Yoga Anatomy 101: Exploring Joint Actions in Yoga Asanas

 

In response to an email from a yoga instructor who uses my online yoga lesson planner, I delved into the topic of incorporating various joint actions into yoga asanas.

The email inquiry included movements such as protraction and retraction, abduction and adduction of shoulders, flexion and extension of knees and hips, lateral flexion of the lumbar spine, and shoulder external rotation, which sparked the idea for this blog post.

Join me as I explore the fundamentals of joint actions in yoga anatomy in this crash course for yoga teachers.

Click the links below to be scrolled down to the section you want:  

Learning Anatomy Is Not A Walk In The Park…And That’s Okay 

Yoga Anatomy Is Not A Walk In The Park

Listen up, future yoga gurus!

Learning yoga anatomy is not easy.

It’s not just you; yoga anatomy has been known to make even the most zen-like individuals break a sweat. I’m talking 99.9% of you. And the other 0.1%? Well, either they’re secretly stressing out too or have a medical degree in their back pocket.

But hey, don’t let that freak you out; join the rest of us who are in the same boat and let’s paddle our way through this anatomy maze together!

Below is a poem I wrote about “Yoga anatomy”…

“Oh, Yoga Anatomy, why must you be so tough? With your Sanskrit names and muscles that are rough, Your asanas and pranayama, so much to learn, It seems like our brains are destined to burn.

From the downward dog to the lotus pose, We must understand how our bodies compose, The muscles that stretch and the joints that bend, It’s enough to make us want to throw in the towel and end.

But wait, there’s more! The chakras to explore, And the nadis, with their energy that soars, The bandhas and drishti, with their subtle cues, It’s enough to make us feel quite confused.

But fear not, dear yogis, for in the end, We’ll understand our bodies like a lifelong friend, And we’ll be able to practice with great precision, And feel the benefits with every single session.

So let us embrace the challenge with open hearts, And study with all our might and smarts, For though Yoga Anatomy may be quite the task, Its rewards are worth it, and that’s no farce.

For we’ll have a deep understanding of our inner selves, And we’ll be able to connect with our breath and delve, Into the practice of yoga, with a newfound appreciation, And feel the bliss of union, with no hesitation.” – George

Pomodoro Technique

When learning something I use the “Pomodoro technique”.

It’s an amazing way to train your brain to concentrate – just like training your muscles when practising a yoga pose.

With the Pomodoro technique, focus on a task fully for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. After four 25-minute sessions, take a longer 25-minute break. If 25 minutes fully committed to a task is difficult to achieve in the beginning, start with 5 minutes and then work your way up.

I use a time timer device to set the times.

Okay. It’s time for an example…

I set the timer for 25 minutes. When the alarm goes off I take a 5-minute break (which I also set with the device). The Pomodoro technique works so well that I almost wish I never found out about it, because I cringe at all the effort I’ve wasted by not using the technique.

Reasons To Study Yoga Anatomy

Here are some reasons why studying joint actions in yoga asana is important for yoga teachers:

 

Reason 1: Deeper Understanding

As with anything in life, the more you understand something, the more enjoyment and benefits you get. It’s the same with learning yoga anatomy. Just imagine how much more confidence you’ll have going into a class when you know how joints move in an asana.

Close your eyes. Go on humour me.

Close your eyes and imagine a student of yours is in Chair Pose. Now imagine you know how the joints move in Chair Pose. You know about the Axial Extension in the spine. You know about the Elbow Extension. You know about Forearm Supination. You know about Hip and knee flexion. And you even know about the Shoulder Extension.

Ah yes…

It feels good.

It feels good because you’re now a better teacher. You’re now able to help your student’s in subtle, almost invisible ways.  You will know that Sally’s knees (a student in your class) are in flexion.

You’ll know that the leg muscles are active so that they can withstand the relentless downward force of gravity. And you’ll know that if Sally is tilted slightly to one side, you’ll need to tell her to balance her weight evenly between both feet because this instantly creates an 8-lane highway for her body’s weight to travel down. You’ll know a lot of little invisible things like this.

Reason 2: Private Yoga Sessions

Joint actions can vary depending on the individual’s body type and range of motion. By being knowledgeable about joint actions, teachers can provide modifications and variations that suit each student’s unique needs.

Many yoga teachers supplement their yoga class income with “private yoga sessions”. With a private yoga session, your student is paying a premium for a bespoke service.

The good news is that they are essentially paying you to enhance your yoga teacher education. I love private one-to-one yoga sessions because it’s a golden opportunity for me to raise my game. It’s a golden opportunity to learn something new and deepen my knowledge of yoga anatomy.

Every yoga teacher who gives private yoga sessions soon discovers that every student is different. Every student comes in with a different array of physical and emotional challenges. That’s exactly why I encourage every yoga teacher to teach “private yoga sessions”.

Nothing will improve your yoga teaching quicker than having to create a bespoke yoga lesson plan that fits the needs of only one student. It may seem like a lot of work for little pay. But the future payoff is well worth waiting for such as: seeing improvements within your student and seeing improvements in your teaching.

Reason 3: Refine Your Yoga Practice

Studying yoga anatomy will help you refine your yoga practice.

Even though you are a yoga teacher, and your students think you’re infallible, you are fallible. You will have plenty of weak, tight or injured areas. Having a deeper knowledge of yoga anatomy will help refine your yoga practice, just as Leonardo da Vinci refined his art.

Masters in any discipline are constantly refining their art, whether they be artists, golfers, teachers, doctors, plumbers, gardeners, or yoga teachers.

Reason 4: Prevent Injury

Understanding the joint actions involved in each yoga pose can help yoga teachers guide their students in safe and sustainable practice, minimizing the risk of injury.

Reason 5: Create Effective Yoga Lesson Plans

By having a thorough knowledge of joint actions, yoga teachers can design yoga sequences that intelligently target different areas of the body, helping students to progress in their practice. You’ll also help students to become more mindful of their movements and develop a deeper understanding of their own bodies.

Overall, studying joint actions in yoga asana is an important aspect of developing a well-rounded and effective yoga teaching practice.

Joint Actions By Asana

 

Bridge Pose Joint Actions

Bridge Pose On Yoga Block

Bridge Pose, also known as Setu Bandha Sarvangasana in Sanskrit, involves several joint actions.

First, it involves a hip extension, which means the hips are being pushed upwards and the thighs are moving away from the torso. The gluteus maximus muscles, which are the large muscles in the buttocks, are primarily responsible for this movement.

Second, the pose involves a spinal extension, where the spine is lifted off the ground and lengthened. This is achieved by engaging the erector spinae muscles, which run along the spine.

Finally, there is shoulder extension, where the shoulder blades are drawn towards each other, allowing for the chest to open up. The trapezius muscles, which are large muscles that run along the back of the neck and shoulders, are primarily responsible for this movement.

In summary, the joint actions involved in Bridge Pose include hip extension, spinal extension, and shoulder extension.


Cat Cow Pose Joint Actions

Cat Cow Pose Anatomy

Cat Cow Pose, also known as Chakravakasana in Sanskrit, involves several joint actions.

First, it involves spinal flexion and extension, where the spine is alternately rounded and arched. During the “cow” portion of the pose, the spine is moving into extension, where the tailbone lifts and the belly drops towards the floor. During the “cat” portion of the pose, the spine is moving into flexion, where the tailbone tucks under and the spine rounds towards the ceiling. This movement primarily involves the muscles of the back, including the erector spinae muscles.

Second, the pose involves shoulder flexion and extension. During the “cow” portion of the pose, the shoulders move into extension, where the shoulder blades draw towards each other, and the chest opens. During the “cat” portion of the pose, the shoulders move into flexion, where the shoulder blades spread apart and the upper back rounds. This movement primarily involves the muscles around the shoulder blades, including the trapezius muscles.

In summary, the joint actions involved in Cat Cow Pose include spinal flexion and extension and shoulder flexion and extension.

Chair Pose Joint Actions 

Chair Pose Anatomy

Chair Pose, also known as Utkatasana in Sanskrit, involves several joint actions.

First, it involves hip flexion, where the hips are bent, and the thighs move towards the chest. This movement is achieved by engaging the hip flexor muscles, including the iliopsoas and rectus femoris muscles.

Second, it involves knee flexion, where the knees are bent, and the lower legs move towards the thighs. This movement is achieved by engaging the quadriceps muscles, which are located on the front of the thighs.

Third, it involves ankle dorsiflexion, where the ankle joint is bent, and the toes are lifted off the ground. This movement is achieved by engaging the tibialis anterior muscle, which is located on the front of the lower leg.

Finally, it involves a spinal extension, where the spine is lengthened and lifted, and the chest is lifted. This movement is achieved by engaging the erector spinae muscles, which are located along the spine.

In summary, the joint actions involved in Chair Pose include hip flexion, knee flexion, ankle dorsiflexion, and spinal extension.

Crescent Lunge Pose Joint Actions

Crescent Lunge Anatomy

Crescent Lunge, also known as High Lunge, involves several joint actions.

First, it involves a hip extension of the back leg, where the hip joint is moving the leg backwards, away from the front of the body. This movement is achieved by engaging the gluteus maximus muscle, which is the largest muscle in the buttocks.

Second, it involves hip flexion of the front leg, where the hip joint is moving the leg forward, towards the front of the body. This movement is achieved by engaging the iliopsoas and rectus femoris muscles, which are located on the front of the hip and thigh.

Third, it involves knee extension of the back leg, where the knee joint is straightened, and the leg is lifted off the ground. This movement is achieved by engaging the quadriceps muscles, which are located on the front of the thigh.

Fourth, it involves ankle dorsiflexion of the front foot, where the ankle joint is bent, and the toes are lifted off the ground. This movement is achieved by engaging the tibialis anterior muscle, which is located on the front of the lower leg.

Finally, it involves spinal extension, where the spine is lengthened and lifted, and the chest is lifted. This movement is achieved by engaging the erector spinae muscles, which are located along the spine.

In summary, the joint actions involved in Crescent Lunge include a hip extension of the back leg, hip flexion of the front leg, knee extension of the back leg, ankle dorsiflexion of the front foot, and spinal extension.

Dancer Pose Joint Actions

Dancer Pose Anatomy

Dancer Pose, also known as Natarajasana in Sanskrit, involves several joint actions.

First, it involves hip flexion of the lifted leg, where the hip joint is moving the leg forward and upward towards the chest. This movement is achieved by engaging the iliopsoas and rectus femoris muscles, which are located on the front of the hip and thigh.

Second, it involves knee flexion of the lifted leg, where the knee joint is bending and bringing the foot towards the buttocks. This movement is achieved by engaging the hamstrings muscles, which are located on the back of the thigh.

Third, it involves shoulder flexion of the arm reaching back, where the shoulder joint is moving the arm forward and upward towards the ceiling. This movement is achieved by engaging the deltoid muscle, which is the main muscle on the shoulder.

Fourth, it involves shoulder extension of the arm holding the foot, where the shoulder joint is moving the arm back behind the body. This movement is achieved by engaging the latissimus dorsi muscle, which is located on the back of the upper body.

Fifth, it involves spinal extension, where the spine is lengthened and lifted, and the chest is lifted. This movement is achieved by engaging the erector spinae muscles, which are located along the spine.

Sixth, it involves ankle dorsiflexion which is the movement of pulling the toes and foot upwards towards the shin, and it occurs in the standing foot in Dancer Pose to help maintain balance and stability. This movement is achieved by engaging the tibialis anterior muscle, which is located on the front of the lower leg.

Seventh, it involves ankle plantar flexion which is the movement of pointing the foot downwards away from the shin, and it occurs in the raised foot in Dancer Pose as the foot is lifted towards the buttocks. This movement is achieved by engaging the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, which are located on the back of the lower leg.

In summary, the joint actions involved in Dancer Pose include hip flexion of the lifted leg, knee flexion of the lifted leg, shoulder flexion of the arm reaching back, shoulder extension of the arm holding the foot, spinal extension, ankle dorsiflexion of the standing foot, and ankle plantar flexion of the raised foot.

Downward Facing Dog Pose Joint Actions 

Downward Facing Dog Anatomy

Downward Facing Dog, also known as Adho Mukha Shvanasana in Sanskrit, involves several joint actions:

Shoulder flexion: The shoulder blades protract, and the arms extend to bring the torso and head down towards the floor.

Shoulder external rotation: The upper arms rotate outward to broaden the collarbones and create space in the shoulders.

Elbow extension: The arms straighten as the weight of the body shifts towards the back of the mat.

Wrist extension: The wrists lengthen as the palms press firmly into the mat.

Spinal flexion: The spine lengthens and the torso folds forward, creating an inverted “V” shape.

Hip flexion: The hips move up and back, as the legs lengthen and the heels press towards the mat.

Knee extension: The knees straighten, engaging the quadriceps muscles of the thighs.

Ankle dorsiflexion: The ankles lengthen and the heels move towards the mat as the weight shifts back towards the feet.

These joint actions work together to create the characteristic shape of the Downward Facing Dog pose and provide a full-body stretch and strengthening exercise.

Handstand Pose Joint Actions

Handstand Pose Anatomy

Handstand Pose, also known as Adho Mukha Vrksasana in Sanskrit, involves several joint actions:

Shoulder flexion: The shoulders must flex in order to lift the body and bring the legs over the head.

Shoulder abduction: The shoulders must abduct, or move away from the midline of the body, to provide the necessary stability and support for the pose.

Elbow extension: The elbows must extend fully to support the weight of the body.

Wrist extension: The wrists must extend to provide a stable base for the hands.

Spinal extension: The spine must be in a state of extension to keep the body lifted and stable.

Hip flexion: The hips must be flexed to bring the legs over the head.

Knee extension: The knees must be fully extended to create a straight line from the hips to the feet.

Ankle plantarflexion: The ankles must be in a state of plantarflexion, or pointing, to create a straight line from the legs to the feet.

These joint actions work together to create the balance, strength, and stability necessary for the Handstand pose.

High Plank Pose Joint Actions

Plank Pose Anatomy

Plank pose, also known as Phalakasana in Sanskrit, involves several joint actions:

Shoulder Joint: In the Plank pose, the shoulder joint needs to be stabilized and protracted. This means that the shoulder blades move away from each other, and the upper back is rounded slightly. This action helps to engage the serratus anterior muscles, which support the shoulder blades and create stability in the pose.

Elbow Joint: The elbow joint is also engaged in the Plank pose, with the arms held straight and the elbows not locked. The triceps muscles work to support the weight of the body, while the biceps muscles help to stabilize the shoulder joint.

Wrist Joint: The wrist joint is flexed in the Plank pose, with the palms pressing firmly into the ground. This helps to create stability in the pose and distribute the weight evenly through the hands.

Spinal Joint: The spine is extended in the Plank pose, with the lower back slightly lifted and the tailbone tucked in. This helps to engage the core muscles and create stability throughout the body.

Hip Joint: The hip joint is in a neutral position in the Plank pose, with the legs extended straight behind the body. The gluteus maximus and hamstrings work to keep the legs straight and engaged.

Overall, the Plank pose requires a combination of joint actions to create stability and strength throughout the body.

Shoulderstand Pose Joint Actions

Shoulderstand Yoga Anatomy

Flexion (when the chin drops toward the chest, the neck is flexing)

Squat Pose Joint Actions

Squat Yoga Anatomy

Squat pose, also known as Malasana in Sanskrit, involves several joint actions:

Ankle Joint: In the squat pose, the ankle joint is flexed (flexion), which means that the toes are lifted and the heels are grounded. This helps to stabilize the feet and create a solid foundation for the pose.

Knee Joint: The knee joint is flexed (flexion) in the Squat pose, with the thighs parallel to the ground. This engages the quadriceps muscles and helps to build strength in the legs.

Hip Joint Flexion: The hip joint is in a deep flexion in the squat pose, with the hips lowered towards the ground. This engages the hip flexors, adductors, and abductors, which help to open up the hips and create flexibility in the lower body.

Hip Joint Abduction: Abduction is the movement that allows the leg to move away from the centre of the body. In the Squat pose, the hips are in deep flexion, and the thighs are parallel to the ground. To achieve this position, the hip abductor muscles, such as the gluteus medius and minimus, need to engage to keep the thighs apart and maintain stability in the pose. The abduction movement in the squat pose helps to open up the hips and create flexibility in the lower body.

Hip Joint Adduction: Adduction is the movement that allows the leg to move towards the centre of the body. In the Squat pose, the thighs are kept apart to maintain stability, and the hip adductor muscles, such as the adductor longus and brevis, need to engage to prevent the thighs from collapsing inwards. The adduction movement in the Squat pose helps to strengthen and stabilize the inner thighs, which is important for maintaining balance and stability.

Hip Joint External Rotation: External Rotation is the movement that allows the leg to rotate outwards from the hip joint. In the Squat pose, the feet are usually positioned wider than hip-width apart and turned outwards to some degree, which requires external rotation of the hip joint. This external rotation helps to open up the hips and create flexibility in the lower body. The external rotation movement in the Squat pose also helps to engage the hip’s external rotator muscles, such as the piriformis and gemellus muscles, which are important for maintaining balance and stability.

Spinal Joint: The spine is elongated in the squat pose, with the chest lifted and the shoulders relaxed. This helps to create space between the vertebrae and improve posture.

Shoulder Joint: The shoulder joint is in a neutral position in the squat pose, with the arms extended straight in front of the body or clasped together at the heart. This helps to improve shoulder mobility and strength.

Ankle Dorsiflexion: Dorsiflexion is the movement that allows the top of the foot to move closer to the shin. In the Squat pose, the ankles need to be flexed, which means that the toes are lifted and the heels are grounded. This movement requires ankle dorsiflexion and helps to stabilize the feet and create a solid foundation for the pose.

Sacral Nutation: Sacral Nutation is the movement of the sacrum, which is the triangular bone at the base of the spine, tilting forward and downward. In the Squat pose, the pelvis is tilted forward and downward, which causes the sacrum to nutate. This movement helps to create space in the lower back and promotes deep hip flexion. The sacral nutation movement in the Squat pose also helps to engage the core muscles, including the deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles.

Spinal Axial Extension: Spinal axial extension is the movement that allows the spine to lengthen or elongate, creating space between the vertebrae. In the Squat pose, the spine is elongated, and the chest is lifted to maintain an upright posture. This movement helps to maintain the natural curvature of the spine and prevent rounding of the upper back. The spinal axial extension movement in the Squat pose also helps to engage the back muscles, including the erector spinae and latissimus dorsi, which are important for maintaining balance.

The Squat pose also involves a huge combination of joint actions that help to strengthen and stretch the legs, hips, and lower back while improving overall posture and mobility.

Standing Forward Bend Pose Joint Actions

Standing Forward Bend Yoga Anatomy

Tree Pose Joint Actions

Tree Pose Yoga Anatomy

Triangle Pose Joint Actions

Triangle Pose Yoga Anatomy

Warrior I Pose Joint Actions

Warrior 1 Pose Yoga Anatomy

Wide Leg Forward Bend Pose Joint Actions

Wide Leg Forward Bend Pose Yoga Anatomy


Yoga Anatomy Glossary


Abduction
– any motion of the limbs or other body parts that pulls away from the midline of the body. Swinging the hands from the side of the body up to the shoulder or higher is abduction. For fingers and toes, abduction spreads the digits away from the hand or foot’s centreline of hand or foot. Raising the arms laterally, to the sides and moving the knees away from the midline are some examples of abduction.

Adduction – the movement of a body part toward the body’s midline. So, if a person has their arms straight out at the shoulders and brings them down to their sides, it is adduction. For fingers or toes, adduction brings the digits toward the centre of the hand or foot.

Ankle Dorsiflexion – moving the foot so the toes get closer to the knee.

Ankle Plantar Flexion – point toes downward and away from the knee.

Axial Extension – simultaneous reduction of the primary and secondary curves of the spine. In simple speak that means the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar curves are all reduced resulting in the length of the spine increasing. Poses with “axial extension” include chair pose.

Axial Rotation – rotation of the vertebral column around the horizontal axis (Z-axis).

Counter nutation – leaning forward (Nutation and counter nutation are movements that happen at the sacroiliac joint, that is where the sacrum meets the two sides of the pelvis. Nutation (from neutral again) is where the top part of the sacrum would move down and forward relative to the pelvis being fixed in place. Counter nutation is simply the opposite).

Dorsiflexion – the movement of the foot upwards, so that the foot is closer to the shin. For a movement to be considered dorsiflexion, the foot should be raised upward between 10 and 30 degrees.

Elbow Extension – bringing forearm back to anatomical position (arm by side of the body). Poses with “elbow extension” include chair pose.

Elevation – movement in a superior direction (for example, shrugging is an example of elevation of the scapula).

Extension – the process of straitening or the state of being strait. Extension of hip and knee joints is necessary to stand up from a sitting position.

External rotation – also known as lateral rotation, is rotation away from the centre of the body.

Flexion – being bent (the act of bending a joint or limb in the body by the action of flexors). Poses with “flexion” include camel pose, downward-facing dog pose, handstand pose, shoulder stand pose, and tree pose.

Forearm Pronation – a rotational movement where the hand and upper arm are turned inwards.

Forearm Supination – rotation of the forearm and hand so that the palm faces forward or upward. Poses with “forearm supination” include chair pose and dancer pose.

Hip Abduction – the movement of the leg away from the midline of the body. We use this action every day when we step to the side, get out of bed, and get out of the car.

Hip Extension – the backward movement of your thigh. Muscles that cause hip extension are active when you stand up from a chair, walk, run, jump, roll over and climb stairs.

Hip Flexion – lilacs and psoas muscles within the hip cause the hip to bend (flex). Poses with “hip flexion” include chair pose, dancer pose, standing forward bend pose, tree pose, and warrior I pose.

Internal Rotation – also known as medial rotation is rotation towards the centre of the body.

Knee Extension – when you straighten your leg, the quadriceps muscles contract pulling on the quadriceps tendon, which in turn pulls on the patella via the patellar tendon causing an extension of the knee.

Knee Flexion – on the posterior side of the knee the hamstring group of muscles contract pulling on tendons associated with the hamstring, and pulling on the femur, which causes flexion (bending) of the knee.

Neutral Spine – maintaining natural cervical lordosis, thoracic kyphosis, and lumbar lordosis (maintenance of a neutral spine is fundamental for the protection of the spine).

Medial Rotation – a rotational movement towards the midline.

Nutation – leaning forward (Nutation and counternutation are movements that happen at the sacroiliac joint, that is where the sacrum meets the two sides of the pelvis. Nutation (from neutral again) is where the top part of the sacrum would move down and forward relative to the pelvis being fixed in place. Counter nutation is simply the opposite).

Pronation – the natural side-to-side movement of the foot as you walk or run. It is also known as eversion. Your foot normally rolls a bit inward with each step.

Protraction – the action of extending a part of the body. The movement of protraction is the opposite of the movement of retraction. To remember what protraction does come up with a bizarre image (e.g. imagine the “pro” golfer, Nick Faldo, protracting his arms through the ball so far that he hits a red “tract” or on the fairway. The farmer gets out and chases Nick off the course). Poses with “protraction” include cat pose, crescent lunge pose, downward facing dog pose, handout stand pose, and high plank pose.

Retraction – the movement of a body part in the posterior direction (being drawn backwards). The movement of retraction is the opposite of the movement of protraction.

Sacral Nutation – leaning forward (Nutation and counternutation are movements that happen at the sacroiliac joint, that is where the sacrum meets the two sides of the pelvis. Nutation (from neutral again) is where the top part of the sacrum would move down and forward relative to the pelvis being fixed in place. Counter nutation is simply the opposite).

Sagittal Plane – anatomical plane which divides the body into right and left parts.

Scapula Upward Rotation – Lift arms overhead and the scapulae will follow and rotate upward.

Shoulder Extension – move arms behind you.

Shoulder Flexion – move arms anywhere from a resting position by the sides to above your head.

Spinal Extension – backward bending of the spine.

Spinal Flexion – flexion is the anatomical name for forward bending. When treating back pain, many yoga teachers encourage yoga poses that strengthen the muscles that act to bring the spine into flexion. In the lower back, approximately 50% of flexion occurs at the hips, and 50% occurs at the lower spine.

Superior Direction – directional terms describe the positions of structures relative to other structures or locations in the body. Superior or cranial – toward the head end of the body; upper (for example, the hand is part of the superior extremity).

Supination – rolling motion to the outside edge of the foot during a step. The foot naturally supinates during the toe-off stage of your stride as the heel first lifts off the ground, providing leverage to help roll off the toes.

Yoga Anatomy-Themed Lesson Plan Ideas

There are a bazillion different yoga lesson plan themes you could conjure up using yoga anatomy. Here are a few to get you started…

Yoga Anatomy Lesson Plan Theme 1

Shoulders: 5 Millimetres Can Change Your Life

You won’t be giving your students the cold shoulder (forgive the obvious pun) when you create a shoulder-themed yoga lesson plan (Shoulder Extension and Flexion).

A highly memorable, possibly life-changing theme for your students could be called: 5 millimetres Can Change Your Life.

During the talk at the beginning of the class (when introducing the theme) you could say something like:

Improving your posture by a few millimetres completely and utterly changes the biochemistry of your body. If you tested your saliva you’d see that a 5 mm expansive change in your posture will have positively altered your hormone levels. If you want to feel anxious, round your shoulders by 5 millimetres. If, however, you want to feel confident, move your shoulders back by 5 millimetres. When you round your shoulders you’re telling the Universe nonverbally something along these lines, “I am unworthy.” But when you move your shoulders back 5mm (improving your posture), you’re telling the Universe, “I am worthy.” 


Yoga Anatomy Lesson Plan Theme 2

Spinal Flexion: Forward Bends – A Natural Protection Bubble

Okay, here’s a quick recap for you…

Flexion is the anatomical name for forward bending. Forward bends are known for calming the mind. Forward bends calm the mind because they are a “natural protection bubble” (e.g. Don’t believe me, then stop reading this and get into a simple standing forward bend. What did I tell you…a natural protection bubble (if you can find a more protective position to be in when standing, I’m all ears). So, what happens to someone’s mind when in a natural projection bubble? Man, you’re good at this. Yep. They instantly feel protected.

So, a good theme for your students could be called: Forward Bends – A Natural Protection Bubble. 

All you need to do is add several Forward Bends to your yoga lesson plan and make sure you sprinkle in some backbends as a counter.

Phew! That’s about it.

George’s Conclusion

George's Conclusion

Yoga anatomy is a massive subject.

I’ve selected a tiny part, join actions, to focus on within this post. I recommend you keep refining your yoga anatomy knowledge by going to workshops, buying books, reading other blog posts, and watching YouTube videos.

And most importantly apply what you learn in the real world…your yoga classes, yoga workshops, private one-to-one yoga sessions, and your own personal practice. 

If you liked this post, I think you’ll love my online Yoga Lesson Planner.