Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Back and Arms

One of the most common yoga poses, forward fold or uttanasana helps stretch your back and hamstrings. It can be modified by bending your knees and letting the arms hang down (as in rag doll) to ease the shoulders.

A regular yoga practice can build body awareness and bring calmness to your mind and heart. Consider starting small – try to do 10 minutes of yoga every day and see how you feel about it.


A key component of Sun Salutations, Chaturanga strengthens and tones the wrists, arms and abdominal muscles. It also prepares students for more advanced arm balances. It can be challenging for beginners to learn because it requires both shoulder and wrist strength.

Breast cancer survivors have found that practising Chaturanga may help improve sleep, which is an important part of healing from surgery and chemotherapy. It has also been shown to decrease fatigue and inflammation.

Beginners can build up their strength for this pose by practicing Knees-Chest-Chin Pose before attempting full Chaturanga. It is recommended that you avoid or modify this pose if you have a rotator cuff injury or shoulder weakness, shoulder arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome. If you have any of these conditions, practice Half Chaturanga or substitute with Plank Pose.

Warrior I

Warrior I stretches the hip flexors, opens the chest to improve breathing and lengthens the spine. It also strengthens the legs, ankles and knees. It promotes good posture, improves balance and teaches you to listen to your body’s limits.

The pose is often used to prepare for other yoga poses as a strengthening and warming up exercise. It is also a regular feature of most yoga flows.

Start with your right foot firmly on the mat, left leg extended behind at a 90 degree angle (be careful not to over-extend the back knee). Push down through the outer edge of the back foot for stability and balance your weight equally between both feet. Lengthen the spine, engage your core and lift the arms overhead, aligned with your ears.

Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana, is an energizing and strengthening yoga pose. It also helps relieve stress, insomnia and headaches through improved blood flow to the brain. This pose strengthens the wrists, arms and legs and stretches the back and shoulder muscles.

The stretching and toning in Downward Facing Dog create core strength, which can help to prevent back injuries. It helps to relieve fatigue in the muscles by ensuring there is a fresh supply of blood to them, as well as alleviating compression of the spine.

Beginners may find this weight-bearing posture difficult without adequate conditioning. To alleviate this, a wall can be used to help support the hands and reduce the pressure on the wrists and shoulders, which are not typically conditioned to bear much weight.

Wall Pose

Wall Pose, also known as Viparita Karani, is an inversion that is calming to the nervous system and provides rest for your body. It allows your muscles to relax and your breath to regulate. It is a great pose to do before sleep because it can help reduce insomnia and headaches.

This posture is easy enough for beginners to do but it does require a little flexibility. The challenge is moving your body and thighs up to the wall without stressing your back or neck. It is important to have a knowledgeable instructor to help ensure you don’t strain yourself.

Sit with your side pressed against the wall, then slowly manoeuvre yourself into lying down, extending your legs straight up the wall. Lie here for up to 20 minutes, or as long as it feels comfortable for you.

Tree Pose

Tree Pose (Vrksasana) is an excellent balancing pose that strengthens the ankles, feet, legs and hips. It also improves proprioception, balance and coordination. Regular practice of this balancing posture helps one stay calm and focused in the midst of daily activities.

As the arms are stretched upward in Tree Pose, the chest, rib cage and diaphragm are engaged, improving breathing and helping to expand the lungs fully. The breath is naturally deeper and fuller when practicing this balancing pose, which is beneficial for those with respiratory issues or conditions.

Beginners can modify this pose by propping the raised foot up on the inner ankle with the toes on the ground for balance. The foot can be placed above or below the knee if placement on the inner leg is too difficult.