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4 Basic Yoga Poses to Build Upper Body Strength

Yoga | Yoga Poses

There are so many yoga poses that can help you not just with flexibility, but also build overall body strength. For this article, we’ll focus on poses and exercises that can help you get a stronger upper body.

Here are my top choices of basic yoga poses that will help you get that upper body strength.

1. Handstand

raghunath handstand

LOVE this one. This does not only create gross strength but the more you practice it, you get refined strength as we grow our balancing techniques. I have my students practice handstands against the wall for one minute. If they have to come down in less than a minute, that’s okay, but I ask them to shake out their hands and get right back up until the minute ends.

This is amazing for stamina when practiced in the center of the room, while strengthening wrists, hands, forearms, shoulders chest, etc. Keep practicing and it will come!

2. Gorilla Jumps

These are my favorite and my students love them because your entire body is basically getting shredded while we work towards our handstand. To do it, start off in Down Dog, squatting with your legs bent deep so your butt goes towards your heels.

Then, take a little hop up and down and land with soft “springy” legs so that you make a little sound whenever you land. If you’re comfortable, jump higher and higher till you’re in a hand stand with your feet over your head.

I can’t even begin to explain the benefits of these spring like gorilla jumps, but they truly revolutionize your body and are incredibly fun to play around with as you work towards your free standing handstand. These will be genuinely useful!

3. Vashisthasana or Side Plank

side plank-tree

I’ve seen even muscular monsters start to fall apart in this one. The side plank is credited with giving newfound shoulder, arm and wrist strength while refining subtle strength and balance.

You can challenge yourself by putting your high leg in tree pose OR lift the top leg off of the bottom leg even a few inches and hover there. Extra credit is to grab the big toe of the top leg and perhaps straighten it up in the sky. All these variations refine that which is already a difficult pose.

Practice going from one side, to plank to the other side perhaps even taking a push up or two between sides. You will love the results it has instantly on your body.

4. Plank or Flying Plank


Get your mind blown as you learn this simple yet body-changing floating vinyasa. First of all, I LOVE holding students in plank. Their bodies become shredded and hard like stone as I guide them through a meditative mind even while in this tough place. For extra credit, I have them lift a leg in plank and hold for 10 breaths each side.

In the Flying Plank you start in Down Dog with the legs bent (like you’re squatting in down dog) and take a tiny hop and catch yourself in Chaturanga dandasana.

To catch your body weight is tough for many and as we do this, it becomes more and more graceful. If you can’t catch yourself in Chaturanga Dandasana, then when you land, softly land on your chest until you can get into the pose. This technique also creates genuine functional strength throughout the entire body and you’ll be amazed at how fast you get so strong in this!

Of course we’re not looking for upper body strength like we were back in the days of going to the gym. The new buzzword (from the ancient world) is wellness above fitness. I’m a whole being, and yoga promotes entire body workouts in the mood of a meditative mind.

Yes these poses do focus on upper body strength primarily, but when the teacher creates sequences for their students, we round it out to touch many parts of the body in one class. That being said, have fun with these!

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