Yoga Teachers-in-Training are required to learn about the anatomy of the body. This is because they need to be familiar with the structures of the body in order to understand the mechanical workings. It is important too, to understand the different systems in the body – circulatory, respiratory, lymphatic, and more. We need to know the workings of the body so that we can understand the deep impact each practice has on the body.
For example, knowing how the lungs actually work is important to teaching pranayama properly. There is helpful information we can pass on to students, such as how we can inhale more deeply every time. The breath does not just simply fill the lungs – It comes through the bronchi into the alveoli. Some of the oxygen will cross the wall of the alveoli and move directly into the bloodstream, which provides more oxygen in your blood.
When it comes to your asana practice, you are gaining strength and flexibility in your body, but you are also moving blood through your body more efficiently. The proper movement of lymphatic fluid is essential to a healthy immune system, however the lymphatic system doesn’t have it’s own pump. The movement of lymphatic fluid is initiated by the movement of blood in your body. I believe that movement is everything when it comes to taking control of your health.
Understanding your own personal makeup can be a way to deepen your practice as well. When you are in tune with your body, in a developed practice, you will begin to notice the more subtle details and happenings inside your body. Knowing your unique anatomy and physiology is part of the practice.
Most students begin to manipulate their favorite poses until they get the stretch they’re looking for. As an observer, it resembles a cat or a dog at the very end of their stretch – you can almost see their bodies releasing tension. The benefit of knowing your body so well is that you will notice when something is off – whether it’s with your bone structure, muscles, internal organs or your breathing patterns. This is why your yoga teacher is always asking you to look inward, to be in your body, to “notice what you notice”.
The way you move and hold your body impacts how you feel from one day to the next. We all hold emotions, events and memories in our bodies, and if you’ve experienced any sort of trauma in your life, you probably understand this more than most people.
The problem is that the more you suppress your emotions, the tighter your body forms around the place within you where that emotion is stuck. You are not alone – many people bottle up their emotions or experiences, and try to move on with life. The problem is that these sensations, even though you have suppressed them, are not gone but are simply held in place by your unwillingness to feel, to forgive, to release or unleash.
Expression is so important to living our lives fully. When you give yourself permission to express, the results can be incredibly healing. There are many ways to express. Yoga is just one – albeit a scientifically proven form of exercises.
Other ways include: Creative spiritual-based art, singing, chanting or drumming, any form of physical exercise, Dancing. Yoga is king of all these because the practices are thousands of years old, and has helped people deal with their issues for a very long time.
When you take the time to understand your body, and what makes you tick, you will be better prepared to deal with all that life throws at you. Knowing how to uplift, energize or calm yourself, are all things we can learn when we understand the systems and cycles of our bodies.
So take the time, ask your yoga teacher the questions when you feel new things in your body. Your teacher has undergone extensive training to learn these things, and I can tell you firsthand, she is there to serve you and help you!