As an avid Yoga practitioner, I do on occasion find myself shaking my head when a new muscle comes into play that I can’t say I’ve felt before. Avid may not be the right word; I do have an ongoing issue with self-competition and admit that I tend to push myself a little past ‘comfortable’ from time to time. For those times when I pull something I don’t recognize, Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff is the only place I look. As a teacher or aspiring teacher, this wonderful little tome shows the use of specific muscles and addresses everything from joint action and obstacles to the Asana to breathing and variations that may be used.
Flex and extend
Yoga Anatomy begins with chapters on the spine and breathing dynamics, as both are universally seen as being central to each Asana. Particular attention is paid to proper breathing dynamics, including use of the diaphragm and the physical aspects of both the chest and abdominal cavities during proper breathing. This information is then linked to flexion and extension of the spine during the breathing process.
Over sixty Asanas are portrayed organized into chapters on sitting, kneeling, supine, arm-supported prone, and standing poses. Each Asana is depicted by Sharon Ellis, a medical illustrator for more than twenty-five years in New York. Every illustration depicts the relevant muscles coming into play in red, while points which contact the ground are drawn in blue. The Asana is first introduced by its Sanskrit name and then its English equivalent. A transliteration of each Sanskrit name is also provided, and the individual elements are also broken down into their core meanings. In example, padmasana translates as padma – “Lotus throne” and asana, which needs no translation!
Clear and concise
The concise and clear format of Yoga Anatomy provides a great deal of information on the one or two pages given for each pose. Each pose is assigned a degree of difficulty; and then the joint action is indicated. The contraction and lengthening of the muscles are described specifically, followed by a section entitled “Obstacles and Notes” where common obstacles are addressed and suggested solutions are provided. Next is a section on how the pose affects the breath and any breath adjustments that should be made in the pose. Where required, an additional section references any cautions, variations or pertinent notes.
A tissue for my issues
My issues…Way too many to talk about even on a never-ending webpage! Seriously though, the muscle names are in Latin, and you may have to look up a few of the medical terms you may be unfamiliar with. Outside from these minor concerns, Yoga Anatomy offers any reader an opportunity to come to know their own muscles and the integral effects of proper posture and breathing. In referencing the anatomical illustrations and then focusing on the areas of the body and visualizing the muscle and ‘feeling’ the contraction or extension, I have made noticeable gains in flexibility and a lack of stiffness from time to time that I once experienced.
If you are not at a stage where you can easily feel the specific targeted muscle in your asanas, Yoga Anatomy is an excellent quick reference guide that will take hardly any extra room in your exercise bag. As an instructor, Yoga Anatomy is a must-have for lesson planning and designing individualized programs for those who may have obstacles preventing them from working through poses in the traditional manner.
Leslie Kaminoff is a TKV Desikachar student and an internationally recognized expert in Yoga and breath anatomy. I personally give Yoga Anatomy.
I find my worst enemy is the same enemy we all have…ourselves.
What I fight against really does not exist,
It is only distorted reflection of true self.
Muscle, sinew, tendon, joint…
Extensions of mind alone.
Allow spirit and silence to guide you
Leslie Kaminoff, ISBN-10: 0736062785, 2007