Class Notes, Week 17: Anatomy for yogis

The Moksha yoga teacher training program requires me to journal once each week about my experience with the poses and assignments + my practice and progress. This is part of that weekly assignment.

This week I began a 10-week anatomy course that’s required for my yoga teacher training certification.  I’ll spend three hours each Thursday evening — after what is typically a mentally exhausting day at work — in a Bucktown studio learning about the mechanics of the body and how it relates to yoga.

This scenario would be so much more appealing if it were held on a Saturday or Sunday morning.  Unless I can snap up a Starbucks before the start of each class, I’ll be bringing a side of mental fatigue alongside my undivided attention and enthusiasm.

However, I look at this situation like old-fashioned medicine: It won’t taste so good at first, but it’s going to improve me in the long run.  I want to get better at anatomy.  I want to understand how the bones, muscles, joints, spine, etc. work. I want this knowledge to improve my personal practice.  I want this knowledge to improve my asana sequencing.  I want this knowledge to make my classes safer for students.  I want to learn.  This is a subject about which I don’t know a lot, so there’s only room for improvement — even if I’m a bit lethargic in the process.

Thank goodness Shanna Lin, our teacher, is organized and engaging.  On our first Thursday we received a roadmap (in the form of a very detailed binder); an easy course requirement (all homework is open-book and you can retake if you don’t pass); and a very cool quote (which I scribbled down in my notebook immediately after she said it):

“The quality of your joints is the quality of your life.”

Ain’t that the truth.  I’ve witnessed family and friends struggle with hip issues, knee problems and arthritis — and it just looms large over everything they do.  Everything can become a struggle.  And they become sour and unhappy as a result.  I want to keep my joints well-lubricated and healthy, and want to help encourage this in others.  A strong body leads to a better quality of life, and that leads to happiness …

The coolest thing I learned this week, and something that’s immediately applicable to the asana practice of yoga, is the GTO reflex.  I’m still wrapping my mind around the exact definition of this reflex — it revolves around intense muscle contraction for a sustained period of time and how this helps encourage length.  Something like that.  All I know for certain is the effect was played out in an astonishing way while in class.  Shanna asked us to stand up and do uttanasana without warming up.  My fingers touched the floor.  She then asked us to bend our knees slightly and hug our chest to our thighs.  We held this position for two minutes.  After that time, Shanna then asked us to do uttanasana with straight legs again.  This time, my palms touched the floor no problem!  The entire class had a collective ah-ha moment.

I look forward to scooping up more gems like that.  And learning more about the spine.  Everything in yoga revolves around the almighty spine.  This anatomy class will help lift that veil.

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