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lauraadele

lacking upper body strength

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Hi everybody! I'm new this forum, but had a question maybe people can help me out on. I've been doing yoga pretty actively for four years, but can't seem to master more advanced arm balances and head stands because my upper body strength is just not there. I feel like sometimes in yoga the majority is focused on leg strength and I feel as though I can only do so many chaturangas before I tire out. Anyone else have this problem? Thanks!!

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Don't worry, you're not alone!  I am actually quite pleased how strong our legs have gotten from yoga, too. I think classes do focus on legs a lot to stretch out our hip flexors because most of us sit and work all day. I used to have some knee issues when I walked, but building up my quad strength in those deep lunges have helped.  

Anyway, I've been practicing for 5 years and still can't do bakasana let alone any "more advanced arm balances". But, I did find myself closest to holding it when we practiced "turbo dogs" instead of downward dog each time we did a vinyasa.  It forces you to squeeze your elbows together like holding a beach ball between your forearms. That engages the serratus anterior muscles (armpit muscles), which create a more stable "shelf" for arm balances.  

And I completely relate - if there are a lot of vinyasas in a class, I do modified chaturangas and low cobra since my chest gets tired, to prevent my wrists getting worn out, and so I don't get tired and lose my form. I think the nice thing about yoga is getting to know your body better, and each day is different.

For inversions, I found myself able to do headstand after building more core strength, but, I am working on forearm stand to build those same armpit muscles.  Working on dolphin has been helping me, after I get over the agony of holding it for more than a minute.  I like to clasp my hands together in dolphin since my wrists are weak. Do you already do downward dog or forearm against the wall?  When you form the proper right angle, it actually requires more strength building to hold it against the wall than it is to balance against the wall.

Oh, and you might find other forum members' inputs helpful on arm balances in these other threads. Anahata and AnaTeresa provided some pretty good links on core strength:

Watching Candace's 30 min strength and flexibility video helped Jasmine with her arm balances!

 

Hildegard likes this

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Thank you!! This is very helpful. I am glad I am not alone! I haven't done downward dog against a wall but I see it is very popular on pinterest haha! I will have to give it a try. I think I am going to give the 30 day strength video a try!

yogafire likes this

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It's not an uncommon situation at all. I've found that focusing more in my core rather than my arms has helped me with my arm balances. Making sure my body is stable means that my arms don't have to do extra work in that kind of asanas. It also means that when I fall it'll happen in a controlled way, which is good for my body and my ego. I've also found it helpful to make sure my alignment is always right. My chaturangas were a disaster until I realised that the placement of my hands and the orientation of my elbows was all wrong. Now the pose comes naturally to me.

What has also worked for me is to incorporate more advanced arm balances into my practice, even though I'm aware the full expression of the pose is not going to happen in the near future. For example, I like to do my very limited version of astavakrasana toward the end of my practice a few times a week. I can lift my legs and sort of hold the pose for a millisecond before I hit the mat. I also like to do a few mini push ups when I'm in wheel pose.

I don't like to insist too much with a pose that's not working for me at any given moment. I've found that when I get too obsessed with an asana my brain will block, which in turn will block my body. It's best to try a variety of poses.

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On 9/28/2016 at 11:26 AM, Hildegard said:

What has also worked for me is to incorporate more advanced arm balances into my practice, even though I'm aware the full expression of the pose is not going to happen in the near future. For example, I like to do my very limited version of astavakrasana toward the end of my practice a few times a week. I can lift my legs and sort of hold the pose for a millisecond before I hit the mat. I also like to do a few mini push ups when I'm in wheel pose.

I don't like to insist too much with a pose that's not working for me at any given moment. I've found that when I get too obsessed with an asana my brain will block, which in turn will block my body. It's best to try a variety of poses.

Hildegard, I want to practice with you! :D 

It's been hard to appreciate those "milliseconds" - feeling that lightness, no matter how brief, is amazing on its own.  Now I can appreciate it as progress without achieving the full pose yet. 

Hildegard likes this

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