by Steph Creaturo
Arm strength in yoga is important. I remember my first thousand yoga classes where Down Dog tuckered out my arms pretty darned quick. We spend a lot of time turning our hands into our feet and our arms into our legs, and then use them as such. Even a casual observer can see that yoga is great for arm strength.
However, it can feel like a Catch-22: Yoga’s amazing for building arm strength, but while you’re building it, well, it can be brutal.
The functional strength yoga creates through long, lean muscles keeps our bodies healthy and humming when we are uneven and carrying heavy things like grocery bags or kids.This is a different kind of strength than working with weights, which builds muscle mass and strength. Both muscle length and mass build strength, are important, and balance each other out.
Next time you hop on your mat, keep these three tips in mind to build stronger arms:
1. Be patient! Arm balances and inversions are fun poses that require great mental focus in addition to arms that can support our body weight. Instead of skipping these poses entirely in class, have realistic expectations of yourself and don’t cheat the prep work, which is maybe more important than the full pose. Dolphin dives, plank at the appropriate level, forearm plank, working with a strap in arms up pose- let the full pose reveal itself to you in this prep work.
2. Work resistance: Extending your arms to the sides in standing poses works against gravity. The arms can be forgotten about in standing postures because the legs, where bigger muscles live, are working hard. However, holding the arms up in space makes them work against gravity, and teaches your body how to access your muscles while working with resistance.
3. Through isometric contraction. When you do a bicep curl, you build strength in the muscle by shortening it. In yoga, we keep the muscles long – one part of our body fixed on the floor, and from there, we engage muscles.
Imagine you have ice skates on your hands the next time you’re in all fours or down dog. Try to glide your hands back to your knees, but don’t actually move your hands, like you are ice skating over concrete.
And, cross train! Get yourself a pair of weights or a resistance band and do classic exercises like bicep curls. A good rule of thumb is to do one curl for every chatarangua you do in class.