The lats, or Latissimus Dorsi, is one of the biggest muscles in your upper body. This powerful muscle helps pull your arms closer to your body. If it becomes too tight it can effect your posture by pulling your shoulders down or curving your lower back.
The Anatomy - The latissimus Dorsi is a broad, flat sheet of muscle that starts at your lower back in several places. They go all the way up into the middle of your spine and extend out to your shoulder, where they bunch together and twist into a large bundle and insert into a groove in your upper arm bone close to your armpit. It is the only muscles that connects your spine to your upper body. In many ways, The Lats are the Psoas of your upper body. Your Psoas connects your lower body to your spine, your lats connect your upper body to your spine.
There is no muscle touching a greater span of your body than the lats. Latissimus means Broad.
The lats pull the body up for climbing and the pull against resistance bringing the elbow closer to the body. Jonathan Fitzgordon says "Another way of looking at it is the latissimus dorsi are our swinging from the trees muscles".
So the lats pull your arms down towards your body when they contract and also rotate your arms inwards. In order to stretch the lat muscles you need to move your arms in the opposite direction that the lats would move in. This means that a lat stretch should include either raising your arms up, turning them out, or both.
From a Yoga perspective, Downward Dog suddenly springs to mind. Other poses that stretch the lats, maybe not as effectively as Downward Dog however are Warrior 1, Standing Half Moon (side stretch) and Chair Pose.
As mentioned at the top, tightness in the lats can cause rounded shoulders and aid poor posture. We want to do what we can to keep our bodies upright so our bones and muscles can function in a way that they where designed.
Author William E. Prentice who wrote 'Principles of Athletic Training: A Competency-Based Approach', says a tight latissimus dorsi has been shown to be one of the cause of chronic shoulder pain and chronic back pain. Although there is no way to be sure that your shoulder or back pain is caused by tight lats, as a process of elimination, it might be worthwhile spending a little time perfecting your downward dog. Click here to read my Posture Clinic on Downward Facing Dog.
Zahir Akram has a number of qualifications in Human Biomechanics (the understanding of human movement) and Anatomy & Phsysiology. Zahir will be teaching various modules of our yoga teacher training programme beginning in May 2017 and is available for 121 bookings. For more information contact Zahir on 07577 422132.