Anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology are things that every competent Yoga teacher needs to know about. The anatomy of Yoga is a comprehensive subject, but also of interest for all students of the art. It is also very important for the Yoga students safety that preferably both he and his/her teacher possess sufficient knowledge in this regard.
The postures held during Yoga practice are called asanas, and some of them can be physically strenuous. Teachers of Hatha Yoga (includes ashtanga, bikram etc. ) do not have to know hundreds of Asanas to teach a Yoga class, but they should obviously be very familiar with what they do teach and how it affects the human anatomy.
When looking for a good Yoga teacher always check if the teacher has received training in basic anatomy. An incompetent and over enthusiastic teacher may try to push your body into positions it simply will not go, and this can of course cause serious injury.
A good place to start is comparative anatomy - which is understanding the underlying skeletal structure of the body, how the bones differ significantly from person to person, and how to use that knowledge in gaining a much deeper understanding of our individual Yoga practices.
A good curriculum for learning more about the anatomy of Yoga could look something like this:
- General knowledge of the principles of anatomy and physiology as applied to various styles of hatha yoga.
- How breathing expedites movement and posture in your practise, and about how the pelvis and abdomen form the foundation of the body - how these can be strengthened through exercise.
- Analysis of the basic standing postures, as these are vital for beginning students and because they provide a sound foundation for later back bending, forward bending, and twisting postures.
- Anatomy and safe practise of inverted exercises such as the headstand and shoulderstand.
- A basic knowledge of the body's cardiovascular function.
- The best postures for relaxation and meditation.
As a Yoga student it can sometimes be too tempting to get caught up in all the little details of the anatomy of yoga rather than focusing on what feels right and good in your body. Especially from a beginners point of view, it may be a better idea to drop the ego in this regard and try to develop an inner feeling for the postures rather than fretting over and constantly monitoring all the intricate little details.
If you have a good Yoga instructor that knows his or her Anatomy of Yoga, you are in safe hands and will receive correction if and when you need it.
Before studying the details of the anatomy of Yoga for yourself, every beginner should learn all the basic facts of the art. These are presented in Michael Hawkin's No Nonsense guide to Yoga .