If you’re in high summer in the northern hemisphere, then your arms are pretty much on show wherever you go right now. Mine are hiding out under sleeves during the southern hemisphere winter as I do my best to prepare some sculpted arms for my upcoming summer.
I’m of an age when arms can tend to wobble, and I don’t mean just in balance postures! But as I concentrate on building overall strength in my yoga practice, my arms are getting more muscular, firmer and leaner.
With so much focus on spinal length, strength, and flexibility in yoga, arms can be the forgotten heroes of a strong practice. Here are some yoga tips and poses to tone away any wobbles.
1. Double Up the Chataranga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)
This yogi push-up is repeated in sun salutation sequences and is a constant in Vinyasa flow. You may have laughed the first time you heard a teacher say that the Vinyasa (flowing from High Plank, through Four-Limbed Staff Pose to Upward Facing Dog and pushing back up to Downward Facing Dog) is considered a resting sequence.
But with the connection of breath with movement it really can be. However, lowering down halfway in Chaturanga Dandasana, then pushing back up to plank, before lowering down again (the double-up) won’t feel like any kind of a rest for your arms, but it will make those triceps super strong.
Make sure you really tuck your elbows in close to your ribcage and hold form, don’t cheat (no sagging hips). Modification is to come down to your knees until you build arm (and core) strength.
2. Focus on the Upper Body in Downward Facing Dog
I’m yet to get my heels all the way to the mat, and while it’s tempting to concentrate on stretching through the legs and getting those heels to the ground, a focus on the arms, shoulders, and upper back can really transform your Down Dog.
Shifting your weight forward in the posture (engaging the core of course) will build strength and tone in your arms. Ultimately, it’s about achieving an even weight on all four limbs, just like a dog.
3. Dolphin Pose (Makarasana)
Dolphin Pose is a Down Dog variation that focuses on the upper body strength of the dog. In this posture you lower to your forearms while pushing hips and tailbone high as in the regular posture. Engaging your core will really help as you build forearm strength.
4. Build from Cobra to Upward Facing Dog
Upward Facing Dog will work on strength through your shoulders, chest, and arms as well as achieving a stronger compression/bend into the lower back/kidneys/adrenals, when compared to Cobra.
The key is to support your body weight by lifting right up off your thighs with very little weight into the top of your feet. Arms are locked as you lift yourself up, shoulders back and down and chest smiling forward.
5. Hold Plank and Then Do Side Plank (Vashistasana)
Holding Plank works the core of course but also builds arm strength, so try holding for sixty seconds or longer. When you move into Side Plank (do both sides) you not only strongly engage the lateral abdominal muscles, but build strength through supporting much of your own body weight with one arm (not to mention balancing your weight) as the other arms reaches upwards.
An even stronger variation is to the lift up the top leg while in Side Plank to open into a starfish shape.
6. Arm Balances
Now you are ready, remembering that arm balances also take mental focus, lots of core strength, and often, openness through the hips. So while it is well worth concentrating on working out the wobble in your arms, yoga is always about the whole body and mind. Muscular strength in your arms is a nice result of an overall balanced practice, and tone and definition are a just reward.
So go show off your arms and celebrate your yogic strength.