Last Thursday, my yogimate Claudine walked in the studio while I was in the cobbler’s pose. “I cannot do that with my knees on the floor,” she said. “Well, I am used to sitting in this position kasi sa probinsiya namin, walang upuan, lagi kami nakaupo sa sahig,” I replied trying to justify why I could do the cobbler’s pose with relative ease and she couldn’t. Then she added, “I could not also press down my heels in downward-facing dog!” I no longer had an explanation for that. Fortunately, Anatomy for Yoga with Paul Grilley by Pranayama Inc. (2004) has!
This four-hour video explains human anatomy in the context of yoga—how bone structures of people differ, how this difference impacts movement and thus the practice of yoga—in layperson’s term. In a gist, Paul explains that certain people could not do certain poses the ideal way because their range of movement is limited by their bone structure and that yoga, no matter how long one has been practicing it, could not do anything to change it. “You are born with it and that is what you bring with you to the studio,” he says in the video.
He furthers that some “pain” are due to compression, that is, when a bone hits another thus defining the person’s limit, while others are due to tightness of the muscles or “tension,” which yoga could help ease over time. Paul points out the areas of compressions and tensions in certain poses, given the various physical structures of the yogis/yoginis demonstrating them—something which I find very helpful in my becoming more aware of the type of discomfort I experience in my own practice and in determining whether I should push my self harder (if it is tensile) or not (if it is compression).
Since the video uses science to explain yoga matters—considered the “western” approach—expectedly, it emphasizes precision in movements and alignment of the body. Teacher Pio even remarked that the material has overlooked the role of “bandhas” in doing the postures, which I think is part of the “eastern” approach.
Nevertheless, I find this video effective in conveying the message (not too technical for people like me who have only a couple of units in biology in college) and helpful, as it explains why I need to know what I need to know about anatomy as a yogini. After seeing it, I have learned to be more accepting of my physical make-up and more aware of my discomfort. And as Paul says in his closing, let us not focus on what we cannot do but instead explore the so many things that we can.