I once got a dream job thanks to the latissimus dorsi muscle.
I kid you not. It happened during a beginner inversions class that opened with the mechanics of downward facing dog and ended with a fun, partnered half-handstand at the wall. This was supposed to be one of those classes that makes everyone, including the aged and sedentary, feel like yoga rock stars when they do something they haven’t tried since they were kids; and so I noticed right away when the only male student in the room—an athletic looking guy in his late thirties—seemed to be struggling to get his arms into position during our early exercises. By the time we reached the half-handstand, he had given up altogether and was sitting dejectedly on his mat, watching the rest of the class in their poses.
“The problem isn’t weak muscles,” I countered when he suggested that he needed to put in more hours at the gym. “In fact, you might actually be too strong for your own good.” What I meant was that overdeveloped muscles may actually limit range of motion and make certain poses inaccessible. For example, powerful lats may allow one to execute a chin-up with the greatest of ease, but those same muscles may make it difficult or impossible to raise the arms into enough flexion and external rotation to safely bear the body’s weight in handstand and even downward dog. Repetitive contraction of a muscle or group of muscles in one direction with no variation can inhibit the opposite movement at a joint – in this case, the shoulder.
Well, the explanation must have struck a chord because the student—who it turns out was the CEO of a luxury travel company—hired me on the spot to teach yoga to his international managers. He then went on to charge me with the design of gorgeous yoga retreats to remarkable destinations around the world. This was many years ago and he still tells the story of how the incident allowed him to save face with the ladies at the studio and kept his interest in yoga alive.
If tight lats are wreaking havoc with your downward facing dog, try boomerang – I’ve included it below, and you can also find it on the 10 Minute Quick Fix for Lower Back video.
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