Q: Please can you suggest any asana to strengthen my arms. I play tennis regularly and came across your magazine at a friend’s house. I’m looking up classes in my local area to join because I’ve heard a lot about the benefits of doing yoga regularly. - S. Greenwood
A: Th ere are many styles of yoga postures (asanas) that you can incorporate into your lifestyle to improve the fl exibility, strength, dexterity, muscle defi nition, stamina and overall contours of the arm. By doing so and suffi ciently exercising them you will see noticeable results in your physique. Even in day to day tasks whether they be small or big – you will see a general overall improvement.
Carrying, lift ing and use of the arms for various purposes – will become easier. Tennis is a good sport for overall fi tness so well done on investing quality time in playing that regularly. Yoga practice will enhance and support your practice.
As you are a beginner to yoga I would suggest that you do look for a local class and for a teacher who can supervise you at last in the beginning. If you are only looking to learn a few postures to practice then this is a good place to start and fi nd out the way to do them properly.
Tarasana (star pose) is one yoga asana which I would recommend. Apart from increasing strength in the arms – it also helps provide adequate expansion and stretch to the chest area – thereby improving the strength of the lungs and overall chest area. It’s not a diffi cult pose to perform and if done correctly will provide you with immense benefi ts. Stand up, ground yourself – feet comfortably resting on fl oor arms to side. Look straight ahead keeping neck straight as well (but don’t strain it). Lift the arms up so they are in front of you shoulder height with palms of the hands facing each other.
Hold for few seconds. Now turn palms downwards so that they are facing the floor. Slowly move the arms out to the sides at shoulder length. Now lift arms up to side of head stretching upwards with palms facing each other. Hold few seconds and then bring arms back to the start position. Repeat. Try to do a round of 2 on the first occasion.
Then as you practice this regularly and become used to it – you can then repeat it at least 4 to 6 times in one round. Th is posture can be performed throughout the day up to 10 times for maximum benefit.
Please do not rush the posture. It is not a competitive practice as to how quickly you can finish it or by doing 10 rounds you have achieved a lot. It’s really all about being mindful not competitive. Listen to your body, feel the feet grounding and stable on the floor, feel the stretch in your arms and wrists, the energy between the palms of the hands as they face each other and then the shift when they face down to the floor, and then the vibrational change when you lift them up. Your chest will expand as well.
The gentle stretch and pull will tone and strengthen arms and the chest. Anyone can do this asana to keep their respiratory system in good health. Th e lift ing, stretching of the arms and movements provide a perfect workout for anyone also who suffers from asthma or related conditions as it provides an internal massage to the chest area.
If you feel dizzy at any stage (especially when you are new to yoga), stop, take a break. Only try and do 1 round.
Aft er just 1 day and definitely aft er a week you will feel the beneficial impact of this pose on the strength and agility of the arms including the wrists, hands, shoulders and the neck. If aft er performing it on the first occasion you feel a stiff neck or stiff ness in the muscles in upper back – don’t worry – this is normal – especially if you are doing this for the fi rst time. As time passes and the frequency increases you will fi nd that tension stored in the neck disappears. It’s critical to practise movement of any kind but one with a specifi c orientation to health such as yoga. Such disciplines and their postures help remove ‘stuck’ negative energy, they help to release stress, alleviate pain (both psychological and physical). Left unchecked such conditions can become ‘chronic’ and then disease and or health deteriorates resulting in accelerated ageing and serious medical health issues.