There are a few movements that we can not or do not do in most yoga practices. Pushups and pull-ups are among them. These two exercises strengthen some major muscles of the body that are otherwise neglected by yoga postures.
"What about Chaturanga?" you may ask? Chaturanga is a pushup-like motion that is intentionally done with the arms close to the body. The hands are low and the elbows close to the torso. This is done to prepare us for Upward Facing Dog posture, where we straighten the arms to bend the spine backward and stretch the chest, belly and hips. Chaturanga is great for setting up Upward Facing Dog, but it is hard on the arms and elbows. It purposely bypasses the chest muscles so that we may bend the spine backward in Upward Facing Dog.
The triceps and elbows are not designed to move the weight of the body, especially not repetitively. The chest muscles, on the other hand, are large and powerful, made for moving large loads. We can strengthen the chest muscles by doing pushups, with the elbows widened away from the torso, the hands a little wider than the shoulders.
Two other important muscles that get neglected in most yoga postures are the biceps and the latissimus dorsi. The biceps are the muscles that bend the arms at the elbows, so it is difficult to use body weight to develop them. (Far easier is to develop the triceps that straighten the arms. These are activated every time we use the arms to hold our body weight off the floor.) Pull-ups strengthen the biceps, lifting the body weight by bending the arms.
The latissimus dorsi are huge muscles that attach our arms to the lower back. It is thought that this is useful for hanging and swinging, a remnant of our descending from apes. The "lats" are powerful muscles that get very little exercise unless we hang from our arms. Pull-ups are great for that.
I like to approach the physical body with some logic and science. I've never been one to practice yoga as-is just because of 'tradition'. Pushups and pull-ups are two non-yoga exercises that allow us to develop large, important muscle groups that are otherwise neglected. This leads to even development of the body.
This journal honors my ongoing experience with the practice, study and teaching of yoga.
1) Sridaiva Yoga: Good Intention But Imbalanced
2) Understanding Chair Posture
2) Why I Don't Use Sanskrit or Say Namaste
3) The Meaningless Drudgery of Physical Yoga
5) Beyond Bikram: Why This Is a Great Time For Ghosh Yoga