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6 Practices to Strengthen and Stretch Your Upper Body

Your upper body gets used frequently in yoga for stability, support, and to act as a strong base. Keep your arms and torso feeling fresh and ready for your next class.

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You know the feeling of holding Warrior II Pose and feeling that burn in your shoulders? Or trying to take a breather in Downward-Facing Dog Pose only to focus on pushing through your triceps? The upper body gets worked a lot in yoga, whether you realize it or not.

Both strengthening your upper body and loosening your upper body are important, and both provide different benefits. In yoga, your core, biceps, triceps, back, shoulders, and chest are all engaged to keep your body steady. The stronger you become, the more approachable challenge poses may feel. While super-strength isn’t necessary to practice yoga, feeling less fatigued throughout a class can improve your posture, reducing the risk of injury. As for loosening your upper body, developing an increased range of motion in your neck, shoulders, and side body will have you feeling more agile in your everyday tasks.

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Start with your core

7 Poses to Take Your Core Strength to the Next Level

The core is more than just our stomach. Our entire trunk, from the shoulders to the hips, use abdominal muscles for good posture and stability. Being able to take a step without torquing (twisting) our pelvis or reaching to grab something without twisting our back are powerful signifiers of a strong core, and they have nothing to do with washboard abs.

(Photo: Renee Choi)

10 “Blockasanas” to Strengthen Your Core

Let’s give blocks some props! These 10 modifications of classic poses will not only build core strength, but also challenge your body (and brain) in new ways. By adding blocks, you’ll find better stability in your core and pelvis, fine-tune your alignment, as well as fire muscles throughout your upper and lower body.

Develop your arms and shoulders

9 Yoga Poses to Build Arm Strength

Your biceps and triceps get an excellent workout in standard vinyasa classes, and you may not even realize it. For beginner yogis, having arms that don’t fatigue quickly can boost your recovery in deep breathing poses such as Downward-Facing Dog Pose or Child’s Pose. For more advanced yogis, your triceps act as a powerful base in flying poses and inversions. After practicing these poses, you’ll be flexing in the mirror for the rest of the day.

A close-up of a woman's shoulder muscles

7 Yoga Poses to Release Tight Shoulders

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body and is used in many different activities, from reaching for an object on a tall shelf, raising your arm to use a hand rail, or carrying heavy bags of groceries. Improving your shoulder’s range of motion can help prevent injuries, especially those caused by everyday activities. Whether you tweaked your shoulder and are looking for relief or have trouble raising your arms, these poses can help.

Release your neck

Slept On Your Neck Funny? These 6 Stretches Will Soothe Your Pain By Noon

There’s nothing worse than waking up with a kink in your neck. It throws off your entire morning and can cause discomfort for hours. Fortunately, there are ways to loosen up that knot, and boost your mood in the process with yoga.

7 Poses to Melt Away Neck and Shoulder Pain

Stiff neck? You might be looking down at a computer screen or phone for too long. But don’t worry! Yoga can improve your posture and take stress off of your neck, eradicating the pain. These 7 poses can also even out muscle imbalances around the neck that could be the root of some of your discomfort.

See also: The Best Poses to Stretch Sore Muscles