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7 Yoga Grips to Strengthen the Upper Body

7 Yoga Grips to Strengthen the Upper Body

Yoga provides solace and strength through its practices, especially when dealing with specific physical conditions in the upper body areas like the wrists, shoulders, etc. Yoga enhances flexibility, promotes relaxation, and improves overall well-being. However, for those with wrist issues, it can be both a blessing and a potential source of discomfort in certain poses. 

So is yoga a viable option for those trying to improve upper body strength or recovering from physical ailments? The answer, like the intricate poses themselves, is multifaceted. It hinges upon the emphasis of the practice, making the necessary adjustments and taking a mindful approach.

When practicing yoga, one encounters poses that require the hands to bear weight, such as tabletop, vinyasa sequences, and even hand gestures like reverse namaste. For individuals with wrist issues, these poses can evoke sensations of pain, tingling, or numbness, disrupting the flow of their practice and exacerbating discomfort. Poses that involve wrist extension, like tabletop or cat-cow, can be particularly aggravating for those with underlying hand or wrist problems. Maintaining a neutral wrist position and adapting different types of beneficial grips, devoid of any bend, to alleviate strain and foster comfort are advisable. 

In this blog, we will explore a few simple hand grips that are useful for strengthening the upper body. 

7 Hand Grips Beneficial in Improving Upper Body Strength 

Fist Grip

By making fists, weight is shifted away from the wrists, reducing strain on the carpal tunnel. This grip allows practitioners to maintain stability and engagement in poses without aggravating wrist discomfort.

Forearm Plank

Instead of a traditional plank position on the palms, lower down onto the forearms. Lowering onto the forearms decreases the angle of wrist extension, relieving pressure on the carpal tunnel. It provides a strong core and upper body workout while minimizing wrist strain.

Finger Stretch Grip

Start in a tabletop position with wrists directly under the shoulders. Lift the palms slightly and press the fingers firmly into the mat, stretching them out. Stretching the fingers helps to alleviate tension in the hands and wrists commonly associated with conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This grip helps to strengthen the fingers and relieve pressure on the wrists. It also improves finger dexterity and mobility, promoting overall hand health.

Knuckle Grip

From a tabletop position, curl the fingers and place the weight on the knuckles. Placing weight on the knuckles instead of the palms reduces pressure on the wrists and alleviates discomfort. This grip reduces pressure on the wrists while still allowing for stability and engagement in yoga poses. It allows for stability in poses while providing a more comfortable alternative for those with wrist issues.

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Yoga Block Grip

Use yoga blocks to elevate the palms off the ground in poses like downward facing dog or plank. Elevating the palms on yoga blocks decreases the angle of wrist extension, minimizing strain on the carpal tunnel. This grip provides support and stability in poses while reducing wrist discomfort.

Fingertip Grip

Start in a tabletop position and lift the palms slightly off the mat.

Balance the weight on the fingertips while keeping the wrists straight. Balancing on the fingertips strengthens the muscles in the fingers and wrists, improving overall hand stability and reducing strain on the carpal tunnel. It strengthens the fingers and wrists while reducing pressure on the Carpal Tunnel. It helps to increase proprioception and control in the hands, which is beneficial if anyone has conditions like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. 

Fist and Forearm Support

Using a combination of fists and forearms distributes weight more evenly, reducing pressure on the wrists and carpal tunnel. This grip maintains stability and support in poses while minimizing wrist discomfort and strain. In poses where the hands are typically on the mat, such as Downward-facing Dog, use a combination of fists and forearms for support. Place the fists on the mat and lower the forearms down, distributing weight evenly. This grip reduces pressure on the wrists while still providing stability and support in yoga poses.

Other exercises helpful for Upper Body Strength 

As the nerves traveling from the wrists to the hands originate in the neck and shoulder region, improving alignment in the shoulders and neck can potentially reduce compression in the neck. Exercises such as simple shoulder rolls towards the wall and then down the back are helpful. Tennis ball squeezes also help strengthen the finger and wrist flexors. One can start with a softer ball and then use a harder ball over time. Strap holds also help strengthen the arms and shoulder flexors. Wrist circles, clockwise and anti-clockwise, are also helpful for those with Carpal Tunnel. 

A few yoga asanas and their variations that can be adapted include the Prayer pose, Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana) with Hands Clasped Behind Back, Downward Facing Dog Variation with Fist, Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana) with Hand Modification, Supine Hand Stretch and Corpse pose, among others. 

In Conclusion 

Practicing yoga can indeed be a valuable tool for managing and alleviating the discomfort and strengthening the upper body. However, it's crucial to approach these exercises with mindfulness, prioritizing safety and comfort above all else. Each individual's experience is unique, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Therefore, it's highly recommended to practice with a qualified yoga instructor who can provide personalized modifications and adjustments based on your specific needs and limitations. Furthermore, practicing under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher not only ensures safety but also fosters a deeper understanding of proper alignment, breathing techniques, and mindful movement. With their expertise, you can navigate your yoga practice with confidence, knowing that you're on the path to healing and well-being.

Practice yoga safely and with the right modifications live on Shvasa.

Can yoga help with upper body strength?
Yes, yoga can help you strengthen the upper body with different hand grips.
Can individuals with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome do asanas such as downward-facing dog poses?
Yes, however, modifications must be adapted by using beneficial hand grips that provide stability and do not add strain to the wrists. It is advisable to practice with a teacher to learn the right techniques.
Can those looking to strengthen the upper body practice yoga on their own?
It is always advisable to practice yoga with a teacher to ensure you do not experience any injuries.
7 Yoga Grips to Strengthen the Upper Body
Arunima Singhdeo

Arunima is the Founder & CEO of Shvasa. She was the cofounder and COO of which raised approx $20mn in funding from Accel Partners and Tiger Global, which was later acquired by The Mahindra Group. She was also a Vice President at Infoedge India - a successfully listed Internet company. Arunima is a Master Yoga & Meditation teacher with over 2000 hrs of practice and 1000 hrs of teaching Yoga. Her two passions are yoga and the internet.

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