My last blog post about balancing the front side of the body with the back side of the body got me thinking about the completeness of asana practice on the physical body, and more specifically, can yoga address all the body’s strength needs?
My answer is… just about. When it comes to stretching, yoga’s got it covered, but there’s a noticeable void in the strengthening of the upper body’s muscles involved in the pulling motion. Practicing sun salutations, as you move in and out of plank to up dog and down dog, you quickly get a sense of the demand on the pushing muscles of the upper body (the triceps, pectoralis, and deltoids), but I haven’t found any asanas to effectively strengthen the pulling muscles – namely the biceps, latissimus dorsi, and other upper back musculature.
So here are a few suggestions on balancing out the pushing and pulling muscles for our yoga students, without them requiring a gym membership…
- Use of props such as elastic tubing anchored around the feet and add some upper body rows while holding a pose (see examples).
- If you are so fortunate to be near a studio that provides wall ropes (Iyengar) or has TRX suspension (freespirityoga.ca), try some inverted, inclined rows by holding two ends of a rope from one wall anchor, place the feet at the wall, lean the body back in a straight line, and pull the body inwards completing a rowing motion with the arms. Note this can be done anywhere with a skipping rope and a secure anchor point (chest height or higher).
- Take it outside – a simple children’s playground can be a great, free location for balancing out your upper body strength. Try chin ups or inverted rows on the monkey bars.