“Your body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” – BKS Iyengar
The above mentioned quote implies the importance of yoga for cleansing of the body. Yoga is a device for uniting the mind and body, and it is important to know the inner workings of the body for understanding the impact of asanas. When one does asanas with correct alignment and anatomical reflection then it becomes easier to synchronize breath and mind with it.
Anatomy is a medical subject dealing with the basic structures of the body. It includes knowledge of the bones, muscles, joints, blood vessels, nerves and organs within the body. Knowing the anatomy of the body is an added benefit if you are a yogi. It is vital to know which muscles and bones can sustain which type of injuries, which asana targets which muscle compartments and which poses are specific to healing on injuries.
Anatomy of the body is diverse – the body of a human being is not just muscles and bones, but also nerves, blood vessels, joints and organs. Being a yoga instructor does not mean you have to know everything – only the basics needed for yoga. These include major muscles, joints and bones as well the most common movements of the body.
- Major Bones of the Body:
The body has 206 bones, and these are divided into long and short bones. As a yogi in training, you only need to know the major bones of the body, such as those in the legs and arms. It is also important to know the structure of the spine, as it is – quite literally- the backbone of the skeleton. Having knowledge of bones will help aspiring yogis to know which asanas are applicable on which anatomical part of the body, and which bones are at risk of injury during yoga practice.
- Major Muscles of the Body
With the bones, yogis also learn the origin and insertions of muscles to the bones. While these may seem daunting, students must remember that muscles are divided into compartments. Each Muscle is grouped according to the movements of body or in other words they are arranged according to function. Learning them in conjunction with the movements in asanas will give yogis a fair idea of who can benefit from these asanas, such as students with shoulder dislocation problems must focus on the asanas which strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint, because shoulder joint is vulnerable joint by its very structure and it is kept stable only by a strong muscular structure around it.
- Major Joints of the Body
Joints are the structural attachment between bones, and are most prone to injuries during asanas. It is important to know the movement of major joints (primarily the arms and legs), as well their degree of rotation. Joint movements such as flexion, extension and rotation allow yogis to determine which movements are safe in particular asanas.
- Structure of the Spine
This is a key topic of focus for yogis in training, as the spine is the support structure the human skeleton. As many meditation poses involve rotation of the spine, it is important to know the bones, discs as well the nerves which pass through it. Knowledge of the spinal structure can also help you guide students with chronic back problems and injuries.
- Major Movements of the body
After studying the basic structures, yoga instructors have to know how the body incorporates these structures in basic movements. The basic movements include flexion, extension, external and internal rotation and so on. Shoulder blade or scapula has different kind of movement such as elevation, depression, protraction, retraction, medial rotation and lateral rotation. Students of Yoga must be familiar with these movement in order to learn the role of shoulder blade stability in performing different asanas. It is important to know the movements involved in each yoga asana, as one asana may involve multiple movements. Overstretching or prolonged stationary position can lead to strain or sprain in beginner students.
- Muscles during Yoga Poses
Yoga asanas can either focus on one muscle compartment, or multiple ones at the same time. It is therefore important to know which muscles are being used in various asanas. This aides instructors especially in formulating yoga routines for people who attend private classes for medical ailments.
- Alignment of the Body during Yoga
All the above pointers are then used to determine the risks during yoga asanas. Risks during yoga asanas implies knowing the kind of injuries associated if an asana is not performed correctly. Knowledge about the joint movements is particularly beneficial in guiding beginner students in avoiding injuries due to overexertion of a singular joint.
Having knowledge of the anatomy of the human body can make you a better yogi and an even better yoga instructor. As a yoga instructor you can be a help for people who need to train or need rehabilitation after pregnancies, ankle sprains, hip replacements, spinal deformities and dislocated shoulders and knees. Knowledge of anatomy will help you reassure these people and guide them towards rehabilitation and a better lifestyle. Even during yoga classes, beginner students are highly likely to twist their foot, fall on their face or pull a muscle or a nerve. If you know basic anatomy, you can quickly assess the problem area and help them temporarily relieve the problem.
It will be a part of your job to communicate the risks of yoga with your students, and reassure them regarding injuries and long term effects. It can also aide instructors in designing yoga routines for private and public classes. Private classes mostly target a particular part of the body or a specific injury (such as lumbar pain, back ache etc.) so knowing which asanas will benefit these conditions is vital for earning the confidence of your students.