Celebrities like Ashley Judd, Jenifer Aniston, Adam Levine, Madonna, and LeBron James have known for a very long time that a hard core yoga class builds up your arm strength, stamina, and improves your focus. But as a modified yoga instructor for twenty two years, I know the truth. It is not just a strenuous yoga class, which will build muscle. Modified yoga will steadily build your arm strength, and participants will feel renewed, in almost every way possible. Modified yoga, like a strenuous mat class, uses isometric force, which means; will use body force against itself, to build strength, stamina and endurance. In a simple example. A modified push up, uses your body’s weight against the triceps, and shoulders. There are many arm strength building exercises in modified yoga. Participants who consistently practice these exercises will see and feel improvement of the overall tone of their arms.
We can also use straps to cause resistance, and build strength. So to begin with strap options. Here are items that you can use. A heavy duty fabric karate belt. It’s usually best if it’s at least three to four feet. A regular leather belt, but make sure that it’s durable. You can use a long towel that you roll lengthwise, to make a makeshift strap, or roll a pillow case up length wise. Use just one option.
I’m going to describe a wall push up, a diamond press push up that you can do on knees on the mat, and an exercise that you use the strap for a resistance exercise. Use all or one of these techniques in your daily practice.
To do a wall push up, stand facing a wall, a little more than an arm’s distance from the wall. First, to find the right placement, of your hands, put your hands, on your breast bone of your chest. If you bring your arms straight out from that bone, and place your hands on the wall, your hands will be chest high on the wall. Since you are standing a little more than arm’s length you will have a slight incline, which will cause greater resistance and isometric force on your arms. Put your palms flat on the wall, or your fists on the wall if you have carpel tunnel on your wrists. When you place your palms on the wall, if you want an easier press, the distance between your palms, could be six to eight inches. If you want more challenging press, put your hands in the center, and put your fingers tips angled in and your wrists and elbows pointing out to the sides.
To begin, keep your knees slightly bent, when you do the wall press. The tail bone and lower back will be tucked towards the wall. When you move towards the wall, you bend your arms and lean in, your body will move as one unit, like a plank of wood. When you come close to the wall, you will keep your body straight and you will bring your nose to about one inch from the wall. To do this pose well, do not push your neck forward. You should move your body as a unit. Hold the pose for five seconds to fifteen seconds. Then relax for another five to fifteen seconds. As you progress adjust your time that you hold the pose, or adjust the amount of reps you do, as you gain strength. When you are starting out you can do three to eight reps of five to fifteen seconds hold time.
To work with a strap. This can be done seated or standing. If you are standing, keep your knees bent, and stand with your feet hip width apart for balance. Take the strap in your hands and have the space between your hands about ten to twelve inches. Start with your hands, holding the strap at chest level. First slowly attempt to pull the strap and your arms apart. Of course you won’t be able to tear the strap or belt apart. This pulling causes an isometric force against your triceps and shoulders. Next, continue to pull it apart as you extend your arms forward. Hold them extended out for five to fifteen seconds. Bring the strap back to your chest for another five seconds and then push them forward once again. Relax. You can do three to eight reps.
Next hold the strap about ten to twelve inches once again. Lower the strap near your hips or legs, and in front of you. Attempt to pull the strap apart, and slowly lift the strap up, keep your arms straight. If you are concerned for your shoulders, you can stop the strap and your arms chest high. Hold the pose and lower to the starting point by your legs. Continue to attempt to pull the strap apart, and raise again. If you have no shoulder challenges, you can bring the strap up over your head, keep your arms straight. Hold for five to fifteen seconds. Again repetitions of poses can be three to eight rounds. Relax and breathe. You can do any or all of the variations I suggest here.
The last one, we are going to start with the strap over your head. When you hold the strap over your head, the width of your arms will be open wider. The space between your hands can be about fifteen to twenty inches wide. We open our arms wider over our heads, to accommodate the natural way the body is built. Without the strap if you would put your arms straight up over your head, they don’t go straight up, they open more like a “V.” We want to have minimal strain on the shoulders, so it’s just easier to open the arms wider to accommodate the body.
When you are holding the strap, you don’t need to pull it apart, because the movement itself will cause an isometric resistance. It’s relatively simple. We are going to imagine a channel, which swings side to side over our head. When you are holding the strap fifteen inches to twenty inches apart, bring your arms all the way to the right (in the channel or groove over your head,) and hold for five to fifteen seconds, then shift all the way to the left and hold. Do three to five reps. Bring your arms down and rest.
The last pose is our most challenging. The diamond press. This requires that you kneel for a few moments on the mat. If you have knee challenges you can put a thick towel under your knees for support and to cushion your knees. Kneel down on all fours. Your hands and your knees. Put your hands directly under your chest bone, as close to that chest bone point, as possible, place your hands on the mat.
To place your hands correctly in the diamond press, you will start with the index fingers of each hand touching. Open your hands out to the sides, and touch the tips of the thumbs together. The empty space between your hands will now make a triangle. Place your palms, with the triangle down center of the mat. Hover your body over your hands, and your elbows point out to the sides. Tuck your tail bone and hips under, and bend your arms, lower to a point halfway down towards hands. Maintain diamond press for five to fifteen seconds. If you have stamina you can do three to five and work your way up. Four, five or six reps.
Modified yoga will make a difference in your arm strength, your stamina, and your focus. Many of you will find theses poses to be a work out. But I can assure you, they will be much easier than a strenuous mat class. As you get stronger you can always work your way up through reps, or the classes. Focus on what you can do. But for me, my modified yoga gives me and my clients everything we need.