upper Body Strengthening Poses to Do Today
Guys, I am with you on this. Today we will ease into the basics of strength-based yoga. So this means no crazy arm balances or inversions.
Know that the basic upper body strengthening yoga poses, when done correctly, provide immense benefits for our strength goals.
Chaturanga and Upward Facing Dog
So we will build on our Sun Salutations, but will graduate from the usual modifications of Knees-Chest-Chins and Cobras, into Chaturangas and Upward Facing Dogs (respectively).
For some of you, this may be super easy. If this is the case, try to focus on doing these new poses with good form and hold them for longer periods. I can assure you that this will not be easy. Even seasoned practitioners go back to Chaturanga for some serious strength building!
Dolphin pose is one of my favourites for building shoulder strength.
In learning the basic inversions such as headstands, we say that you are ready only if you can hold Dolphin comfortably without dumping on the shoulders or rounding your back.
Supported Side Angle
This pose is one of the more overlooked poses because it seems easy. Yet many perform Supported Side Angle pose by sinking into the supported shoulder, and by doing so, negate the potential shoulder-strengthening effects.
The right way to perform supported side angle is to push through the supporting arm to lengthen your body upward and hold the weight of your upper body with your shoulder strength.
Try this and let me know how you feel!
One of the best all-rounders of yoga poses, superman pose helps to strengthen the upper back, the core, and your ass. All of these need to be working hard in arm balancing poses and inversions, so put on your cape and practise Supermans as often as you can!
Today we introduce a simple inversion in the form of Shoulder Stand.
Shoulder stand requires neck flexibility as well as core strength – this is something that will build up over time. So if you are unable to perform the full shoulder stand today, try keeping your body bent at the hips so you do not strain your neck.
Do what you can, and if this is not your thing, skip the pose altogether!
Can You Really Get Stronger?
The short answer is a definite YES.
Look at most of the world-famous teachers, look around you for strong yogis, or even look at me as an example – most of us will tell you that when we first started yoga, strength-based poses were super challenging.
So what changed? We kept coming into the mat. We built a personal practice beyond the studio-based class.
And this is what I challenge you to do today. A studio is amazing for the vibes, but you can only progress when you become your own teacher. Because no teacher knows your body as well as you do and no studio will allow you to practice as much as when you are able to do yoga anywhere and everywhere.
The day you realise that you have everything within you to deepen your yoga journey, you are a real yogi.
Enjoy your practice today, and I’ll meet you on the mat tomorrow again!
Love and Light,
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The YogaMad is founded by Mila, an avid yogini who is passionate about inspiring others to live their best lives while finding mind-body-soul balance. She has a background in business consulting but has left the corporate world in her quest to live out her dreams as a yoga nomad.