Anatomy & Physiology Manual
for Yoga Teacher Trainers
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This manual was originally developed for the students whom I teach Anatomy and Physiology to as part of their yoga teacher training courses. After great feedback and encouragement I have now made it available to everyone. This is the first edition and I am offering it at a astonishingly low price in the hope that you will give me plenty of feedback so that I may make future editions even better.
When you pick up a normal anatomy book it often weighs the same as a small child, can be difficult to understand and to hard determine which areas you could do with learning. Those books available on yoga anatomy, may be excellent in what they offer (such as Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff) but often tend just to focus of the muscular system as it relates to poses. What I hope to offer is a manual that takes the knowledge laid out in anatomy texts and presents what is useful for your needs in a way that is concise and easy to comprehend.
The manual is 25,000 words over 90 pages and contains numerous illustrations to help in the explanation of topics. It covers the systems of the human body, giving greater emphasis to those that have the most relevance to yoga ( e.g.. Respiratory, Muscular, Skeletal, Circulatory and Nervous). As often as possible themes are discussed in terms of their application to yoga.
Some Illustrations and excerpts from the manual are below.
An excerpt from the Skeletal System chapter, application to yoga.
So do we really need to know how bones are made, probably not, but there are some useful things to be learned. Bone size (both length and thickness) is one of the main components determining stature, add that to the proportion of one bone to another and we have something to work with. Leaving aside the amount of adipose tissue (fat) and muscle tissue for the moment, the variety in stature displayed by the human race is amazing. To generalize a few, we have tall & solid, tall & wiry, short & solid, petite, long limbed, short limbed, long upper torso, large feet, small feet etc. etc. All of these people are not going to perform a posture in the same way neither should they try to. The length of someone’s bones relative to each will affect the way a person gets into an asana. For example if an individual has thick bones with relatively short limbs any sort of pose where one limb is bound around another (e.g. marichyasana C) will be hard to perform even if they rotate freely. A tall person with small feet will probably not be able to balance as well as a small person with large feet even if they spread their toes. Sometimes a pose will not be aesthetically pleasing because of the persons proportions, you have to look beyond that and ask, ‘Are they achieving the benefits from the pose in a way that suits their body?’ Bones are not just straight sticks meeting together at joints, they can twist and change angle along their length. Changes in these shapes will alter the orientation of the bone to the joint and change the range of motion available at that joint. We will look at other issues when we cover joints.
Detailed information on muscle actions
An excerpt from the Muscular System chapter on Stretching
We know now that if we want to increase the range of movement available to us at a joint our options are fairly limited. We can’t change the physical shape of bones, if we are stopped by a bony protuberance well that’s that. It’s unwise to try and elongate ligaments as we can land up with unstable joints. What we are left with is working with the muscle bellies, their individual muscle fibers and associated connective tissue fibers. When we undertake a long term program of stretching it is possible for the muscles to increase their length by the addition of more functional units (sarcomeres). Ultimately the length that a muscle is allowed to stretch is governed by the nervous system, which sets what it feels are the safe limits to prevent the muscle from damage or to protect some other area. We can see this easily demonstrated when for instance we hurt our back, range of movement is severely limited because the nervous system is keeping many of the muscles tighter to act like a splint and prevent further injury occurring. At the other end of the scale when a patient is under anesthetic for an operation, the nervous system is subdued and joints move so freely that care has to be taken not to dislocate them or damage the muscular tissue. So although we are aiming to increase the actual length of muscles we are also trying to influence the nervous system constraints. That’s why a slower stretch is more effective, the nervous system is reassured that it is safe to progress and is more likely to allow a further lengthening of the muscle. In time it can be educated (or mis-educated depending on your view) to adjust its safety margins, allowing for this new range of motion to be accepted as the norm.