“How did you get those arms? Do you lift weights?” Yogis hear these questions all the time and smile knowingly as they respond, “Nope. Just yoga.” Yoga requires nothing but ourselves—no weights, no machines, just the ability to lift and hold our own body weight. If the gym feels like a prison, then yoga is a playground. Yoga is composed of endless postures; you never have to do the same practice twice. There is a variation for every pose, and just when you’ve mastered a pose, you’ll learn a new transition that takes it to the next level. This kind of training creates a long, lean body that shows strength without bulk. Do these four poses as a sequence two to five times a week.
Begin on all fours with your arms straight and shoulders stacked over your wrists. Have your palms flat and shoulder-width apart. Curl your toes under and step both feet back until your legs are straight and your feet are hip-width apart. Bring your shoulders, hips, and heels into one straight line with the core and quads engaged. Press your outer arms inward and distribute the weight of your knuckles evenly, gazing slightly past the fingertips. Hold for five to 10 breaths.
From Plank pose, extend your gaze forward and keep the front ribs in as you bend your elbows halfway to the ground. Keep your elbows in and over your wrists, and lower your shoulders in line with your elbows. Keep your gaze forward and your shoulders lifted. Your upper back should be broad, and the tips of your shoulder blades should draw down the back. Hold for one to five breaths.
3. Side Plank
Begin in Plank. Bring your left palm to the center of your mat and roll onto the outer edge of your left foot. Stack your right foot on top of your left. Press deeply into your left palm to bring your shoulder away from your earlobe, and stack your right shoulder directly above your left. Engage your obliques by lifting and stacking your hips. Extend your right arm straight up and gaze sideways or upward. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
Begin in Mountain pose, standing straight with your arms down at your sides. Bend your knees and drop your hips, bringing your weight onto your heels. Press your lower legs back so you can see your toes when you look down. Drop your tailbone, firm your front ribs inward, and lift your arms up shoulder-width apart. Keep your shoulders relaxed and rotate the outer edges of your arms inward to broaden your upper back. Gaze upward. Hold for five to 10 breaths.
Published in Women’s Health Magazine