Yoga Anatomy

As part of the anatomy section of this yoga teacher training program, all students are required to complete 10 hours of anatomy study on their own.  Our anatomy teacher gave us a pre-work assignment to do before each of our anatomy classes, but it took me an average of 30 minutes to complete each homework item – so by the end of the formal, structured anatomy training of this program, I had only completed two hours of anatomy-related independent study.

One option I had to fill the remaining eight hours was to read/do The Anatomy Coloring Book – which many consider to be the quintessential med student’s guide to the human body.  The book is definitely remarkable; it’s technical, precise, detailed, interactive, visual, and does a very good job explaining crazy-difficult concepts in as relatable and understandable a fashion as possible.  However.  In engaging with 20-or-so pages from the book (as part of my formal anatomy class pre-work), I found it to be an exercise in memorization, but not necessarily application.  For example, after studying the page on the axial and appendicular skeleton, I understood the general jist that the axial skeleton is the spine and ribs, and the appendicular skeleton is the arms and legs – but 1) it took me a good five minutes (literally) to extract that information from the technical jargon on the page, and [more importantly] 2) this information was pretty void of meaning.  It was data, but not knowledge.  It was facts I could memorize if I worked hard, but that I couldn’t really apply.  So while it is critical that a medical professional memorize every term and fact in the coloring book, that isn’t the same level or even type of knowledge I need as a yoga teacher.

Fortunately, in one of our anatomy classes, the instructor mentioned a reference text that he has found helpful over the years: Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff.  This book is all about the way various muscles, bones, joints, and the breath are impacted/affected in a variety of standard yoga poses.  This was information that I felt would be more valuable to me than rote memorization of body parts – so I purchased the book, and over the past month got very cozy with skeletons and a highlighter.

I completed the book yesterday – and I think it is truly fantastic.  The author explains “the basics” of human anatomy clearly and concisely, yet also at a pretty decent level of detail; and he always ties in the yogic application to the physical/physiological topic at hand.  In my opinion, his first two chapters on the breath and the spine are ‘must reads’ for every yoga teacher; the information presented there is completely understandable, yet so important and profound…  I also adored the asana illustrations and explanations that comprised the majority of the book – they were much easier for me to understand than the illustrations and explanations in The Anatomy Coloring Book (and, therefore, more valuable to me as a tool to learn from).  I suspect when I have questions in the future about how a pose should align/be held/feel in the body, I will reference this text.

It’s funny – I’ve spent 36 years living with a body, but I have really learned more about it in the past year of this yoga teacher training program; and certainly a lot in this past month of yoga anatomy study.  Interesting… and amazing.


P.S.  If you are curious about the Yoga Anatomy book, and want to get a few semi-detailed samples of the type of information the text holds, you can read over some of the notes I took from it.


About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
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