Real-World Teaching Tips

When sharing anatomy teachings with students, consider the following wonderful advice. These excellent suggestions are from Julie Gudmestad’s Yoga Journal articles

  1. Show, explain and reinforce the body parts you name.
  2. Focus on only one anatomical name, principle or movement per class.
  3. Do not interchange the name of an injury with a body part. Avoid incorrectly referring to an injury by the name of the body part affected.
  4. Use movement terminology correctly.
  5. Beware of cues that are actually impossible.

#1 Show, explain and reinforce the body parts you name.

  • Especially with deeper muscles or organs such as the psoas or kidneys, please help students to identify the location of the body parts you name.
  • Even with such terms as sacrum and scapula, many students will be unclear and need help to locate the parts on their own body.
  • Gudmestad advises that teachers continue referencing the body part throughout class so as to reinforce understanding.

#2 Focus on only one anatomical name, principle or movement.

Avoid overwhelming some students and increase your chances of making a lasting impact by focusing on only one anatomy topic per class.

#3 Do not interchange the name of an injury with a body part.

  • Be mindful to avoid using names of injuries or body parts incorrectly.
  • For example, TMJ (jaw) is not the same as a TMJ problem and a rotator cuff is not the same as a rotator cuff tear.

#4 Use movement terminology correctly.

  • Avoid anatomy-based terminology until you are sure you are able to use it correctly.
  • Pay particular attention (as Gudmestad points out) to use of the word “extension” which is often used incorrectly by yoga teachers.
  • If you are knowledgeable about movement terminology, please consider that many students are not. Comprehension will be greater if terms are clearly defined for all students.
  • See Anatomy of Movement: Terminology.

#5 Beware of cues that are actually impossible.

  • Gudmestad does a great service here in pointing out the mistake of using a general term such as “relax” with a body part that is actually contracting in a pose.
  • She says she’s heard teachers advise, for example, “Relax your neck” in Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) when the neck muscles must contract to hold the head up. This is a key reminder to be mindful of everything you say while teaching.
  • Perhaps in the Triangle Pose case that Gudmestad describes, the teacher meant to suggest, “relax your face and eyes.” As an example of precise cues that meet your objectives, consider: give students specific tactics that help avoid excessive tension in the neck, such as keeping the head and gaze neutral vs. looking up; or, bring awareness to the neck with the mind’s eye or turn the neck with the breath. We hope these examples spur you to think through your cues for maximum clarity and effect.

Online Resources

Please see online version for links to more resources.