Another muscle that effects our posture are the Pectoral muscles, the muscles of your chest. Are you seeing a theme here? 😐
The Anatomy - The pectoralis major muscle is a large muscle in the upper chest, fanning across the chest from the upper arm, across the collar bone and onto the breastbone (see image above). The two pectoralis major muscles, commonly referred to as the "pecs," are the muscles that create the bulk of the chest. A developed pectoralis major is most evident in men, as the breasts of a female typically hide the pectoral muscles.
A second pectoral muscle, the pec minor, hides beneath the pec major. The pectorals are predominantly used to control the movement of the arm, with the contractions of the pec pulling the arm across the chest (horizontal adduction - see 1st image below), to bring the arm closer to the midline of the body (adduction - 2nd image below) and to rotate the arm inwards (internal rotation - 3rd image below).
The pec major originates on the collar bone (clavicle) about half way towards the middle of the chest. The origin continues down the body of the sternum (as you can see from the above image). The pec then inserts itself on what is called the bicipital groove of the upper arm (humerus) and the front lip of the shoulder (deltoid).
Problems occur with the Pectorals for a number of reasons, one of the primary reasons being gravity. Over time and age your shoulders start to round and your posture begins to suffer. Your pec muscles start to shorten and restrict your movement. This is exacerbated by office based work where one is often rounded looking into the matrix, or if you visit the gym and like to lift weights and work on your pecs. I'm sure you are all aware that I am not that guy😬.
So to contract the pecs we bring the arm across the body or towards the body and to stretch them we need to do the opposite action, taking the arm away from the torso and attempting to bring the arm behind us. The stretches that spring to my mind are backbending poses like camel and, if done correctly, standing half moon and revolved triangle. If these are hard for you to visualise, here are some images of these stretches.
As I often say in my classes, poses without conscious thought is not yoga. All you are doing is assuming a position or creating a shape. You must consciously think about what you are doing. The pose should be 50% mind and 50% body. The next time you assume any of the above yoga asanas, try not to let your mind drift but actively visualise yourself in the pose and see your pectoral muscles stretching. Then create awareness into every other part of your body. As Iyengar says; "This will fuse your intelligence with your physical body", and that is the true essence of yoga asana.
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.