We need upper body strength for everyday activities like carrying groceries, picking up children, moving furniture and reaching for that item on the top shelf (not to mention looking great in your favorite top!). In this post, we’ll show you how similar, yet different, yoga and fitness moves parallel and complement one another to strengthen, tone and stabilize your upper body, which in turn help to improve your flexibility, mobility and range of motion.
YOGA: Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). Make your way into plank position. Press your heels back, reach your heart forward, tuck your tailbone and firm your abs. Keep everything as is, but lean a little forward coming to your tiptoes. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your upper body while keeping your elbows and upper arms hugging in toward your ribcage. As you lower, make sure your shoulders do not drop below your elbows. Pause once your shoulders are in line with your elbows, pressing your heart forward and pushing your heels back. Hold for two to four cycles of breath. Modification: Same instructions as above, but before lowering from plank, bring your knees to the floor.
FITNESS: Push-Ups. This move is one of the oldest in the books – so simple yet so effective. Push-ups are a great way to use gravity as resistance. This move works the entire body but focuses more on the upper body – especially the chest and shoulders. Simply come into a plank position and bend your elbows lowering your chest towards the floor. Modification: If it is too challenging to stay on your toes with straight legs you can drop down to your knees for a modified variation.
YOGA: Vasisthasana (Side Plank). Come into plank position and place your right hand to the center of the mat. Roll to the outside of your right foot, stack your left foot directly on top of your right foot and flex your feet. Rotate your right elbow crease so it points forward toward the top of your mat and draw your right shoulder blade down your back. Reach your left arm up toward the ceiling keeping your pelvis lifted up, and take your gaze toward your left thumb. Hold for three cycles of breath. Change to the opposite side. Modification: Do the same instructions as above, except place your left foot forward directly in front of your left hip with your left ankle under your left knee. Use your left leg as a kickstand to distribute your body weight and keep your pelvis lifted up.
FITNESS: Side plank with Hip Raises. Make your way into side plank as described above. If you can hold side plank for at least 10 seconds, spice things up by lifting your hips as high as you can and then lowering your hips and hovering them over your mat. Try three to five repetitions!
YOGA: Modified Ardha Purvottanasana (Reverse Table Top). Come to a seated position with your knees bent, feet out in front of you. Take your hands shoulder distance apart behind you and rotate them so your fingers point in the same direction as your lower back. Press your feet down, lift your hips up toward the ceiling and move your feet so your ankles are under your knees. Either look forward or, if it’s ok on your neck, relax your head and neck back as you lift your heart up. Hold for three cycles of breath.
FITNESS: Reverse Table Dips. Let’s make reverse table top more challenging! First come into the pose by following the instructions above, then bend your elbows and hover your pelvis over the ground. Before the pelvis touches down, use your arm strength to press your pelvis back up toward the ceiling. Try eight to twelve repetitions. To make it even more challenging, extend one leg straight as you lower, then switch legs. Modification: To make things a little easier, shorten the distance that you dip your hips.
Laura Burkhart is a 500 E-RYT Yoga Works and Yoga Tree Teacher who also teaches online on My Yoga Works. Laura’s creatively sequenced classes are challenging, with a smooth and rhythmic flow. She is conscientious about catering to different levels and ability, ensuring that all her students feel welcome and comfortable. She is known for her warmth, fluidity, precision and smart sequencing and is attentive to the needs of her students. Laura worked as the Yoga Director at the San Francisco Bay Club’s Mind/Body Center, modeled in numerous Yoga Journal online videos, was spotlighted in Origin Magazine, and was a master class model for Yoga Journal Magazine. She has also presented at the Yoga Journal Conference, Yoga For Hope and Yoga Rocks the Park and has contributed to online blogs and articles for SELF Magazine, Yoga Journal Magazine, Refinery 29 and Yoga Tree. Find out more at LauraBurkhartYoga.com.
Jaime McFaden is the founder of Whey By J, Personal Trainer, group exercise instructor and Senior Master Trainers for Jillian Michaels BODYSHRED. Jaime has become an expert in body weight training and uses her fun, effective workouts to keep people in shape while having fun. Her exercises don’t require any equipment so she has a no excuse rule. She works with clients from age 5 – 85 so she is constantly creating workouts that can cater to nearly anyone. Jaime is also a contributor to many blogs including: The Skinny Confidential, Eat Beautiful/and fabletics. She has been featured in multiple fitness DVDs, co written the Bombshell Body Guide, has been featured as one of the top 10 trainers in Shape magazine 2014 and is currently featured in Women’s Health and Family Circle magazine.
Follow Laura and Jaime on Facebook/Instagram @WheyByJ @LauraBurkhartYoga @FireWaterFusion