Lats / Latissimus Dorsi and Yoga
Essential Yoga Body Parts
The Latissimus dorsi, which is located in the back, is one of the widest muscles in the body. It has a large, triangular shape and works when you do exercises such as swimming and pull-ups. The latissimus dorsi is also one of the muscles that help you with breathing.
This musclei is also called “the lats,” and has a superficial location just below the skin. As a result, this muscle is more visible than muscles such as the psoas major muscle. If you look at someone who is in good shape, you may be able to see the large and flat V-shape that spans over the width of the back.
Picture from Wikipedia
Location of the Latissimus Dorsi
As a rule, each end of a muscle attaches to one of the bones. These attachments are called the “origin” and “insertion” of a muscle. The latissimus dorsi has a complex origin and a simple insertion.
The origin of the lats is at several places, including at the top of the back from the bottom six thoracic vertebrae and the last three or four ribs. The lats’ origin is also at the thoracolumbar fascia and the rear one-third of the exterior part of the top of each hip bone. The origin of the latissimus dorsi also includes the bottom of the shoulder blade.
Unlike the origin, the insertion point of the lats is only at one place, which is underneath the shoulder joint at the inner aspect of the upper arm bone. The muscle fibers of the latissimus dorsi taper into a point as they extend from the places of origin to the insertion point, which is what gives it the familiar V-shape. (Asher, 2018)
The Function of Latissimus Dorsi
The latissimus dorsi is one of the accessory breathing muscles. When you inhale, your lats will enhance the movements of the trunk by expanding the circumference of your rib cage so that more air can enter your lungs.
When you exhale, the latissimus dorsi will decrease the circumference of the ribcage to make it easier for the lungs to push air out.
The latissimus dorsi performs other functions as well. They adduct, rotate, and extend the arms and pull them back and downward towards the hips. If someone has an overdeveloped chest and shoulders, but weak lats, this function of the muscle is visible as the person will have a hunched-over appearance.
If, on the other hand, you train your lats sufficiently, your back will form a natural arch line, and your posture will improve. The latissimus dorsi brings the entire shoulder girdle down and helps with lateral flexion to arch the spine and tilt the pelvis anteriorly.
The latissimus dorsi also plays an integral role in all strength exercises that involve pulling your bodyweight up or forward. Typical latissimus dorsi exercises include swimming, rock climbing, chin-ups, or rowing.
Another crucial role of the latissimus dorsi is stabilizing the body and coordinating movements between your shoulders and pelvis.
Latissimus Dorsi Pain
Latissimus dorsi injuries can result in many different symptoms. People with injured lats will typically experience pain in their lower back, mid-to-upper back, or the back of the shoulders. In some cases, a latissimus dorsi injury can also result in distress along the base of the scapula or along the inside of the arm.
People may sometimes confuse latissimus dorsi pain with other types of shoulder or back pain. There are, however, ways to tell if the pain you experience is the result of an injury. If the back or shoulder pain worsens when you stretch your arms out in front of you, chances are that you are dealing with a latissimus dorsi injury. In any case, the best way to find out is by consulting your doctor.
Yoga for Back Pain
By doing yoga, you can effectively strengthen and lengthen your latissimus dorsi muscle to either prevent or treat specific problems relating to this muscle. There are effective yoga poses for back pain that you can incorporate into your practice.
If you’re already an experienced yoga practitioner, back stretching yoga poses can strengthen your back, increase your flexibility, and stabilize your body to improve your technique.
Try incorporating more postures targeting your posterior chain (back side). That said, Locust pose and its variations are a great way to strengthen the back body. Think about incorporating pulling actions into your practice. The best way to achieve this is back using a pull-up bar, remember that you can modify in many ways, the easiest and most common one would be by using a bar closer to the floor in order for you to use your feet as support as you pull yourself up.
Yoga for Back Stretching
Active Latissimus Dorsi Stretch
The active latissimus dorsi stretch is similar to the “child’s pose” in yoga. To carry out this stretch, start by kneeling next to a stability ball, chair, or any other prop. Place the arm that you want to stretch on the ball and the hand of your other arm on the ground below your shoulder.
The thumb of the hand that is on the ball should be pointed upwards, and you should flex your lower back slightly.
Then, draw your navel upwards and reach forward with the arm that is on the ball until you feel a stretch from the side of your torso to your lower back. Keep this position for thirty seconds to allow for sufficient muscle stretching before returning to your start position. Then, switch sides and repeat.
Depending on how tight your lats are, five to ten repetitions should be sufficient to lengthen the muscle and alleviate pain. (Fletcher, 2018)
Stand in Mountain Pose, and place your hands on your hips. Place your weight on your right foot through the ball and heel while lifting and spreading your toes. Then, press your toes down so that your foot serves as a solid foundation. Bend your knees slightly to lower your hips.
Once your right foot is standing firmly on the ground, lift your left foot and place it over your right thigh. Hook your left foot’s toes around the back of your calf, and take a few breaths to balance yourself.
Next, extend your arms in front of you, place your right elbow over your left arm, and wind your right forearm around your left so that you can put your palms together with your fingers pointing up.
Throughout this pose, make sure that you keep your torso upright, that you engage your core, and that your shoulders are in line with your hips. Broaden your chest to keep your shoulder blades engaged and to prevent your shoulders from crowding your neck.
You can lift your arms to stretch your upper back even further. Keep this pose for around ten breaths before returning to the mountain pose and switching sides.
Yoga for Back Strengthening
This pose is effective in yoga to strengthen the upper back. Start with the tabletop position on your hands and knees. Your wrists should be directly underneath your shoulders, and your hips should be directly underneath your hips.
Spread your palms so that your index fingers are parallel to each other. While you exhale, lift your knees from the floor and steady yourself on your toes and the balls of your feet. Continue to raise yourself to bring your body into the shape of an “A.”
After you’ve lifted yourself, keep your knees slightly bent and your heels lifted from the floor. In this position, lengthen your tailbone away from your pelvis towards the pubis and lift your sitting bone upwards. As you exhale, engage your quadriceps and place your heels on the floor by straightening your knees without locking them in place.
Next, tighten your outer thigh muscles and roll your inner thighs slightly inward. Rotate your arms to the outside so that your inner elbows face your thumbs.
Then, press the mat away from you to bring your chest closer to your thighs and to decompress your spine. Your ears should also be in alignment with your upper arms. Although you should relax your head and neck, your head should not hang limply.
Stay in this pose for up to three minutes before resting in child’s pose. Doing this yoga pose every day will strengthen your latissimus dorsi and prevent injuries as a result of a weak back.
Staff Pose with Lift (Dandasana)
The staff pose is a back-strengthening yoga pose that you can incorporate into your daily yoga practice.
Sit on the floor and extend your legs in front of you next to each other. If your hamstrings are tight and are pulling your torso backward, it may be more comfortable to sit on a blanket or bolster to lift your pelvis.
To make sure that your alignment is correct, sit next to a wall so that only your sacrum and shoulder blades touch the wall and not the back of your head or your lower back.
Then, sit to the front of your sitting bones, tighten your thigh muscles, and press them down against the floor. Rotate your thighs inward and your inner groin toward your sacrum. Flex your ankles by pushing outward through your heels.
Next, lengthen your torso perpendicular to the floor and hold this pose for one minute or longer, if you can.
The latissimus dorsi muscles stabilize your body, assist in breathing, and allow you to carry out certain movements and exercises. Injuries to these muscles can have a debilitating effect on your overall wellbeing.
There are several conventional treatments available that can help people who are suffering from back pain, but these treatments can, in some cases, be invasive or inherently risky to your health. It’s essential to prevent injury at all costs by drinking water, doing warm-up exercises, cooling down after workouts, and receiving regular massage treatment.
One of the most effective ways to prevent and treat latissimus injuries and pain, however, is with back stretching and lengthening yoga poses. By incorporating these poses into your yoga practice, you reduce your risk of experiencing back problems.
If you’re suffering from existing back muscle problems, poses like the latissimus dorsi stretch, downward-facing dog, staff pose, and eagle pose can alleviate your pain and strengthen your back.
Asher, A. (2018, June 28). Latissimus Dorsi. Retrieved from www.verywellhealth.com: https://www.verywellhealth.com/latissimus-dorsi-muscle-297067
Fletcher, J. (2018, April 26). How do Your Stretch the Latissimus Dorsi? Retrieved from www.medicalnewstoday: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321623.php