Yoga helps to calm the mind and spirit, but it also creates a gorgeously strong and sculpted back! How? Well, 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. [wp_ad_camp_1]
Reasons to strengthen your back
When our hectic lifestyles force us to spend too much time in front of a computer screen or behind the wheel of a car, it is easy to develop a bad back. A daily yoga practice includes a comprehensive system that builds strength in both 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.
A sprinkling of reasons why having a strong back is important:
- A strong, flexible back will always be the basis of your comfort and health;
- Protects your spine and mitigates back pain (which can be worsened by all of the traveling everyone does around this time of year);
- Strong, flexible muscles help keep your body youthful and your mind energetic;
- Toning the muscles in the upper body is vital for good posture and protection from lower back pain, as well as improving your physical appearance making you look instantly taller and more confident.
- Strong back muscles, create a stronger core which is your vital force that holds you steady in your asana, keeping you upright in your standing poses, lends vitality in backbends and enables you to maintain balance. Without a strong center, every pose or movement you do is in danger of falling apart from the inside out.
This article features advanced yoga poses for a strong and sexy back. If you are new to yoga or just starting out on your new and fabulous yoga or fitness journey, then check out my earlier article with some starter poses to help to create that strong and sexy back!
1. Forearm Plank
In this pose the body is held strong and straight like a plank. Similar to a push up but with the weight resting on the forearms, this pose strengthens the arms, wrists, and shoulders and tones the abdomen. The upper back is expanded fully, increasing oxygenation of the muscle tissue and the release of tension held between the shoulder blades.
- Begin on forearms and knees.
- Keeping elbows shoulder-width apart, interlace fingers together. Tuck toes, lift knees off the ground, and step feet back.
- Keep the legs straight, reach through heels and crown of the head, lengthening through your spine.
- Draw your belly in towards your spine to activate the deeper transverse abdominal muscles.
- Start with 10 to 30 seconds a day. Every two to three days, add 15 more seconds until you are able to hold forearm plank for two minutes
2. Side Plank
This pose is the perfect blend of alignment and strength, and teaches us to cultivate focus and trust. It builds strength in the arms, wrists, and shoulders while creating super strong oblique muscles.
- Begin in Plank. Bring left palm to center of mat, roll onto outer edge of left foot. Stack right foot on top of left.
- Bring shoulder away from ear lobe, and stack right shoulder directly above left.
- Engage obliques by lifting and stacking hips on top of each other.
- Extend right arm towards the sky, gaze follows fingers.
- Repeat on other side.
- Start with five to ten breaths.
This pose, which requires (and builds) flexibility, works the shoulders strongly which you will realize after just one short breath in the posture! It develops strength in the shoulders and arms and also stretches the abdomen.
- Begin on all fours. Place your forearms on the mat, shoulder width apart.
- Curl toes under and lift hips towards the sky.
- Straighten legs and walk feet as close as you can towards your hands, keeping shoulders directly above elbows.
- Relax neck and gaze slightly forward.
- Start by holding for 5 breaths and work up to 20.
Modification: Lift one leg towards the ceiling, keeping hips parallel to the floor. Take two to five breaths then lower the leg and move to the other side.
This pose is the ultimate preparation for inversions as it builds strength and flexibility in the upper back and hip flexors. Once you can hold for 20 breaths you can begin to work towards full inversions at the wall.
A pose that requires equal amounts of balance and strength, you'll fee Crow working your wrists, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, and upper back, as well as your core. It requires concentration and in helping us conquer the fear of falling forward, builds confidence in other areas of our life.
Not quite in crow yet? Try this to build strength:
- Place a block horizontally on your mat.
- Step into a squat on the block, bringing the inner edges of your feet's arches together, and opening your knees into a butterfly position.
- Place your palms on the floor shoulder-width apart and flat, with your fingers spread wide.
- Bring your inner knees to just below your outer shoulders. Begin to shift your weight towards your hands, pressing firmly into your fingertips as you do so.
- Draw your belly in towards your spine and squeeze your inner knees against the outside of your upper arms. Try to bring the heels together and slowly lift toes from the block.
- Do five repetitions. Rest. Repeat again.
5. East Stretch Posture
Though Intense East Stretch looks easy, this pose really challenges your triceps and upper back, and for an added bonus, you'll also tone your booty and the backs of your legs. It strengthens the wrists and arms and limbers the shoulders.
- Place the hands shoulder width apart behind the back, with fingers pointing towards the feet.
- Inhale lift the buttocks, taking the weight of the body onto the hands and feet.
- Straighten the arms, press into feet to lift hips as high as possible.
- Hold for five to ten breaths.
This tremendous backbend engages every muscle in the body. It opens the front of the body strongly, opening your heart, while giving the spine a maximum stretch. To lift up into the full extension of the pose requires good shoulder flexibility and, once up, strength in the arms to hold you in place. While increasing flexibility in the spine, it will also sculpt the muscles in your upper back and triceps.
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground hip-width apart.
- Bend elbows and place hands on either side of head shoulder-width apart with fingers pointing toward shoulders. If the hands do not press flat to the ground please do not continue.
- Pressing into feet and hands equally, lift onto the crown of your head and then slowly lift through the hips and lengthen arms.
- Keep pressing into feet through big toes and reach chest away from feet.
- Breathe here for 5 deep breaths, then tuck chin to chest before slowly coming down.
Modification for Advanced Yogis: For even more of a challenge, try backbend push ups by gently bending your elbows and lowering body towards the floor, and using your core strength to lift you back into full extension of the pose.
7. Plough Pose
This is a beautiful stretch for the end of a strengthening session for the entire length of the spine. This folded over inversion is wonderfully rejuvenating to the entire nervous system. The neck and shoulders are released from any habitual tension and the spine is stretched to its maximum.