yoga certificationBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

There are a few Yoga teacher training programs that do not view anatomy as a priority. This may be true if the Yoga teacher certification is based upon teaching a style without movement. For example: The practice of Bhakti, Karma, or Jnana has little to do with asana (posture). Our view of what Yogic methodology is can be very different from our colleagues.


The essence of Hatha and many contemporary styles of Yoga is movement, with each part of the body moving in relation to a counterpart for optimum “body balance.” Yoga instructors need to know how body parts are connected, in order to be able to help students adjust, when they feel discomfort. Anatomy is defined as the study of the structure of the body. When you study anatomy you learn the names of all the bones and how they are connected, as well as how the joints, ligaments, muscles, and organs, work within the body. All of these concepts are crucial to an understanding of how the body moves, the benefits of proper movement, and the dangers of incorrect movement. Yoga teachers do not need to be experts of human anatomy to be good instructors, but basic understandings of alignment, skeletal compression, and tension, are helpful.

Human Skeletal Structure

Understanding Yoga anatomy, in the most basic sense, means knowing the names, location, and purpose of the bones within the human body. Yoga instructors should know the difference between the femur and the fibula. You do not have to use those terms with your students, but they should be a part of your knowledge base. When students ask questions about specific poses, you will be prepared to answer them intelligently. Keep in mind that most students are out to achieve an overall sense of the mind-body connection and total relaxation. They do not necessarily desire to be confused by scientific information during class.

The Relationship Between the Human Body and Asana

Perhaps the most important anatomical information Yoga teachers need to understand is the relationship between the body and the poses.  Instructors must be aware of which parts of the body are affected by each asana, and how certain parts of the body work together while a student is holding a posture. You must always provide guidance, safety information, and cues for your students in order to protect themselves from injury. A Yoga teacher without any knowledge of anatomy might not fully understand the dangers of improper alignment.

Dangers of Speculation

Since most Yoga teachers are not anatomy experts, make sure you do not act like one. If a student asks a question that you do not know the answer to, advise him or her to seek help from someone who knows. Give advice only about matters, which you are familiar with. Many students come to our classes for relief of back pain, neck pain, headaches, or other chronic issues. Instead of speculating about what could possibly be going on within the body, offer advice only about techniques that should relieve the issue. Always advise a student to consult with his or her physician.

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