Wheph, if there was ever a practice I need, it’s this! I am seriously lacking in the upper body department, but we all need to start somewhere, right? This practice was inspired by a friend who does rock climbing! She’s been looking for ways to strengthen and loosen her shoulders.
A forewarning: This will work more than your upper body, you may feel it in your abs, glutes, and even legs on occasion! And I’ve got one different pose for you today! You can replace a Downward Facing Dog with a Dolphin! Great for the shoulders!
20 minute Upper Body Practice
Virasana: We’re starting kneeling today. You are welcome to sit a different way, but this seems to work the best for me. Ideally, your big toes would touch, and your butt would be in between your heels in a nice little seat created by your feet. (Some people even teach that your bottom should be on the floor between your feet! Go there if you’d like.) If this is hard for you, there are loads of modifications to this pose.
- Place a block between your feet and sit on that. You can use books too, anything that fits comfortably between your feet, really. You can also place a blanket on top of your block/books to give yourself a little throne.
- Roll up a towel or small blanket between your ankles and the floor. Most people think this pose is all in the knees, but if your ankles are tight, it can still be a nightmare. This is a good way to relax and slowly stretch out your ankles.
If all else fails, it is absolutely fine to sit cross-legged, or even stand for these next few poses.
Shoulder stretch: Bring your right arm up straight in front of you about shoulder height. Keep your palm facing in, toward the left. Bring your left arm under your right and hook it around your right arm. Your right arm should sit in your left elbow. Use your left arm and pull your right arm like a lever to the left. your arm will start to lay against your body. Sit up nice and tall, and try to avoid letting your shoulder’s hunch. I find moving back and forth in this pose to feel sort of nice. Switch sides!
Side stretch: We’ve done this before. Hands straight in front of you, palms facing toward each other. Interlace your fingers, turn your palms out, and raise your arms up and over head. Now lean to the right. Try not to let one of your sit bones (Buttcheeks, point butt bones, whatever you call them) lift up. You want your legs and bottom to stay firmly planted. Inhale as you sit up straight, then leave to the left.
Cowface: Bring your right arm straight out to the side, palm facing forward. Raise your arm straight up then bend your elbow, you’ll end up patting yourself on the back. Now straighten your left arm out to the side, but with your palm facing back. Lower your arm down and bend your elbow so the back of your hand can rest against your back. If it’s available to you, try to hook your fingers together, if not, hold a strap in your right hand has you get into this pose, then grab it with your left when it comes up your back. Being able to clasp your hands behind your back is not for everyone, and some people may never be able to do it simply because of our bodies! So never fear, straps are here!
Planks/Chatturanga: For the basic plank position, you have 3 options with your arms and 2 with your legs here: You can keep your knees bend and on the mat, I recommend then keeping your feet off the mat if you can, or you can stay on your toes with your knees straight. Each of these arm positions also has slightly different benefits too, so maybe you want to try our each one!
Option 1: Straight arms. Your arms would be extended straight in front of you, like you are in a table to position.
Option 2: Rest on your elbows, with your forearms flat on the mat going straight out in front of you!
Option 3: Chatturanga arms! Start like in the first option, but you will lower yourself down so that your elbows are bending back. You want your elbows at about a 90 degree angle. This can be a very hard pose though, so don’t be afraid to back out, or do it on your knees. This one you can’t really do on your fists though. I suppose you could, so if you really like doing it like that go for it, but if you can, try doing it with your palms open and flat on the ground.
(Optional) Child’s Pose: For those of us who just need a break, take a Child’s Pose.
Side Planks: The side plank can be done from the first two options of plank position. You can always push up from Chatturanga into option 1 though, so don’t think you’ve committed to not trying out side planks. You really just move all your weight and roll over to your side and support your body using your right hand and foot. Don’t for get to do it on both sides! And if you can, try to go from a plank to a side plank, then roll back through a plank to the other side.
Down Dog/Dolphin: From a table top position, tuck your toes, push into your hands, and lift your knees, then send your sit bones on up!
Alternate Leg Grabs: If you struggle with grabbing your legs in this pose check out the Core Yoga routine from last week to see another version of this pose.
This pose is done from a table top position, like the previous pose. Really think about your abs with this pose. They should be doing a lot of work. Your glutes, arms, back, sides, shoulders, everything! This is a very active pose for your whole body, so keep that structural integrity in your body as you do this. In this pose we lift one arm and the opposite leg usually. As you lift your right left, raise your right arm back and grab onto your ankle. Push your ankle into your hand and you’ll find your back may arch a little! (This is a bit like Bow Pose.) Switch!
Child’s Pose: Finally, relax in an Extended Child’s Pose, with those arms out straight to stretch out your shoulders a little.
Savasana: Flip onto your back, let your feet flop to the sides and your arms relax along side your body. You deserve this!