By Gopi Rao
Yoga teachers should study anatomy for many reasons. Having a thorough knowledge of human anatomy will help you to lead your students through a vigorous Yoga practice in a cohesive and safe manner. You will also be able sequence your Yoga classes to provide the most benefit to your particular group of students.
Many aspiring teachers wonder why they should study human anatomy. During Yoga teacher training, most interns want to expand their knowledge of the poses, not focus on technical terms for muscles, ligaments, and bones. However, it is essential for Yoga teachers to be knowledgeable about human anatomy, so that they can guide their students in and out of asanas safely.
To be an exceptional Yoga instructor, you need to know how the muscles and ligaments function in order to sequence a class effectively, with reduced risk to your students. You will also be better prepared to offer sound advice regarding modifications to students who are healing from a variety of injuries. Competent Yoga teachers can help students work around any challenge.
If you are well-versed in the anatomy of the human body, you will understand exactly how a joint moves. When teaching Yoga classes, your instructions to your students must be clear in order for them to correct their alignments or safely go deeper into a pose.
You will also be able to teach your students which parts of their body should be relaxing and contracting in each asana. Additionally, if a student or a medical professional approaches you to discuss an injury and which asanas might, or might not, help the injury heal; you will be able to understand the anatomical structures being discussed.
As an instructor, the study of anatomy will also help to shed some light on the parts of your own body that are tight, weak, or injured, and the appropriate asana sequence to address those issues. Anatomical knowledge of the human respiratory system also allows a Yoga instructor to teach modified breathing techniques to their students with asthma and other respiratory disorders.
The physics of the human anatomical system clearly defines the angles that a human body can rotate within. If you do not have an adequate knowledge of human anatomy, you may teach a series of asanas in such a way that is dangerous to your students. For example: The knee is a hinge joint, which operates much like a door, but some teachers with no comprehension of anatomy instruct their students to do knee circles with both feet on the ground. The end result will be many students with knee problems later in life.
I was present at a Yoga certification intensive where Paulji had a diagram of the knee and a door to compare “body mechanics.” Doors open and close in the same way as a knee is designed to move. He asked us to visualize circling the door on the frame at an angle it is not designed for. Think about it: The door will break off the frame. The reason why the knee can take so much abuse is that it is living tissue, but an abused knee is a major skeletal problem.
Teaching an asana or posture in an incorrect manner, without an awareness of human anatomy, can injure your students. However, teaching a great Yoga class based on a solid knowledge of human anatomy will support your students in creating both health and well-being for the rest of their lives.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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