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One big permission slip to be yourself

My upcoming Applied Functional Anatomy Course is really just one big permission slip to be yourself.

Let’s unpack that thought.

Our approach to yoga practice has been through much change over the years. It has evolved and matured over time thanks to the cross-pollination of information between folks in the medical/exercise science fields of work and folks in yoga.

The approach used to be: this is the correct way to do this shape and you must fit your body into the box of this shape.

Now, we can approach practice more like: this shape has this effect in the body, here are some ways to try it to get similar benefits.

Sounds lovely, doesn't it? I wish it were always that simple to implement. There are a few barriers to us feeling free enough to let our practice feel right instead of defaulting to what looks right.

The reasons for that are twofold.

The first is quite straight forward -- a lack of knowledge and proper education for yoga teachers on how the body actually works. Without the most current knowledge on functional anatomy, it's hard to better by our students and meet them where they're at.

The second is more complex and requires inner work on the behalf of the student. We're bombarded by images of athletic bodies in "perfect" yoga postures. We see these pictures and videos in the media and for some of us, comparisonitis kicks in and begin believing that that's what real yoga is. Then there's the prevalence of mirrors in many yoga rooms which leads to more comparisonitis. We benchmark our practice with our fellow yogis’ and fall into old habits of organizing our posture to what “looks right” over what feels right to us. It gets even more interesting when we layer in the shame that arises when our practice doesn’t look like other people’s (“I can’t do it like them so something’s wrong with me”).

With all the factors listed above you’re in for a real bummer of an experience in class.

Here’s an example of how it could be different:

I was working with a student the other day who has arthritis in their knee joints. They consistently feel pain in their knees when they sit in Hero’s pose and no stretch in their quads, which is one of the major benefits of that pose. We talked about how that pose does put quite a bit of load on the knee joints and that they could try sitting up on a few blocks and seeing how that feels. The blocks would off-load the pressure in their knees, thus allowing them to explore stretching out their quads in a way that was less painful.

Upon hearing about this slight adjustment opportunity their eyes widened as though saying: “That’s even an option?!”

This might seem like a small adjustment but to a person in pain, this means a lot.

What we can do as yoga teachers and students is to help our students/ourselves to have better experiences in yoga postures.

It’s like going to a tailor to get your pants hemmed. They don’t MAKE your pants, they just make the pants fit better.

Teachers, what we can do is give our students the permission they need to make the small shifts in their alignment that feel good to them based on sound knowledge of how the body works through functional anatomy.

The take away is that we feel that we can be who we are in the body that we have and that we’re

not broken. We can honour our body’s unique needs while still being a part of a group experience.

If you find the above information inspiring and would like to learn how to bring this approach to your own yoga practice or how to offer it to your students, check out the Applied Functional Anatomy Course for Yoga Teachers (and Curious Students!)

Program Details Sundays, Feb 6-27, 2022 12-2PM EST Via Zoom (class recordings will be shared after each session) $195CAD + HST (subsidized tickets available for LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC)

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