Top 3 Yoga Poses to Build Strength

by guest blogger Kathryn Budig, international yoga teacher and writer

When Women’s Health Magazine approached me about writing The Big Book of Yoga, I reacted with a combination of joy and dread. I was honored at the prospect of combining all the elements of yoga into one massive guide, but had trouble getting past the whole big part. Yoga is huge. It has survived for thousands of years and is one of the only physical outlets that improves the body, mind, and spirit. It packs a serious punch and is nearly impossible to capture in just one book.

I have been practicing for more than 13 years and still find something new every day that amazes me, whether it’s a new understanding of a posture, a breakthrough on my mat, or a connection to my breath that allows me to think before I speak. I poured my love and research into the book and am thrilled to share it with the yoga-curious and yoga newbies, as well as the advanced yogi. I’ve made it accessible and entertaining in hopes that you, too, can join me on this amazing endless journey of exploration and yoga.

To whet your appetite, I’ve selected three yoga postures that will help you to build a strong upper body. Increased strength in this part of the body was one of the most dramatic shifts I saw as a new yogi, and this transformation kept me coming back diligently to my mat. Enjoy these postures and check out my book to enjoy, oh, roughly 400 more pages of everything yoga.

Top 3 Poses to Build Strength:

Yoga calms the mind, strengthens the body, and gives you amazing, strong arms! Say good-bye to dumbbells or heavy machinery and welcome in the power of your own body and the ability to hold it up! The yoga practice creates long, lean muscles without adding bulk by teaching you how to control and lift your own body weight. I’ve picked out three of my favorite postures to help you build awareness and strength in your upper body. These postures can be held from a few breaths to a minute. Start slow and build your way up. Remember, there is no rush and the key to a long, successful relationship with your strength is being honest with where you are with it. Some days you’ll feel like a rock star and other days, more like a rock. Either way, you can still practice—just don’t be afraid to adjust.

1) Forearm Plank

• Begin on all fours with your forearms parallel to one another and shoulder-width apart on the floor.

• Curl your toes under and step both feet back until your legs are straight and hip-width apart.

• Stack your shoulders directly over your elbows. Your shoulders, hips, and heels should all be in one straight line.

2) Dolphin Pose

• Begin on all fours. Place your forearms on the mat, shoulder-width apart.

• Curl your toes under and lift your hips up.

• Straighten your legs and walk as far as you can toward your hands, keeping your shoulders directly over your elbows.

• Relax your neck and gaze just slightly forward.

3) Plank + Side Plank


• Begin on all fours with your arms straight and shoulders stacked over your wrists, palms flat.

• Curl your toes under and step both feet back until your legs are straight and hip-width apart.

• Bring your shoulders, hips, and heels into one straight line, with your core and quads engaged.

• Firm the upper, outer edges of your arms in to release the base of your neck and extend your chest, and distribute the weight on your knuckles evenly.

Side Plank I

• 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.



Kathryn Budig is the creator of Aim True Yoga and co-founder of Poses for Paws. She has been featured in Yoga Journal, Women’s Health, The New York Times, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of the Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga. She teaches regularly online at


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One Response to Top 3 Yoga Poses to Build Strength

  1. Lisa November 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Ordered this book on-line without even looking through it at a bookstore first. I’ve Tara Stiles’ two yoga books and love them, and know of your expertise by reading Yoga Journal magazine (those amazing ads you’re in!). Yoga, deep breathing, and meditation, all of which you promote in your book have improved my quality of life more than any other exercise. Living with RA, depression, and anxiety, I found that these three practices strengthen me physically and emotionally, and have deepened my compassion for all living things. Yoga rocks!

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