The short answer? YES. Yoga absolutely can tone your arms. Before I started Yoga I used to lift weights every single day. I’m talking HEAVY freaking weights. I thought the only way to get toned arms and toned muscle was to lift weights and traditional strength training! I was SO wrong.
When I started Yoga it was because I wanted to get more flexible and I was super intrigued about the ancient philosophy (there really are so many benefits of yoga).
Using Yoga to tone my arms didn’t really cross my mind… until I saw and FELT the transformation Yoga had on my level of strength AND how it toned my arms (not that we ever really focus on toning your body in MerryBody, afterall, you’re already amazing… but hey, it’s a nice by-product of being and feeling strong).
As I created a consistent yoga practice I really noticed my arm strength increase.
The other day we got an email asking specifically how to reduce arm fat by yoga. And I think it’s important to mention that you can NEVER ever spot reduce fat. It just doesn’t work that way. Instead, let’s focus on how amazing your arms are. Be grateful that you have arms that can hug, that can lift, that can help you move through and experience life. Ok onto your question…
So Does Yoga tone your arms?
HECK TO THE YES it does. The best thing though is at the same time as strengthening your arms you’re also increasing flexibility and mobility in the muscles, joints and fascia of the arms (actually the entire body). This is really important.
A lot of the time if we focus on building strength, we can then feel very tense and tight in the body. Because Yoga combines movements that increase strength AND flexibility we almost feel a lengthening of the body. It’s not actually possible to make your arms longer but that’s how it feels. It feels strong but everything stays open… rather than closed. Energetically, this is a really nice feeling.
Most Yoga flow classes will strengthen your arms as they will often include these Yoga poses for the arms that I’m going to share with you below.
You’ve probably seen (maybe you’ve even DONE) these poses before… but the real magic to ensure that the Yoga will tone your arms is to focus on your technique! So I’ve included my technique cues to keep in mind to really get the most out of your Yoga practice.
This is why we include alignment and modification notes for EVERY single MerryBody class we add to the library, it’s one of the things our Members love most. We also share video tutorials each week inside our MerryBody community on specific moves so all of our members can focus on their foundations and build from there.
Ok! Let’s get into my favourite Yoga poses for arms!
The fun thing is that you can do these moves one after the other… making it a fun flowing sequence that REALLY focusses on strengthening and toning your amazing arms, shoulders, oh and entire body!
Uttanasana (forward fold) with arms overhead
This first move creates flexibility in your shoulders and chest. If you follow the below cues you’ll also notice a strengthening of the triceps (the back of the arms!). Lot of yoga teachers (me included) will include this as part of a warm up.
- Start with your feet hip-distance, stand tall. As you inhale make one big fist behind your booty. See if you can bring your palms together, if you can’t, allow the thumb and pointer finger to release.
- As you exhale, really press the palms together and draw the palms away from the booty, this will switch on the triceps, forward fold from the hips at the same time as allowing the arms to fall over the head.
- Hold the pose for 5-10 deep breaths, inhale through the nose, exhale through the nose. You can bend the knees as much as you need to make this feel comfortable, try to keep the hips stacked over the heels, rather than allowing the booty to fall back into space.
- You can even add some movement, like a flossing of the shoulders. Feel the shoulders and chest stretch and open, feel the back of the arms strengthen.
Downward Facing Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana
Now if you’ve ever done a Yoga class, you’ve probably done a down dog! This is seriously one of my favourite yoga poses for arms and the upper body! Let’s focus on a strengthening of the arms as we practise this!
- Start in all 4’s, hands under shoulders, knees under hips. Inhale through the nose, as you exhale, tuck the toes and lift the hips, making an upside-down V shape with the body.
- Let’s check: hands are shoulder-width apart, thumb and pointer figure point toward the front of your space, there’s a slight external rotation of the elbow creases, shoulders draw down away from the ears, feel the shoulder blades slide down toward the hips, feel the back muscles switch on. Really press your hands into the Earth.
- Belly draws in toward the spine and you try to melt the heart toward the thighs.
- Feet are hip-distance apart, bring a slight micro bend to the knees and notice how you can lengthen the lower back and lift the sit bones slightly higher toward the sky, at the same time press your heels down toward the Earth.
- Hold for 5-10 breaths, inhale through the nose, exhale through the nose… if your arms aren’t burning by now, well, go YOU.
Chaturanga Dandasana (Low Plank)
If you’re already in Down Dog… stay there! Because we’re heading into chaturanga dandasana! Probably the BEST yoga arm workout you’re ever gonna get. In MerryBody, we always share the option on your knees and this is great if you’re just starting out and building up your strength!
- From Downward Facing Dog, inhale, ripple forward to plank pose making one straight line from head to heels. Draw the core in, there’s a rib to hip connection. Exhale hold.
- Shine your heart slightly through the shoulders, keep pressing your hands and feet into the Earth. Ensure the shoulders are away from the ears.
- Exhale and lower so your body is just a few inches off the Earth, your elbows should stay nice and close to the body, they scrape the ribs. As you do lower, there’s still a pressing of the hands into the Earth to increase the lightness of the body. Keep your legs switched on, keep your core engaged. We told you this was an intense body weight workout!
- This is a tough move, there is always the option to come down to both knees and do plank position from your knees, then lower to your belly all the way. And I would really recommend it to feel into the technique first, before putting any extra pressure on your shoulders.
Upward Facing Dog, Urdva Mukha Svanasana
If you’re in Chaturanga… stay there! I told you these poses all seamlessly melt into one another! Upward Facing dog, hello opening of the heart but HELLO arm strength! The last three poses are in fact what I would call a typical vinyasa flow.
Downward Facing Dog (ripple to plank pose), Chaturanga, followed by Up Dog, then back to Down Dog. Once again, there’s a great option if you feel any pressure in your Up Dog, to stay lower in the backbend and find Baby Cobra instead.
- From low plank, inhale glide through the shoulders, as if you’re rolling a ball away with your nose. This means there’s a forward glide then upwards motion. This keeps a lengthening of the spine, rather than a collapsing in the shoulders or back. As you glide through, try to keep the knees and thighs off the Earth, this means you really need to switch on the booty and lift the knee caps so the quadriceps also engage.
- You’re still inhaling… keep gliding through and up until your arms are straight (don’t overextend the elbows, keep a teeny micro bend), press the hands into the Earth, engage the back of the arms, shoulders are down and away from the ears. Heart is open, the gaze is at the horizon (some people will bend the head back, I don’t like this as it compromises the neck).
- If you want to keep flowing, exhale over the toes and press yourself back to a Downward Facing Dog. Woha, right!
Here’s a Yoga class to tone your arms to try…
Reverse Table Top
SERIOUSLY, these yoga poses really works the arms. I love this one in particular as it really strengthens and it opens your body. Ahh yes, the best of both worlds.
- Start on your booty, feet planted out in front of you, hip-distance apart. Bring the hands behind you, the fingertips should point toward your heels.
- As you inhale, squeeze the booty, press the feet and hands into the Earth, lift the booty up and the pelvis toward the sky.
- Your hands should be under your shoulders, your knees above your feet, so there is one straight line from heart to knees. Draw the shoulders away from the ears, keep lifting/squeezing the booty and opening the heart. You will feel the stretch in the front of the shoulders and the chest.
- Switch on the back of your arms, your triceps, to increase the strengthening and toning of the arms.
- Hold for 3-5 breaths, on your last exhale gently lower the booty back to the Earth. In our MerryBody Yoga Arms class, we follow this with the most EPIC chest stretch… pure bliss!
If you have any questions about how Yoga can strengthen and tone your arms… just let me know! I am here to help!
ALSO, if you have never tried Yoga and want to… join our FREE 5 Day Challenge over here where you get daily classes sent directly to you!