Updated: Oct 2, 2019
I just finished my latest 10-minute yoga workout focusing on upper body and boy did this routine burn out my shoulders. I got a little aggressive last month and tried really hard to do crow pose for the first time and failed, falling on my face miserably. I haven’t ever really had a ton of upper body strength and so I’m trying to focus on poses that aren’t quite as advanced as crow but will help me to build the upper body strength necessary to get there.
This flow includes two super difficult transitions, from plank super slowly down to chaturanga and then from up dog super slowly back down to chaturanga and then pushing straight up into plank and back to down dog.
I’ll break these two flows down for you.
Once you’re in high plank, you’re in a push-up position with your hands on the mat directly beneath your shoulders. Your arms are straight and supporting your body. Take care to protect your wrists in this pose, and throughout the entire sequence by distributing your body weight throughout your palms all the way to your fingertips. Doing so builds forearm strength and will protect your wrists from taking too much weight.
Next, while keeping your elbows tucked close to your body, bend your elbows as slowly as you can to super slowly bring your body closer to your mat with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. If you can handle it, don’t drop any other body part to the mat before flowing into cobra. If this is too challenging, you can always drop to your knees as well. The point is to keep the movement super slow and controlled.
To go from cobra directly back to chaturanga is super challenging so if needed you can drop your knees back to the mat for this transition. So, with either toe tips or knees on the mat, from cobra, slowly begin to bend your elbows as you shift your body back to a chaturanga position. Again, this is SUPER hard to do.
From there, you push back up to down dog, also not easy.
In this routine, you can feel free to choose up dog or cobra after chaturanga. Use up dog for more of an upper-body challenge. In up dog, the hips are lifted off the mat and the arms, shoulders, and back are supporting your body weight. Cobra is more of a restorative stretching pose, which looks similar but the hips touch the mat relieving weight off the arms, shoulders and upper back.
This sequence also concludes with two different lovely shoulder stretches, threading the needle while in puppy pose and wide-legged forward fold with a shoulder stretch.
To thread the needle, begin in puppy pose, and then pull the right hand back and outstretch all the way left as far as it can reach while flipping the palm up and twisting the upper body to face left. The left arm is still outstretched straight up from the crown towards the top of the mat with the palm facing down on the mat. Repeat on the opposite side.
To achieve a nice shoulder stretch while in wide-legged forward fold, clasp the palms behind your back and pull away from the body as far as you can comfortably go.
This flow moves a little faster than some of the other 10-minute flows I've posted here and here, which are more Hatha style. I've specified in the steps which poses you should try to hold for a little longer, but this moves generally a little quicker than my other routines.
So, if you’re looking to build upper body strength like myself, give this 10-minute upper body yoga routine a try and let me know your thoughts.
10-Minute Upper Body Yoga Blast
1. Mountain pose
2. Swan dive to forward fold
3. Walk hands forward to down dog (10 breaths)
4. Bring elbows to the mat for dolphin pose (10 breaths)
5. Puppy pose
6. Down dog (5 breaths)
7. One-legged dog
8. High plank
9. Slow transition to chaturanga
10. Up dog or cobra
11. Slow transition back to chaturanga
12. Down Dog
(Repeat steps 3-12 2 more times)
13. Puppy pose
14. Thread the needle
15. Wide-legged forward fold with a shoulder stretch
16. Child’s pose
I hope you enjoy this routine as I did.