98: The Pros & Cons of Using Anatomy in Yoga

There is no shortage of strong opinions on what areas of study are appropriate for yoga teachers and students. The study of anatomy is one that, at times, inspires controversy – so today hosts Tiffany and Rachel dive into the pros and cons of using anatomy in yoga.

We discuss the challenges of using anatomical language and the risk that a simplified model might be confused for reality. We also debate whether emphasizing the physical could detract from more subtle aspects of yoga practice, as well as how it might provide a shared experience to more deeply connect us to life, each other, and ourselves.

Listen in to explore some of the drawbacks and advantages to studying and teaching anatomy in the yoga world.

“Sometimes it is helpful to explain anatomy if it gives me a deeper understanding of how I can relate to my body.” – Tiffany Cruikshank

“It is a simplified model for a complicated reality and it takes some real nuance to be able to express that so that you are not teaching in that robotic fashion, but that you have some general understanding of how the body works together and you are inviting people into an experience.” – Rachel Land

Show Notes:

  • Does anatomy study limit the concept of yoga to the purely physical? [2:31]
  • Anatomy is a simplified model of a complex and individual reality [7:55]
  • Anatomical language is not familiar to most students [13:26]
  • Recapping the main drawbacks of studying & teaching anatomy [19:56]
  • We all experience life through our physical body; why not learn about it? [21:07]
  • Anatomy study is one lens through which we can know ourselves better [25:52]
  • Anatomical language can be learned, and is shared with medical/ movement professionals [28:36]
  • Anatomy study supports intelligent and effective teaching [32:03]
  • Anatomy study can inspire curiosity, reverence, gratitude and wonder [39:42]
  • Final thoughts, a reminder of the big picture, and Yoga Medicine resources [43:18]

Links Mentioned:

“The next layer of yoga is making peace with welcoming the nuances of ourselves and those individual variations and that can be a reflection of the anatomy.” – Tiffany Cruikshank

2 thoughts on “98: The Pros & Cons of Using Anatomy in Yoga

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    Mary Beth Haak says:

    I enjoyed this episode so much as I can relate to everything you said. I once worked with a doctor who said the body is a well oiled machine and that’s why we don’t always know there is something wrong. There are so many ways it’s compensates. It’s fascinating and contemplating that alone, even though it’s about anatomy and seems all physical …can be spiritual. The more I study yoga the more I appreciate it as a beautiful practice that brings such a peaceful connection of mind body and spirit. And therein lies the joy.

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