Friday, October 16, 2009

Excellent Book Combining Anatomy and Yoga

Yogabody: Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Asana, by Judith Hansen Lasater, Ph.D., P.T. is an immensely informative book that gracefully combines rigorous anatomical theory with yoga teaching and practice. Instead of merely relating a series of yoga positions and the muscles involved, Yogabody covers different regions of the body in clinical detail, discussing the anatomical structure and kinesiology and how they apply to yoga teaching. The book thoroughly illustrates the anatomical structures being discussed, with details such as the ligaments surrounding a joint and the individual features of a bone.

Lasater's expertise as a physical therapist is clear from the depth of her writing about the human body, and her knowledge of therapeutic yoga shows in her discussion of how to apply the anatomical concepts to teaching yoga.
"There is a simple way to tell the difference between a structural and a functional scoliosis. Have your student stand in Tadasana and then bend forward. She should not try to stretch out in Uttanasana but rather just hang forward. Now stand behind her and observe her back. If she has a functional scoliosis , the stretch will result in the soft tissue releasing, and her back will look even from side to side. If she has a structural scoliosis, it will be more apparent that one side of her rib cage is higher than the other."
Yogabody: Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Asana, p. 76
Here we see that the information given is useful to many bodywork and fitness professionals besides yoga teachers, but that some yoga terminology may need to be looked up. Overall though, a lack of familiarity with yoga terms, mostly asana(the yoga poses) names, should not be problem. Do note that the specific terms given are in Sanskrit, so even if you know what Down Dog is, you may not recognize the pose when called Adho Mukha Svanasana.

The anatomy and kineseology come first, then asanas are used to show how the concepts apply to yoga practice. An experiential example is given of the movement of the head of the femur in the acetabulum:
"Ask your student to lie down on her mat for Supta Padangusthasana [figure shown]. First observe as she raises her straight leg up to an angle of 90 degrees. Many students raise the leg with an action that appears as if they are lifting the whole femur at once. Watch this action several times. Now suggest that she lift her femur in a different way: have her imagine that the head of her femur is descending just as she begins the action, in order to allow the rest of the femur to lift. It is as if the femoral head rolls down, back, and out as she raises the thigh and leg up. This way of thinking about the action is more in harmony with what the head of the femur actually does in the movement. Instead, most students just pick up the whole lower extremity and lift it. This way of moving does not allow for the femoral head to move deep into the joint for a mechanically sound movement with increased congruence. This type of movement does not follow the concave-convex law for this joint."
Yogabody: Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Asana, p. 107

If you teach yoga or are a dedicated student, the contents will you give an awareness and clinical foundation of why certain asana alignments are optimal, based on the structure of the body. If you aren't a yogi, but want to expand your knowledge of applied anatomy, you will still find Yogabody informative, and you may also gain an appreciation for the potential of yoga.

I would love to take one of Lasater's workshops, even though I'm not a yoga teacher(yet). In the meantime, I hope any teacher I have a class with already has.

Food tip
As the local fruit season concludes, I look for a substitute for my morning cereal. The winner is steamed sweet potato chunks. Colorful, sweet, and soft, they are perfect with my muesli mix and soy milk. As an important bonus, they are exceptionally nutritious.  Sweet potatoes usually go into my soup as a contrast to the spicy things, and, best of all, my famous sweet potato ginger cookies. I will have a batch of those for clients next week(book at Positive Massage now!)

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