“. . . according to the Yoga Sutra (3.1), the term [Bandha] refers to the ‘binding’ of consciousness to a particular object or locus (desha), which is the very essence of concentration.”
Georg Feuerstein

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sitting Up Straight and Expanding the Chest Forward in Sukhasana

Slumping the back and collapsing the chest is a common occurrence in Sukhasana, especially in those who are new to yoga. Factors that can contribute to this posture include fatigue, defeated mental state, and tight muscle groups. Many yoga poses are designed to counteract these factors, Sukhasana being one of them. Sitting up in Easy Cross-Legged Pose aids to bring the spinal column into alignment, so that the vertebral bodies and their discs support the torso; expanding the chest forward enhances breathing. With practice this can lead to a comfortable, easy position that is reflected on the central nervous system—an example of the mind/body connection in yoga.

seated poseseated pose

Here’s the Cue . . .

Place the hands with the palms facing down on the knees in Chin Mudra. Then, while holding onto the knees, attempt to draw the hands back towards the torso. This engages the latissimus dorsi. The hands are constrained, so the force of contracting the latissimus is transmitted to its origin along the midline of the back. The result is what is known in kinesiology as a “closed chain” movement, whereby the origin of the muscle moves (instead of the insertion). Activating the lats in this manner lifts the spine and expands the chest forward. If you tend to hyperextend the lumbar, then engage the abdominals to counteract this. Note the effect.

Slumping tilts the pelvis backwards into retroversion, so that one is sitting on the back part of the ischial tuberosities (the sitting bones). A portion of the latissimus dorsi originates from the back of the iliac crest, so that activating this muscle also tilts the pelvis forward, bringing the sitting bones more upright.

latissimus dorsi - tadasana
Lats in Tadasana

This technique is portable to other poses. In Tadasana, for example, simply fix the palms against the sides of the hips and attempt to drag them backwards. Note how the chest expands forward and the back straightens. See this concept in action for Sukhasana in the video above.

Here’s the Anatomy and Biomechanics. . .

The latissimus dorsi originates from the spinous processes of thoracic vertebrae 6—12, lumbar vertebrae 1—5 (via the thoracolumbar fascia), ribs 9—12, the supraspinous ligament, and the posterior third of the ilium. It inserts onto the intertubercular groove on the humerus and the deep fascia of the arm. The latissimus dorsi extends, adducts, and internally rotates the shoulder (open chain movement). It extends the spine and lifts and tilts the pelvis forward (closed chain movement) and is also an accessory muscle of respiration.

Always, in your particular case, consult your health care provider before practicing yoga or any other exercise program. Always practice yoga under the direct supervision of a qualified instructor.

Thanks for stopping by. Check back for our next post when we’ll give a finishing touch for Dog Pose. Be sure to download one of our free interactive eBooks. Also, don’t forget to tell your friends about our blog and to visit us on Facebook for your free chakra poster (we ask that you pay shipping and handling :) ).


Ray and Chris


  1. Very simple and very help. Thank you

  2. Great stuff. Simple, logical and effective.
    Thank you

  3. Thank you so much for sharing information, very easy to understand.
    Yogini Lu :)

  4. Wow. I love this. Thank you!

  5. thank you guys for your great work,
    offering valuable, integrated and relevent information
    about the body and yoga practice!
    you rock :)

  6. gotta share this, thanks ray!

  7. Thanks Damien-much appreciated! All the Best~Ray

  8. Hey Adan--good to see you. Keep me posted on how this one works for you. Folks really like it in my workshops. All the Best~Ray

  9. "Lats" to think about ...thank you both. Can also trigger from the "bottom up" by imagining "poking" the femurs lengthwise with the same osteological constraints, again watching hip flexors vs lats recruitment. I enjoyed the way you can sense activation of one vs the other in your teaching! Thx ~ matt

  10. Thanks Matt--I'll give it a try. Sounds like a good combination to explore--can reveal imbalances between the two sides of the hips.
    All the Best~Ray

  11. Hi Ray & Chris,
    This is a 'thank you' on behalf of the 'silent majority' who look, learn & apply but just never get around to let you know how useful your posts, books, and website are.

  12. Dear Siggy,
    Many thanks! Your comment makes us feel great. I'm delighted to hear this and will be sure to pass it on to Chris as well. All the Best~Ray

  13. Nice depiction of the latissimus dorsi, also of the iliums and sacrum bones. Terrific.

  14. Brilliant. I keep going back and re-reading the posts. Thank you!!!

  15. Key or Code, ok, I like Key, what a Shining Light covering my practice, Thank You a Lot!!!

    1. Hey Manuel! Great to see your comment. Thank you~Ray

  16. Great timing on this post. I was actually going to discuss this very thing with my students this week. It's these seeming little lessons that are so helpful!

  17. Does this movement in Tadasana externally rotate the thighs?

  18. Great cue. Clear explanation.
    Many thanks.

  19. Great timing! I was just looking through your books to find this to share with my students. I remember you going through it at the Yoga Conference in Toronto a couple of years ago, and how it made me fully aware of this posture. Thanks!!!

  20. Finally the working simple trick I needed for years!

  21. Thanks for the cue. I am very tight in my hip flexors, which keeps me from even sitting straight. What's your additional tip for starting out in that case?

  22. Also, sitting on some height, a blanket or a foam block, also enables the knees to descend in those with tighter hips and allows the pelvis to tilt forward slightly and the spine to straighten.