First timers to yoga are often surprised by how much strength, especially in the upper body, is required even for beginner classes. Yes, yoga is so much more than being flexible, it requires a good deal of strength and body awareness too.

Women in particular come to this realisation during their first few Down Dogs or Planks. I vividly remember my first awkward yoga class: how shaky I was in Down Dog and I had zero control when attempting to lower down from High Plank to Low Plank.

People often ask me if they should be lifting weights to develop their upper body strength. My advice is that you don’t need to lift weights if you’re lifting your own body weight. And lets face it, unless you’re into Cross Fit or Power Lifting, when are you ever going to lift your body weight in dumbbells?

Improving your upper body strength will take time and practice but here’s a few simple (not easy) poses you can practice to develop upper body strength. And as a bonus, these will also strengthen your core.

Downward Dog

Down DogImage Credit: Bandha Yoga

Down Dog strengthens and stretches the whole body. Rather than trying to hold yourself up, push the floor away. This will energise the arms. Roll the forearms inward and the upper arms outward to create a spiral motion through the arms. Broaden the shoulder blades and draw them down your back. Try staying in Downward Dog for a few minutes to really build the upper body strength. For more tips on Down Dog click here

High Plank

daily bandha - plank

Image credit: Bandha Yoga

One of the best yoga poses for upper body and core strength. Start on your knees until you build your strength. Push the floor away from you rather than trying to hold yourself up. Keep the shoulder blades drawing down the back. Keep the spine straight rather than dipping at the hips. Roll the inner thighs towards one another and lift the knee caps. Try to drag your palms to your toes and vice versa. If you’re trembling or dipping in your lower back then you’re not engaging the core correctly – drop to the knees and try to drag the knees to the hands.

Forearm Plank

daily bandha forearm plank

Image Credit: Bandha Yoga

Similar to Plank, you guessed it, this one is on the forearms. Ensure the elbows are underneath the shoulders and the forearms parallel. Press the floor away with your forearms and try to squeeze the elbows towards one another. Lift through the upper back and draw the shoulder blades down your back. Keep the legs active by squeezing the inner thighs and lifting through the quadriceps. Engage the core by drawing elbows towards the feet and vice versa while lifting the navel and spine up to the ceiling. If the lower back trembles or shakes, drop to the knees. Work your way up from 30 seconds to a full minute or two.

Get these poses down pat and you never know, you can be like the Yoga Super Gran, Bette Calman in her late 80s.

Bette Calman