Yoga and Anatomy

Anatomy is the branch of science concerned with the body structures and its internal workings of living things. During my 200 hours yoga teacher training at Tirisula Yoga, I came to know that understanding of Anatomy is key to avoid injuries during performing asanas. It helps us to understand how our skeletal and Muscular system works during performing the various Yoga Asanas.

Understanding the Anatomy will enable you
• To understand the impacts of yoga asanas on our body and mind
• To guide students with injuries in a safe and effective manner and help them to use proper variations, props, and sequence of Asanas to provide the required support.
• To identify if there is some problem is student’s body alignment and can help them to improve their body postures.
• To avoid injuries during the asanas

Skeletal System
As yoga asanas are all about body movements in all direction and all the movements happen at the various joints in our skeletal system, it is very important for a yoga teacher to have a depth knowledge of different types of body movements and the types of joints that enables the movement.

Although there could be many body movements during various yoga poses, few common ones are
Flexion – Angle at joint gets smaller
Extension – Angle at joints gets larger – Flexion and Extension are seen at the hinge, saddle, and ball-and-socket joints of the limbs
Abduction – A limb moves away from the body
Adduction – A limb moves closer to the body – Abduction and Adduction are seen at condyloid, saddle, and ball-and-socket joints
Circumduction – Circumduction is the movement of the limb in a circular pattern, using the sequential combination of flexion, adduction, extension, and abduction motions. This type of motion is found at biaxial condyloid and saddle joints, and at multiaxial ball-and-sockets joints
External or Lateral rotation – A limb rotates outward- Rotation can occur at pivot, ball and socket joints of the limb.
Medial and lateral rotation can only occur at the multiaxial shoulder and hip joints, but circumduction can occur at either biaxial or multiaxial joints.
Internal or medial rotation -A limb rotates inward
Plantar Flexion – Pointing the feet
Dorsiflexion – Flexing the feet – Dorsiflexion and plantar flexion are movements at the ankle joint, which is a hinge joint.

We can identify these movements in various yoga poses. In the child pose we can see the movements Knee Flexion, Hip flexion and adduction, Shoulder internal rotation, Spinal flexion and Ankle plantar flexion.

Muscular System
There are about 640 muscles in our body. Our skeletal muscles are attached to our bones, allowing us to move. Muscles are only able to contract or pull. Because our body has to move in many directions, most muscles are set up in pairs so that one muscle can pull a bone in one direction, and another muscle can pull the bone back the other way.
Prime mover (Agonist): is the muscle that is most responsible for the movement.
Synergists are other muscles that assist the prime mover. Synergists may stabilize nearby bones or refine the movement of the prime mover.
Antagonists are muscles that cause a movement opposite to that of the prime mover. An antagonist is generally attached to the opposite side of the joint to which the prime mover is attached.

There are three types of muscular contraction
Concentric: muscle shortens while contracting
Eccentric: muscle lengthens while contracting
Isotonic: constant tension through range of motion
Isometric: muscle creates tension but no change in length of fibres or does not move bones

In the Arm flexion movement, Biceps Brachii is the agonist as it concentrically contracts to flex the elbow and Triceps brachii is the antagonist as it mostly relaxes. In the Arm extension movement Biceps brachii is the antagonist as it mostly relaxes and Triceps brachii is the Agonist as it eccentrically contracts to extend the elbow.