Why Yogis Need to Pull - Kathryn Bruni-Young
  • May 4, 2016
  • Kathryn

Pulling is the opposite of pushing, this sounds pretty reasonable to most of us. In yoga we push a lot, so its reasonable to assume that our pushing strength will be at least adequate depending on the exact style of the practice. Pulling strength on the other hand is very lacking in most yogis and dancers for one basic reason – we don’t practice the pull. Some people after reading this will go to the monkey bars with their toddlers, hang form the bar, try to pull up and realize they are missing this fundamental primal strength.

Lets start with why pulling is important especially for the yogi and dancer types. The shoulder joints are dynamic, they move in all the different ways, they are designed to hang and pull. There are muscles on the front of the shoulders and also on the back of the shoulders that should be exercised in harmony with one another. In very general terms the pushing muscles are found mainly on the front of the shoulder and back of the arm (pecs, triceps). The pulling muscles are found on the back of the shoulder and front of the arm (lats, biceps). If we practice pushing more than pulling you can imagine what happens to the muscles around the shoulders and arms, and the imbalances we can encounter over time.

Pulling will also help bring more awareness and strength to the back, including the lower back. The lats are large muscles that start under the arm pits but reach all the way down towards the lower back. This is a main pulling muscle, which requires stimulation through pulling exercises to be strong. Once the lats are strong we can contract them during back bending poses ie. upward dog which provides support for the spine which can alleviate some instability or pain.

The exercises are too complex to list all in a post, if you are curious to start this exploration of pulling strength follow me on Instragram and/or Facebook to receive daily exercises and ideas. The progression will start with very simple upper back activation, followed by larger shoulder movements, grip strength development, hanging/pulling and eventually working towards a pull up or chin up.

An important thing to remember is this must be a progression. If you don’t do pulling on a regular basis don’t try to start with pull ups, or assisted pull ups. Take the time to go through the progression to avoid injuries or frustration along the way. The journey from a dead hang to pulling the chest all the way up to the bar took me close to a year. Knowing what I know now, this progression can be much more efficient, and it doesn’t have to take that long. The body adapts to whatever it is given, if we stimulate the right areas of the body adaptation will happen and strength will develop. Take your time and start to notice how the pulling work changes the upper body.

Enjoy and hope you follow along #yogiswhopull


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