People are born with extra ribs and vertebrae and fewer of both. Men and women’s bodies are not created equal. Underneath our skin lies a world of limitations and possibilities.
One size does not fit all when it comes to the human body. When a man comes into a yoga class and immediately realizes that his knees stick up toward the ceiling in a seated position, while every woman’s knees rest much closer to the floor, he may feel discouraged and think “I’ll never be able to do this.” Since men are not made for childbirth, their pelvic bones aren’t the same as a woman’s. However, their broad shoulders and slim hips make inversions easier. Some people are not physically able to raise their arms straight up next to their ears. Others may be able to move their arms even further back behind their heads which can create shoulder problems. Our range of motion depends on the shape of our bones, the condition of our ligaments, and our resting muscle tone.
In the same way that each yoga pose must start with the strong foundation of proper foot placement, all yoga instruction must be based on a comprehensive knowledge of the human body. As part of my yoga teacher training, I spent a weekend studying anatomy at Thrive Yoga with Kristin Leal. Our readings, demonstrations, and discussions have introduced me to an entirely new language and very crucial, practical knowledge.
Often yoga students strive for the “perfect” pose. “Is this right?” we all ask. But does it matter if we can do the most advanced versions of a pose? Of course not! The goal of yoga is enlightenment!
Anatomy also holds the true secret of yoga. All day long we sit, walk, run, and sleep with our bodies in similar positions. Yoga leaves us feeling wonderful when poses bring our bodies back into symmetry with reverse rotations, back bends, and joint adduction.
Every student, no matter the sport or physical fitness routine, requires the proper instruction for safely. Students must be given the freedom and empowerment to make sure they make the right physical choices while practicing. The only way to navigate through a yoga practice is to listen to your inner teacher without your ego making demands. If you ask, your anatomy has the answers.
After my weekend of intensive anatomy study, I continually discussed my newfound anatomy tidbits with my family. I couldn’t stop visualizing the image of a fountain spouting information from the top of my head. This is how I know I really want to be a teacher. I fill myself up to the brim with knowledge and can’t stop myself from spreading it around. A yoga teacher must have a vast and continually expanding base of knowledge with a sure footing in anatomy.