There are so many teachers sharing their wealth of knowledge of anatomy and movement these days, and there is so much we can learn from functional anatomy and physiology that can help us to develop our yoga practice. However, I have noticed a trend lately of leading yoga anatomy teachers beginning to express their ideas with a ‘you’ve been doing it wrong all these years and I’ve got the answers’ kind of attitude. And, that’s kind of yucky.
It’s yucky because there is enough in our world to make us feel insecure, anxious, and not good enough – we don’t need yoga teachers sticking the boot in too – as though we don’t know enough about our own bodies to move correctly, or to help others to move mindfully. The fact is that we all inherently do know how to move, we may have some bad habits or built-up patterns, but we don’t need a PhD to know if putting our knee here or our foot there feels good or bad.
In the yoga world we are being bombarded with these new yoga anatomy rules: No one should ever do Lotus. Downward Dog is an intermediate only pose. Yoga will wreck your body. Glutes on, glutes off, glutes half way…eek! The opinions and ideas can get really confusing. I’m not saying that there isn’t some great truth and benefit in these teachings – they have certainly helped me develop my practice. However, just like painting a whole class with a single pose – ‘do this pose this way, it is the way’, or suggesting that no one should be doing a pose at all seems to come from the same place – making yoga generic – when in fact yoga is deeply personal, certainly scientific, and all about direct experience. What if I can do shoulderstand without a blanket safely, and fish is my perfect counter-pose? What if Downward Dog hurts, so I use Child Pose instead? What if deep hip openers are great for many students, but not for me?
It’s so exciting that we are applying modern anatomy and physiology knowledge to the practice of Yoga. As teachers and practitioners our anatomy knowledge can be so helpful, but remember that each individual has unique anatomy. Not everyone has Sacro-Iliac issues, or a Piriformis muscle tied up with their Sciatic nerve, not everyone has tight hamstrings, or tight hip flexors, or tight anything. As a teacher, this means that you perhaps can’t tell a whole room full of people to do a pose the exact same way – well great – whew – that takes some pressure off doesn’t it? How about offering a pose, and letting people find their own comfortable, mindful way?
My suggestion in this learning-rich yoga world of ours is to let your yoga practice be inspired by a great many teachers, anatomy and otherwise, but to always remember that your greatest teacher is you – your practice, your body, your experience.
Wishing you a great month of exploring…