Monday, July 2, 2012

15 Minute Sequence To Build Arm Strength

I always admired Linda Hamilton's chin ups in Terminator 2.  When I was ten I could do chin ups myself thanks to my father who took me running and then to some monkey bars and got me to practice.  When I was about thirty I tried again and couldn't manage one.  But then again I used to do handstands without fear when I was ten too.  (I am not trying to create a link between your chin up capability and handstands although there probably is one.)

In any case, a certain amount of arm strength is required in yoga practice.  And I am talking about the entire arm from the fingers up through the wrists, across the elbows, shoulders, and into the shoulder blades.  For those of you who come to my classes you will note I count our arms as attaching to our waists (see monkey arms blog post) and so developing strength around your back and side waist mucles is part of arm strengthening for me. 

You don't need gorilla arms or body builder arms to practice yoga.  Yogic strength tends to be lithe and graceful rather than bulky. The 15 minute sequence I created (see clip above) should help you get some of the strength you need.  If you are very new to yoga and not used to bearing weight through your hands it is probably going to be too tough for you--mainly because your hands are likely not working effectively yet and you will be bearing weight through the wrists rather than evenly through the entire hands.  In this case it is best to maybe gradually build up to being about to holding downward dog for a few minutes without the feeling of pressure through the wrists and come back to this sequence when you are ready. Don't forget to read my previous post on using your hands effectively to take weight off the wrists as well. 

Even if you are a bit more experienced, you still might find this sequence a little tiring.  If that is the case, split it up or take more rests.  You can always take knee options as well.

Your practice should always be mindful but things to watch out for in particular in this type of sequence are:
  • cultivate lift through the hands so you are not sinking in the wrists
  • cultivate freedom in the elbows so they are straight but not locked
  • keep pressing the hands down into the floor so that you do not sag into your shoulder joints
  • keep the shoulders away from the ears, especially when lowering to the floor and rising up from it
Have fun and hope you enjoy the sequence.