Memories of my first anatomy course. I was so excited to finally start to comprehend some of the secrets my Physiotherapist mother knows. 12 hours of training flew by. Pictures of skeletons and muscle groups, a brief rendering of the cardiovascular system and respiratory system. The latin terms for the body flew over many of our heads, feeling like we were being taught in another language. At the end of the weekend, I had so many questions. My thirst for knowledge was un-dampened but I did not feel confident to offer physical instructions to group classes.
I know many of my colleagues came away doubtful that they could ever understand what was happening beneath the skin. Better to stick to yoga philosophy than try to conquer the Latin multicoloured diagrams.
I had already earned a fascination with the body, experienced some extraordinary effects and benefits from some of the more out-there bodywork forms. An early spine injury inspired my desire to teach yoga safely and therapeutically. I knew there was more to be understood than the mechanical structure with latin names presented to us that weekend.
Ten years later and it’s the subject I teach for the ISHTA London Yoga Teacher Training. Not because I am now an expert anatomist, but in fact I suspect because I am not. The study of anatomy is the study of unmoving body parts that have been dissected – i.e. cut out with tools – from the deceased body. In teaching we work with alive, vibrant and dynamically moving bodies, which encompass minds, emotions and souls. Being an expert in a topic, does not necessarily make for a good teacher. In spite of many moments of admitting I don’t know, I have learned over years of learning and sharing that it is great for everyone present if we can investigate together.
I like to think of it like this. In an introductory training of anatomy, we are going to take a city break to a place you have heard about but who’s language is foreign to you. We are going to land as a group and I am going to share with the map of the city. But the simple fact is that the map is not the terrain, and however many times I show you photographs, diagrams, even google places of the city we are going to, until you are actually there in person pounding the streets, you will not get to know the smell of the coffee shops in the morning, or what time the bars close late at night.
However many pictures or diagrams I show you, names you memorise, parts you mentally know, until you start to feel familiar with the cellular make up of the body, until you have stories to tell about the parts, you will not truly understand what a miracle you are living in.
This analogy gives me endless fascination, because it means that no matter who I learn from, how much, for how long, there is more to discover about the body. As a yogi, it gives me all the inspiration I need to have discipline (discipleship) in my practice.
We can all come to understand, appreciate and grow from knowing what lies beneath the skin. We just need to find the language that matches personal experience and then build a pathway of knowledge towards the wider teaching of the subject. It’s a work in progress for me, I hope you are continually inspired by it too.