When discussing the anatomy of yoga, it’s important to have a commonly agreed upon terminology, a language of movement, so that we’re all on the same page and can communicate more precisely when discussing such things as the location of bones and bony landmarks; the locations, attachments and actions of muscles; and the anatomy of yoga asana. Familiarizing yourself with these terms will help you understand the yoga anatomy articles that you read on this blog and elsewhere, create more consciousness within the muscle and joint actions in each posture, and enable you to more skillfully articulate those actions to your students through effective verbal cues and hands-on assists.
Using Anatomical Terms in Class
Some teachers like to use anatomical language when they teach, and others don’t. I want to say first and foremost that I don’t think it’s imperative to use anatomical language in your classes, and that you can be an amazing teacher without ever talking about anatomy. That being said, I also think the more knowledge that you have about anatomy the more confident you’ll feel sharing it with your students whenever it might be helpful and appropriate. My opinion is that we shouldn’t inundate students with too much anatomy in a single class, as it will likely just go in one ear and out the other, but sprinkling it in here and there can be very valuable as using anatomical terms can cultivate more awareness and precision within the practice. It can also make your job easier because your students will be able to more clearly understand what you are asking them to do within each posture. Besides, you’re probably already teaching them Sanskrit so why not teach them Latin and Greek as well? If they can learn Yogah Citta Vritti Nirodhah and Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, then surely they can learn lateral tilt and gastrocnemius!
Example: Lateral Tilt of the Pelvis in Trikonasana/Triangle
A joint action term that I use in Trikonasana to help students create length in the bottom side-waist is lateral tilt of the pelvis, which refers to a rotational movement of the pelvis within the frontal plane. If you imagine the pelvis as a basin full of water, laterally tilting the pelvis to the right would be like tipping the basin to the right to pour the water out. From the preparatory position for Trikonasana, you could imagine tilting the pelvic basin over the front leg so that the water flows down over the thigh to the floor.
Here’s how you might share this with your students and teach them the joint action term lateral tilt. Either at the beginning of class, or just prior to taking them into Trikonasana, you could describe the pelvis as a basin full of water (as above), and then demonstrate tilting the basin to the right to spill the imaginary water down over the thigh. Bring them into the preparatory position for Triangle and have them practice the tilting action with you. After they’ve done this a few times, tell them that this action they’re doing is called lateral tilt of the pelvis. Then later in class, when you are actually transitioning them into the posture, you could say something like:
“As you exhale, reach through the right arm and laterally tilt your pelvis to the right until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. Keep working this lateral tilt to keep your right side waist long as you place your right hand on your shin bone. Rotate your trunk to the left and reach your left hand toward the ceiling.”
You could of course also give additional alignment cues about the feet, front leg/hip, rotation of the trunk, etc., depending on what you’re seeing in the room. Explore this cue in your own practice, and then try it out with your students. I’d love to hear how it goes for you, so be sure to come back and leave a comment if you take me up on the assignment!
Now, on to the language of movement… anatomical position, terms of position, planes of movement and joint action terminology pairs, oh my! Bookmark this page if you want to come back to it again. We’ll also link to it frequently in future post.
The positional terms superior and inferior are only used within the axial body, which consists of the head, neck and trunk.
The positional terms proximal and distal are only used within the appendicular body, which consists of the upper and lower extremities.
PLANES OF MOVEMENT
3-D means three dimensions. The planes of movement are essentially terms for these three dimensions, with specific kinds of movement possible within each dimension/plane.
JOINT ACTION TERMINOLOGY PAIRS
Sagittal Plane Actions
Frontal Plane Actions
Transverse Plane Actions
Movements of the Scapulae
Scapula = shoulder blade (singular) / Scapulae (skap-yuh-lee) = shoulder blades (plural)
Scapular movements get their own category because they are somewhat unique and often occur in more than one plane. However, it should also be noted that the mandible and clavicle can also perform some of these actions.
Other Joint Actions
This post brought to you by: Jason Ray Brown
PREVIOUS RESPONSES TO POST
The following comments were copied over from the first incarnation of this post on Blogger.com. New comments are welcome!
Sue September 8, 2013 at 11:02 pm
Great. REally godd summary of descriptions and clear diagrams. thanks. will help my studies & practice.
Jason Ray Brown September 9, 2013 at 2:53 am
Thanks Sue! Happy that you will find it helpful
Emily Kligerman September 9, 2013 at 10:48 am
This is great! So clear and helpful! An excellent review for those of us who have completed the courses and an excellent resource to share with my students. Thanks for all of your hard work creating this!
Jason Ray Brown September 9, 2013 at 11:27 am
You’re super welcome, Emily — great idea to share it with your students.
Helene Kerherve September 9, 2013 at 12:24 pm
Hi Jason, what a fabulous work ! It’s perfectly clear. And it feels good to realize that I haven’t forgotten anything from your anatomy class
Jason Ray Brown September 10, 2013 at 1:09 pm
Thanks Helene.. happy to hear that you haven’t forgotten anything from class. Miss you, but hope to see you soon!
Susan Fleck Feiner September 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm
This is a great review and resource for teachers. Your material is clear and beautifully designed. Thank you for all of your hard work Jason! Now please come back to the studio and teach a few classes. We miss you! :- )
Jason Ray Brown September 10, 2013 at 1:12 pm
Hi Susan – thanks for reading! I miss you, too… but have decided to a sabbatical from teaching my weekly classes for a few months. I’ll try to drop in and do some master classes, though… and we’ll do some practice in the Thursday afternoon ASFYT class
Beth Tascione September 9, 2013 at 3:01 pm
This is great Jason! Super clear – both in the images and in the writing. I was testing myself along the way – phew – happy to say your fabulous teachings have stayed with me. Thanks for putting this together – it’s a great resource for teachers and students alike!
Jason Ray Brown September 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm
Thanks, Beth! Happy that you appreciated the images… I definitely put a good amount of time into creating them. And you’re very welcome for the resource, which I’ll continue to add to over the weeks and months to come.
Alison West September 10, 2013 at 10:47 am
This is very nicely done, Jason! Thanks for posting. Alison, Yoga Union
Jason Ray Brown September 10, 2013 at 1:27 pm
Thanks for reading Alison! See you on 9/25 at Yoga Union for the Yoga City NYC panel discussion on physical and subtle anatomy. I heard that over 70 people are already signed up… are they all going to fit in your studio?
Rebecca September 11, 2013 at 8:53 pm
Jason, I am so proud of you and your amazing and creative skill set. Your pictures are amazing. I could even see your innate humor in the latest blog. Very impressive…beyond impressive. Love Mom
Jason Ray Brown September 11, 2013 at 8:55 pm
Ah gee… thanks mom
Stuart September 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm
What a great resource – thank you!