Grasping anatomy and putting it into my practice

One area that I am particularly weak in is the body muscles used performing the asanas, and I have always wanted to further my knowledge in this area. I put together a general guide on the muscles used in the types of asanas.


Forward Bending

  • Psoas Major and Minor
  • Hip Flexor Muscles
  • Glutes
  • Quardriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Abdominals particularly Rectus Abdominals (to bend the lumbar spine forward)
  • Obliques
  • Intercostal muscles (Bend the thoracic spine forwards)
  • Neck Flexors (Bend the neck forwards)


Back Bending Muscle

  • Gluteus Maximus muscle
  • Hip extensors
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Rectus Abdominus
  • Neck flexors


Side Bending Muscle

  • Obliques
  • Intercostals muscles
  • Quadratus femoris
  • Psoas (Sometimes)
  • Gluteus Medius and Minimus
  • Adductors


Spine Twisting Muscle

  • Abs and intercostal are active (for active twists)
  • Obliques and intercostals (for spinal twisting of thoracic spine)



Through the past years of practicing yoga, I do the asanas based on what I feel. I am able to internalize what is “keeping the hips square”, “engaging the core”, “engaging the quadriceps”, cues that we often hear in a yoga class, but I did not understand what it means anatomically. I did not know what the muscles were actually doing.


As now that I’m learning this more in-depth, I start to find out why which muscle or joint is tight, what practices I need to strengthen or relax the muscles. I am more aware what is happening in my physical body, and what my body needs. I recently found out what is the reason I am not able to bend forward more in Butterfly Pose (I have been stuck at the same level of flexibility during forward bend for the past few years), and I realise it is because of my Sacralilect Joint, and because that is a tendon, its takes time to become more flexible. On a anatomical level, this has taken “listening to my body” to another level.


Carol Wong
200hrs YTTC March 2018

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