Why Study Yoga Anatomy?
Anatomy is the study of the structure and function of the human body, broken down into its parts. Anatomy is the study of the components that create a unified whole.
If you wanted to become a great artist, you would want to know how to blend colors. You would need to know the component parts of yellow and blue, if you wanted to paint something green. If you want to move your body in a complex movement, you would want to know the structure and function of the parts of the body involved in the movement.
For instance, if you were trying to learn that cool thing that good cooks do where they flip the food into the air from a sauté pan and catch it again, someone may tell you “it’s just a flick of the wrist.” Once you start focusing on the little wrist flick you need to create this movement, you find yourself flipping flapjacks with ease. A little anatomical thought goes a long way.
As a kid, when you first start sneaking around or trying not to wake someone up, you are advised to “tip-toe” your way through the halls. At first this is awkward, but the body adapts quickly to the new movement. Learning to ride a bike you are told to “just keep pedaling,” and you’ve just learned a little bit about physics! A moving bike is easier to balance. In P.E. class, if you’ve ever done pull-ups and chin-ups, you may remember that pull-ups (palms facing you) are WAY easier than chin-ups (palms away). This is a straightforward anatomical fact, that you get to really use your biceps brachii muscle in a pull-up. It’s the same reason why all doors open by twisting to the right, or why it’s easier to tighten a screw or a lid than it is to open it (next time you have a lid on a jar that’s REALLY stuck, try opening it left handed! And try not to spill anything….).
Anatomy is relevant to all aspects of life.
You have a body. Any activity you want to accomplish is going to be carried out by your body (except of course in circumstances of disability, in which case your brain is still calling the shots, so neuro-anatomy suddenly becomes really important!).
Anatomy and fitness transformed my life.
There was about a decade of my life when my relationship with my body was one of constant abuse, resentment, and pain. This was while I suffered through drug and alcohol abuse. The only association I had with my body was negative. The only exception to that was using drugs to numb the pain of having a body. This was hell.
Drunk, hungover, shaking and sweating, fearfully I went to a yoga class. The teacher instructed me to do things like “push through the ball of my foot,” “take a deep breath,” or “sit up proud.” I had an experience of feeling like I accomplished something remarkable in that simple class. I made the monumental achievement of doing something positive with my body, and the effect was HUGE. I definitely cried through my sweat a few times, and in that sweet savasana at the end of class.
For the first time in AGES, I experienced a positive association with my body. I was hooked. I went to at least 12 classes in 7 days during my “FREE intro week”. I soon became absolutely fascinated with the amazing ability of yoga teachers to suggest doing some tiny and specific thing with my body, and how it yielded amazingly accurate results. I almost thought they were psychics for a second, the way they seemed to know my body better than I did!
For me, learning more and more about my body, my own chemistry, and about the structure and function of various parts of my body gave me new tools with which to explore the world. It taught me how to move fluidly, and pain free. It continues to teach me new ways to manage stress, and pain. It continues to baffle and inspire me, and make me wonder. It makes me want to share this with others.
Yoga is a process of self-inquiry. We seek to understand our mind better, so we can find a state of inner peace or happiness. When the body is in pain, or it is anxious or depressed, it is nearly impossible to find inner peace. First we must take care of our body.
The amazing thing is – sometimes in moments of deeply concentrated movement and effort, the inner stillness and profound sense of peace and wellbeing just arises from nowhere, like it was buried deep in the knots and tangled fibers of your soft tissues, and just by moving and stretching and breathing and laughing and flowing, this inner peace suddenly springs forth from its imprisonment and overwhelms you with its transformational power.
This is why I study movement and anatomy. It’s a gateway to a subtler understanding of our deep inner nature.
Axis Yoga Trainings Graduate