On the Importance of Learning Anatomy for Yoga Teachers

Do you believe in the capacity for yoga to heal or prevent injury? In yourself or others? Do you see yourself teaching yoga 10, 20 or 30 years from now?

The teachings of yoga contain infinite potential to heal and prevent injury. Yoga is a powerful and prolific tool. Each experiences this in different ways, but there are many who have not yet experienced yoga at all.

As an engaged yoga practitioner or teacher, like it or not, you are an ambassador of yoga to the wider world, to the yoga-curious, to the medical community and others. The positive effects of the practice are visible to others in how you sustain and create optimal health in your own body mind and spirit.

If you teach yoga, you will definitely be asked about injuries, and whether certain poses are safe. You will be communicating directly or indirectly via your students to medical providers. Part of that communication is articulating – in the common language of basic medical terminology – how you keep your students safe and healthy as well as how yoga can support any given individual’s well-being.

Teaching yoga as a career involves an investment of substantial energy. Everyone’s trajectory is unique, but most likely you imagine yourself continuing to teach yoga a decade or three from now. Change is the only constant. Your body will change. Your students’ bodies will change.

If you teach an adult population, and you teach them well, your students will follow you (hopefully) for years. They (and you) will suffer heartbreak, bone breaks, survive falls, childbirth, ankle sprains, and simply labor away at computers and other devices 8 or more hours a day.

They will ask for your advice after joint replacements, spinal surgeries, dislocated shoulders and pregnancies. Within your very yoga classes they might fall on their faces, force binds, or break toes in jump-backs. The unexpected is the inevitable. Your capacity to respond with grace, appropriate guidance and wisdom is optional.

This is what inspires me to learn, write, and teach the anatomy of yoga. It’s what inspired me to go back to school for my doctorate in physical therapy. I want to excel in my teaching, in my communication about the power of yoga, in my knowledge of my own body and to help others with theirs. I want to know how the heck to respond to students with old ACL repairs and the tweaks in my body that come from asymmetrical demo’ing.

Knowing anatomy is the foundation for physical safety upon which you can layer all the other goodness you know, intuit, and absorb. Treat the temples well, yoga teachers.

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