10 Effective Yoga Poses to Increase Strength in Your Upper Body and Tone Your Core

Are you looking to increase strength in your upper body? Wanting to get more strength and definition in your core, chest, shoulders, and arms? Yoga can help with that! In addition to getting swimsuit ready, increasing your upper body strength will help you progress in your yoga practice.

Sure, having a strong upper body will make you an arm balance and inversion extraordinaire, but a strong upper body also aids in better posture, better breathing, and can lessen the risk of injury on the mat and in general.

Maintaining a regular yoga practice will definitely create more strength in your arms and upper body, but there are certain yoga poses in particular that will help create a stronger, more stable, and toned upper body.

Here are 10 effective yoga poses to strengthen and tone your core + upper body:

1. Purvottanasana (Upward Plank Pose)

Plank Pose or High Plank is a great yoga pose to strengthen your arms and shoulders – and this Upward Plank Pose does the same but also allows us to simultaneously stretch the shoulders and chest.

Let’s try it:

  • From Dandasana, place your hands on the mat behind your hips with your fingers pointing towards your sits bones
  • Stack your shoulders over your wrists and lift your hips towards the ceiling
  • Root your heels to the mat and press into the bottoms of your feet
  • You can either gaze toward your feet or if you desire a more intense stretch in your chest, relax your head back
  • While your quadriceps and core should be engaged, the strength behind the lift should be in the arms and shoulders
  • Hold for a few breaths, then repeat

   2. Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose)

Side Plank Pose is another plank variation that will strengthen your upper body and prepare you for arm balances and inversions. Side Plank allows you to isolate and strengthen one arm at a time which will help prevent muscular imbalances.

Let’s try it:

  • From Plank Pose, move your left hand to the center of the yoga mat with your wrist slightly in front of your shoulder
    Slowy rotate to the outside edge of your left foot. Stack your right leg on top of the left or place the right foot in front of the left for help with balance
  • Be sure your hips, knees, and ankles are aligned
  • Be sure your legs, core and shoulders are engaged as you lift the hips and extend your right arm toward the sky
  • Gaze up at your right thumb
  • Repeat on the opposite side

   3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)

Down Dog is practiced frequently in Vinyasa classes to reset, stretch and relax, and also flow between sequences. Not only does Down Dog stretch the back body – it also works wonders for your shoulder mobility and upper body strength.

Let’s try it:

  • From Table Top Pose, curl your toes under and lift your hips up and back
  • Keep your feet hip-distance apart and release your heels towards the earth to feel your calves and hamstrings gently open
  • Your hands are shoulder distance and your fingers are spread wide, pressing each individual fingertip into the mat to protect your wrists
  • Draw your shoulders down your back as you engage your lats, biceps, and triceps to keep your hands rooted to the mat
  • Keep your core engaged and your head relaxed
  • Hold for ten breaths, drop to Table Top Pose for a few breaths, then return to Down Dog

4. Tolasana (Scale Pose)

Tolasana strengthens the upper body because you utilize muscles in both your arms and shoulders to lift your entire body off the ground. If you need to modify this pose, try placing yoga blocks underneath your palms for more space to lift yourself up.

Let’s try it:

  • Begin in Lotus Pose or Sukhasana (cross-legged) if Lotus Pose is not part of your practice
  • Place your palms on the earth beside your sits bones
  • Press down with your hands while lifting your sits bones off the mat
  • Keep your core as active and engaged as your arms
  • Hold for a few breaths, then repeat

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