Strong, toned arms are not only necessary for those graceful and challenging arm balancing postures, but also a great bonus in day-to-day life. Developing such strength and fabulous toned arms takes time and effort. Apart from lifting weights in the gym, there are other workouts and activities you can do to develop arm strength over time. One such activity is yoga. A mind-body practice, yoga has several asanas that can be practiced regularly to reduce the fat, to convert it to muscle and to tone up the arms. When coupled with other exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, skipping, etc. the effects are all the more tremendous.
Yoga asanas stretch and strengthen the muscles and connective tissue, toning and giving shape to the arms. Many asanas improve blood circulation to the arms, ensuring cells in the region are nourished, improving function and health. The best part to build arm strength, you have to engage the core in all yoga asanas. So you’re doing both at the same time - building arm and core strength! The following asanas are all beneficial for arm strength.
8 yoga poses for arm strength
Known as Bhujangasana, cobra pose opens up the shoulders and neck region, tones the arms and improves balance and strength of the arms. It is also helpful in correcting posture.
How to do cobra pose
- Lie flat on the stomach with the legs straight, feet together and the soles of the feet facing upwards.
- Place the palms of the hands flat on the floor, below and slightly to the side of the shoulders, with the fingers together and pointing forward.
- Position the arms so that the elbows point backward and are close to the sides of the body.
- Rest the forehead on the floor and close the eyes.
- Relax the whole body, especially the lower back. Now slowly raise the head.
- Straighten the elbows, using the back muscles first, then the arm muscles to raise the trunk further and arch the back.
- In the final position, the pubic bone remains in contact with the floor and the navel is raised a maximum of 3 mm.
- The arms may or may not be straight; this will depend on the flexibility of the back.
Upward Facing Dog Pose
Similar to Bhujangasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana also improves posture, opens up the shoulders and improves arm strength. It is more challenging than Bhujangasana as the knees are above the ground in this pose.
How to do upward-facing dog pose:
- Start by lying down on your stomach. Place the hands next to the ribs with your elbows tucked into your sides.
- The feet should be pressed into the floor with the top of the feet facing on the mat.
- Keep the thighs, knees and abdomen engaged. The tailbone should be pointing towards the heels.
- Inhale, press into the hands and feet, straighten the arms and lift your chest and legs off the floor.
- Push the shoulder back and open up the chest.
- Look straight or upwards towards the ceiling.
- Stay here for 4-5 deep breaths or as long as you are comfortable.
- Exhale and lower yourself onto the mat. You can also raise up into the Downward Facing Dog Pose from here.
Downward Facing Dog Pose
Adho Mukha Svanasana, this posture helps rotate the shoulders, distributes the body weight between the arms and legs and thus, helps tone them.
How to do downward-facing dog pose:
- First come into the starting position of cat-cow pose (on your palms and knees). From here, push back through your hands and lift your hips. Straighten your legs.
- Keep the palms firmly on the mat with the fingers spread. The feet will be on the mat. If you find this difficult, you can also only place your toes on the mat.
- Keep the shoulders away from the ears. Look towards your abdomen.
- Engage your thighs and core to hold the posture. Keep taking slow deep breaths.
- To release the posture, exhale and bend your knees. Come down to the child's pose.
The beginner version of Pincha Mayurasana, dolphin pose strengthens the arms and shoulders, improves forearm strength and prepares the body for more challenging arm balancing yoga asanas. A dynamic movement is to to shift from dolphin pose to forearm plank and back. This movement is challenging yet very impactful.
How to do dolphin pose:
- Come onto your fours. Place the knees directly below your hips and your forearms on the floor with your shoulders directly above your wrists. Press the palms and forearms firmly into the floor.
- Inhale and gently exhale as you slowly lift the knees up and away from the floor. If the heels are lifted up from the floor initially, that’s alright. With practice you will be able to place it completely on the mat.
- Lift the sit bones and pull them towards the ceiling. Continue pressing the forearms into the mat. Keep the shoulder blades firm.
- Straighten the knees if you can, but ensure your back remains straight and does not round.
- Stay here for a few deep breaths.
- To come out of the posture, inhale and slowly bring your knees onto the mat.
- Relax the arms and stretch them forward, going into the child’s pose for a few minutes.
Trikonasana is a great posture for building arm strength and endurance. It improves balancing power, stretches and strengthens the arms, legs and sides of the waist.
How to do triangle pose:
- Exhale and take the Right leg in between the palms, turn the left toes out to 90 degrees
- Keeping the right palm on the ground or coming on the fingertips - slightly behind the right heel
- Inhale, extend the left arm up towards the sky, rotating the hip, abdomen and chest to the left side;
- Straighten the front knee, pushing the hips back, maintaining a lateral stretch on the left side of the body.
- Find your balance looking down, and then look up towards the left fingertips.
- Exhale, look Down and bring the left hand down on the floor. Inhale, take the right leg back, coming into downward-facing dog.
Warrior 1 Pose
Warrior one, Veera Bhadrasana, stretches and strengthens the arms and shoulders. It improves functioning, health and vitality of the arms and also helps in rotation.
How to do warrior one pose:
- Stand at the center of your mat. Now place your right foot at the front of your mat and left foot at the back. Your left foot should be turned outwards, about 90 degrees (or slightly less) and the hip points are facing the left side of your mat.
- Align your front heel and back arch. Now gently bend the right knee so that it comes directly over the right ankle and your thigh is as close to being parallel to the floor as possible.
- Keep your shoulders over your hips and extend your hands upwards directly over the shoulders. Your head faces the front of your mat. Take five to ten deep breaths while maintaining your alignment.
- To come out of the posture first lower your hands, then straighten the bent leg and gently come back to the center of the mat.
- Repeat the posture with the other foot forward.
Side Plank Pose
In the side plank pose, one balances on one arm and one leg. Challenging and very strengthening, the side plank pose tones the arm, improves arm balance and concentration.
How to do side-plank pose:
- To come into the pose, start in the Plank pose. Press the hands firmly on the mat and ensure the shoulders are over the wrists.
- Now, roll both the feet to the right, keeping the core and legs engaged. Place the left foot on top of the right.
- Keep the legs together and the right foot pushed onto the mat. Simultaneously, keep the right hand also pushed onto the mat and raise the left hand.
- Look up towards the raised hand or look straight ahead.
- Continue to keep the abdomen and legs engaged.
- Stay here for a few deep breaths.
- To come out of the pose, exhale, lower the left hand and bring the left leg back on the mat, coming into the plank position.
- Repeat the same on the other side.
Four-Limbed Staff Pose
Also known as the yogic push up pose, Chaturanga Dandasana requires immense arm strength. It is a part of the Ashtanga Surya Namaskar B series and while it requires strength, it also builds strength tremendously.
How to do four-limbed staff pose:
- From Plank Pose, keep your shoulder blades flat on your back and back muscles strong, draw the lower belly towards your spine. Your tailbone should be pointing upwards.
- Move slightly ahead so you are further than your shoulders. Keep the neck long by gazing in front.
- Breathe out, lower the whole body like a plank such that the upper arms are parallel to the floor and there is a 90° angle in your elbows. Elbows should remain close to the body throughout.
- The chest and shoulders should not dip lower than the elbows. Keep the front of the shoulders away from the floor the whole time.
- Hold here for as long as you can or for about 30 seconds.
- Gently lower yourself or come back to plank pose. You can also go up to Upward facing dog pose from here.
With regular practice, these yoga asanas will strengthen the muscles and have a toning effect on the arms. You’ll be better equipped to practice arm balancing poses and your upper strength will help you progress tremendously. You’ll even find you’re able to put more weight on the wrists.