Who doesn’t want a stronger, more sculpted back or shapely arms to show off in those low-back dresses and two-pieces? Not only will you look amazing, you'll also feel amazing: A strong back protects your spine and mitigates back pain (which can be worsened by all of the traveling everyone does around this time of year). [wp_ad_camp_1] If you're working on developing long lean muscles to flaunt at the beach, or to show off in your fabulous cocktail dresses at happy hour, it's time to do some yoga! Yoga helps to calm the mind and spirit, but it also creates absolutely gorgeous arms and a sculpted back! Yoga asks you to hold your own body weight in a series of fabulously unique positions, so that you end working the muscles in your upper body way more effectively than using weight machines in the gym. The burn you will feel in your arms and upper back, as you progress your practice, will let you know that you will soon be loving your sexy, strong arms and sculpted back just in time for Christmas party season or that winter sunshine vacation.
Should You Think about Back Strength? Yes.
Yoga is most definitely more than just stretching and relaxation! Daily yoga practice includes a comprehensive system that builds strength in the body and mind. And as all of that strength is from the center, guess what ends up looking like a super strong piece of machinery? Yep, you got it, your spine and more specifically the muscles throughout your arms, shoulders and lower back which stand tall and proud to keep you upright. Without even realizing that you are working half of the muscles in your upper body, yoga significantly tones and strengthens this key support system.
Strengthening your spine also has knock on effects and benefits for the rest of your body and mental well being too. Toning the muscles in the upper body is vital for good posture and protection from lower back pain.
If you introduce a regular practice of the key poses below into your yoga practice, you will experience a steady development of strength that will last your entire life. Strong, flexible muscles help keep your body youthful and your mind energetic.
Though specific arm toning and back sculpting poses do exist in yoga, focusing on the practices that prepare you for them, as well as warm-ups like the sun salutations make for an even more complete method of getting super-toned. In the sun salute, focusing on the backbends really challenges and works out entire arms, including the upper body. This involves poses like the crescent, mountain pose, cobra, and the well-known plank pose, to name a few. So use the sun salutations to warm up for the sequence below, but practice being mindful during the motions and allow your body to gain strength and shape as you focus your awareness on each part of your body at each stage of the sequence.
The beginner yoga poses below will help to build strength in your upper back and shoulders without adding bulk. The result: long, lean muscles that will make you want to go sleeveless and backless every single day! If you're a little farther along in your practice, check out these more advanced poses that strengthen your back.
1. Chaturanga Dandasana
In this pose the weight of the body rests on the hands and feet. It works the arms, wrists, shoulders and tones the abdomen helping to create that kick ass strength and toning effect across the whole of the upper body.
- Begin in high plank with hands under shoulders, and either on your toes, or on your knees if needed.
- Keeping your core tight and engages, slowly lower your chest toward the ground, keeping your elbows pointed backward and close into the sides of your body.
- Hold at this low elevation, a few inches off the floor, for a few breaths.
- Gently lower yourself to the ground, and move into baby cobra.
2. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward Facing Dog may look relaxing, but it's a killer move for toning your arms and upper back. This pose requires stretch in the shoulders and wrists and increases flexibility in the hamstrings. It is more of an inversion than anything, and therefore increases the calories you burn while holding the shape, while also working the muscles to a more intense level to create strength.
- Beginning in table top position, with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips, gently shift your weight backwards and up.
- Lift your hips into the air, focusing on making your spine long and creating one straight long line from your hands to your sits bones. Knees can bend if it gives your spine more length.
- Stay here for a few rounds of breath
- Gently lower back down to table top.
Modification number 1 - Stick one leg in the air for Three-Legged Dog, and it's even more challenging. Hold for five breaths on both sides.
Modification number 2 - Swiveler – get some touché action too ;) Who doesn’t love a pose that works the arms, shoulders, stomach and back muscles and create a perfectly toned touché?
3. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Cobra is an excellent back strengthener. This backbend demands more arm strength than perhaps some yogis realize. It opens the chest, stimulates the digestive organs and increases mobility throughout the vertebrae. The pose asks that you open your heart, draw your shoulders back to remind yourself of good posture and work the full length of your arms, particularly the triceps, to hold you in a strong and regal position.
- Lying on your stomach with your legs flat on the floor, begin with your arms bent and your hands palm down on the floor under your shoulders.
- Slowly push your upper body off the floor with your arms. Take this pose slowly, using care not to push too far into the pose and not holding it for too long.
- Keep your elbows slightly curved and close to your sides, and make the bend in your lower back small. Be careful not to look too far backward and crunch the cervical spine.
- Use your core and back muscles to keep your chest lifted rather than your hands.
- Hold here for a few breaths, and gently lower your chest to the ground.
- Follow Cobra Pose with child's pose to relax the muscles and undo the tension of the pose.
4. Locust (Salabhasana)
This pose is particularly strengthening for the lower back muscles and tightening of the trapezius, as the shoulders are drawn back and together. It opens the chest, encourages good breathing and posture, and reduces mental fatigue.
- Lie facedown on your mat, big toes together.
- Reach arms long on either side of you and use a big inhale to lift chest and feet off the ground.
- Keep your shoulder blades engaged and down your back while you're in this pose, it's a killer!
- Breathe here for 5 deep breaths.