I often get asked by students functionally weaker in the upper body (usually, but not always, women😉), how they can work unobtrusively during their yoga practice to strengthen their upper bodies and more importantly their arms. Use these simple tips to consistently improve upper body engagement and consequently, strength and conditioning.
Employ the hand lock (Hasta Bandha). Instead of pushing into the floor with a flat hand, try pressing the weight out through the fingers, while slightly drawing up through the palms. This seemingly insignificant tweak of the hand muscles can have a huge impact – drawing energy up into your arms, engaging more of your arm muscles, while alleviating wrist pressure (particularly relevant if you’re prone to carpal tunnel issues).
Soften your elbows. Don’t lock-out the joint (which causes undue strain), rather think of keeping a small micro-bend in the elbow (just enough to unlock the joint). This forces you to engage more of your upper body muscles to support your body weight – let the muscles (not the joints) do the work for you.
No chicken wings! Look for opportunities in your practice to “hug” your arms in towards the midline, forcing more muscular engagement of the upper body, while alleviating joint pressure. A great example is during a Four Limbed Staff (Chaturanga Dandasana).
Gradually increase your hold time of upper body poses (asanas) and flows (vinyasas), for strength conditioning.
Practice the above principles by applying them to any simple flow sequence (vinyasa) like Sun Salutation A – take a peek at my attached video!
That’s it for now – see you all for playtime on the mat😉
Till next time – Keep it Light😘