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The Ultimate Yoga Workout for a Strong Upper Body

One-Legged Dolphin Push-Ups

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  • From all fours, place forearms on the ground parallel and shoulder-distance apart, tuck toes, and lift hips into dolphin.
  • Take a breath here, then lift right leg high to a dolphin split.
  • Start to reach chin toward thumbs on an inhale, coming almost to a forearm plank.
  • Use the exhale to lift back to dolphin, raising hips back toward the ceiling. Do 10 reps.
  • Rest in child's pose for 3 breaths, then repeat with left leg high.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Down Dog Push-Ups

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  • Begin on all fours. Tuck toes and lift hips high, reaching sitz bones toward the ceiling.
  • Reach heels back toward the mat. Drop head so that neck is long. Wrist creases stay parallel to the front edge of the mat.
  • Press into the knuckles of forefingers and thumbs to alleviate pressure from wrists. This is downward facing dog.
  • From here, turn wrists in slightly, so that you can bend elbows out and reach head toward the mat.
  • Then, re-lengthen arms without locking elbows. This is 1 rep. Aim for 5 to 20 of these, depending on your current level of strength.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Chaturanga

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  • Start in plank pose.
  • Reach back through heels, engage navel to spine, and soften through elbows, reaching them straight back until forearms graze the sides of ribcage.
  • Find long spine, and keep a slight chin tuck. Breathe here for as long as you can maintain proper form.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Plank to Forearm Plank Kriya

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  • Start on hands and knees. Step feet back so they are hip-width apart, keeping toes tucked and shoulders and wrists in line.
  • Tuck chin slightly, keeping spine in line with body. Engage navel to spine and energetically reach back through heels while pushing through crown of head. This is plank pose.
  • Now, lower right forearm to the ground, and then left forearm to the ground, lining elbows up under shoulders, to come into forearm plank.
  • Then, lengthen right arm back to plank, and left arm back to plank.
  • Lower left forearm to the ground, then right.
  • Lengthen left arm, then right arm. This is 1 rep.
  • Repeat this as quickly as you can for 1 minute.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Vinyasas

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  • Begin on all fours. Tuck toes and lift hips high, reaching sitz bones toward the ceiling.
  • Reach heels back toward the mat. Drop head so that neck is long. Wrist creases stay parallel to the front edge of the mat.
  • Press into the knuckles of forefingers and thumbs to alleviate pressure from wrists.
  • This is downward facing dog. From here, on inhale: Roll out to plank pose. Then, on exhale: Lower halfway down to Chaturanga.
  • On the next inhale: Pull chest through arms and come to the tops of feet for upward facing dog.
  • On the next exhale: Flip over toes, lifting hips—keep legs long—and press chest back between arms.
  • Reach heels toward the ground for downward facing dog. This is a Vinyasa (downward dog to downward dog). Aim to do 1 to 5 minutes of these in a row, depending on your current strength level.

Photo: Kevin Talbot @shotbysmooth

Scale Pose Variation

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  • Begin in a comfortable cross-legged seat with blocks on either side of you.
  • Place hands on the blocks, pull belly in, and lift yourself off the ground, keeping as much space between shoulders and ears as possible.
  • Using blocks is a much more accessible version of this pose.
  • While you still do have to pull your legs into your torso, and you are using your core a lot, your arms are holding up your entire body weight. Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Handstand Hold at Wall

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  • Press palms firmly into the ground about a foot and a half in front of the right foot and about half a foot away from a wall, shoulder-width apart, wrist creases parallel, fingers spread.
  • Come high onto the ball of right foot. Using left leg to lift you, transfer weight onto hands or take little hops off right foot.
  • Hop lightly until top foot catches on the wall, then bring the second leg to the wall and breathe there.
  • Engage shoulder blades down and together and press into fingertips for stability.
  • Try to work your way up to a minute here—you can lean against the wall as much or as little as you want.
  • Every other time you try this, switch the leg you jump off.

Photo: Kevin Talbot @shotbysmooth

Wheel Push Ups

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  • Lie on back with knees bent and feet on the ground hip-width apart.
  • Bend elbows and place hands on either side of head shoulder-width apart with fingers pointing toward shoulders.
  • Pressing into feet and hands equally, lift hips and lengthen arms. This is wheel pose.
  • From here, bend elbows straight back, and lower top of head until it grazes the ground (no cheating with a big top knot!).
  • Then, re-lengthen arms. This is 1 rep. Do 5 to 10 wheel push-ups before tucking chin and resting on back.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

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