Many of the clients I work with are looking to improve their upper-body strength, both to help achieve their fitness goals and to improve their functionality in daily tasks. Several yoga postures can assist in the gradual development of upper-body strength and endurance. I find these poses to be accessible, adaptable, and functional, as you are working solely with your own body weight and you can slowly adjust how much of that weight your upper body is supporting over time.
Fitting an upper-body strength posture into a vinyasa also gives those working muscles the opportunity for a rest before preforming the posture again. I conquered the tricep push-up (chaturanga) through a vinyasa flow that only required one upper-body exercise out of four consecutive postures. I didn’t have to be able to do a set of push-ups; I only had to manage 4–6 with a nice break in between. It made them much more manageable, and over time I could progress from kneeling chaturanga to supporting myself from my toes. Eventually I increased the number that I could do with good technique.
The keys to improving strength are patience and body awareness. Start at a level that is appropriate for your current strength and ability, and progress slowly—only when you can maintain the integrity of the posture through the full-range of motion. You are only as strong as the weakest parts of your body, and while we may be focusing on the upper body, the rest of the body still plays an active role. Ensure that you have the core strength to maintain optimal spinal alignment throughout the posture or flow. Take the time to focus on alignment and body awareness, and you will be able to build strength safely.
Read the full disclaimer before proceeding with exercises.