Arm Variations

Basic Practice: Strengthening the Back of the Armpits

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In this practice the goal is to strengthen the sides of the body, rather than push from the chest or pinch the shoulder blades together. In all the poses, keep the upper back and chest equally wide. Strengthen the triceps and outer edge of the shoulder blade/armpit area by doing the following:
  • Move the shoulder blades down the back, away from the head.
  • Move them forward, onto the back, while widening the ribs into them, creating strength in the outer armpit.
  • In poses with the arms out to the side or by the head, allow the shoulder blades to move with the arms.
  • In poses with the arms behind the back--Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose), Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) and Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)--move the shoulder blades towards the chest and away from the upper arms, softening and widening the chest muscles and collar bones.

The Sequence:

Garudasana (Eagle Pose) arms in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with the back against the wall

Side Stretch at wall
• Lean the right side of the body into the wall with the right arm overhead.
• Bend the right elbow, take hold of it with the left hand and draw the arm up and over the top of the head. Hold for a minute or two and repeat on the second side.

Urdhva Baddha Hastasana (Upward Bound Hands Pose) with the back against the wall

Opening Vinyasa:
All Fours
Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Lunge with the back knee up
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Hopping back and forth between Adho Mukha Shvanasana and Uttanasana 3 or 4 times
Child’s Pose

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose) simple variation with the hand on the floor and not crossed over the front thigh

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose) variation with the elbow bent and the forearm on the floor

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose)

Pashchima Baddha Hastasana (Elbows Clasped Behind the Back) in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) with a block under the pelvis

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) from the floor
• 2 or 3 attempts.

Pashchima Baddha Hastasana (Elbows Clasped Behind the Back) in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)

Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) table top tariation with the hands on blocks
• Do the pose twice.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on blocks
• Either hold on to the ankles directly, or loop a belt around them and hold on to that.

Reclined Hip Stretch

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on the floor
• Either hold on to the ankles directly, or loop a belt around them and hold on to that.

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2) with the leg resting on a block, blanket or bolster

Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) with the feet on the wall

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) soft variation with the hips and waist on the Sarvangasana blankets

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with a lift under the trunk


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Level 1 Group Class: Strength of the Ribs and Core

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I’m getting a little backed up here with the old class sequence posts. Hopefully this week I can get caught up. Here’s a Level 1 sequence where the focus is finding strength not just in the abdomen, but in the rib cage as well, providing strength and connection for the legs and the arms.

The Sequence

Side Stretch at the wall
• Stand with the feet together about eight to twelve inches away from the wall and lean the right hip, waist and ribs against it. Reach the right arm up. Pause here for a few breaths.
• Come up onto the balls of the feet. Stay here for a few breaths.
• Slowly drop the right heel, resisting up through the ribs and arms to lengthen out the right side of the waist. When the right heel is down, drop the left.
• Bend the right elbow and clasp it with the left hand. Draw the upper arm bone up towards the ceiling. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Take the tip of the elbow up and over the top of the head while keeping the outer armpit moving into the wall. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Turn the chest a slightly into the middle of the room to send the stretch towards the back. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Release and repeat on the second side.

Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana (Upward Bound Fingers Pose) with the back against the wall
• Keep the side of the waist and the side rib cage moving back into the wall.
• Do not let the chest and rib cage follow the arms up.

All Fours
Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Lung with the back knee up
• Place the hands flat on blocks, pressing them firmly and evenly down

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lung with the back knee up
• Fingertips to the floor

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)
• 3 sets.

[Do the following sequence as a continuous flow]

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Clasp the elbows and draw the upper arms down towards the floor.
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Bend the knees and place the hands flat on the floor, in front of the feet if necessary.
• Press the palms down and draw the hips up, shifting the weight forward. (You might not be able to fully straighten the legs,)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hop back into the pose.
Plank Pose
• Hold for 30 seconds.
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Hop forward into the pose.
• Clasp the elbows and change the crossing. Draw the upper arms down towards the floor.
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart and the hands flat on the floor
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hop back into the pose.
Plank Pose
Plank Pose with the toes pointed
• Hold for 30 seconds.
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Variations as above.
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Plank Pose with the toes pointed
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hold for 30 seconds.
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Variations as above.
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Plank Pose with the toes pointed
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose with the toes pointed
• Press up from Up Dog.
• Hold for 30 seconds.
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only with forward bend

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) arms and legs

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
• Back against the wall.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
• Back against the wall.
• Block between the feet.

Dandasana (Staff Pose)

Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)
• Upright seated position only

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)
• 3 blankets under the shoulders and the feet on a chair.
• 2 repetitions, holding for 30 to 60 seconds each time.

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)
• Sitting on the blankets and resting the arms and head on the chair.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with the legs on the chair


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Level 1 Group Class

Vashistha's Pose
The theme of this class is keeping the back and chest wide and the shoulders and back of the neck soft and supple so that the shoulder blades and collarbones can move with the arms.

The Sequence

Opening Wall Stretches
• Side stretch at wall: Lean the right side of the body into the wall with the right arm overhead. Bend the right elbow, take hold of it with the left hand and draw the arm up and over the top of the head. Hold for a minute or two and repeat on the second side.
• Chest opener: Stand with the right hand on the wall at shoulder height. Keeping the shoulder blade down the back, spread the fingers and palms and straighten the elbow. Hold this position for several seconds. Without lifting the shoulder blade, turn the chest away from the wall. Hold this for several seconds. Release and repeat on the second side.

All Fours
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Plank Pose
Child’s Pose
• Move seamlessly through each of these poses, holding each one for 30 to 60 seconds.
• Spread the palms and fingers, and seal the hands firmly into the mat in each pose.

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with the elbows clasped behind the back

All Fours
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Plank Pose
Child’s Pose

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) full seated variation with arms

All Fours
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Plank Pose
Child’s Pose

Virasana (Hero Pose) with Garudasana (Eagle Pose) arms

All Fours
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Plank Pose 2 with the feet pointed
Child’s Pose

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose) with the elbow bent and the forearm on the ground

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose) simple variation with the knee down

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose) full pose if possible
• Shown above.

Child’s Pose

Right Angle Forearm Stand at the wall

Right Angle Hand Stand at the wall

Child’s Pose

Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) table top variation

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
• Feet on blocks.
• Hold onto a belt around the ankles.

Reclined Glute Stretch with one ankle on the opposite thigh

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1) with the feet on the wall

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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