Yoga Practice, Yoga Teacher Training

Week 8 of Yoga Teacher Training: The capacity of our anatomy


The pic on the left was from a post I wrote in 2013, complaining about my tight shoulders and blaming it on my sports play. I’ve made a little progress in the last two years, getting my fingers a mere couple of inches from touching, but I don’t think they’ll see a full bind anytime soon.

This past week in yoga teacher training, we spent a good deal of time with Jenn Wooten, talking about anatomy. I’ve been to workshops before where we focused on shoulder girdle and bone structure, and the bottom line has always been to work with YOUR particular set of bones, muscles and connective tissue. At one point, I must have accepted my reality, in theory, that my anatomy has limitations. However, I still went on doing the exact same exercises everyone else was and still wondering why I didn’t experience the same results.

Ah, but Jenn made a point about something that never made it through my thick skull before. Because of my specific anatomy, not every approach will work for me. In the case of my shoulders, they are tight – not solely because of playing sports in the past. The bones, muscles and connective tissue in my shoulders have a limited range of motion compared to someone with natural flexibility in that area.

She had me push up into urdhva danurasana (upward bow or full wheel). My elbows go out a little in order to have power to lift up. In classes where teachers have workshopped the pose, they use straps around the arms to keep the elbows held in. Every time I’ve tried that exercise, I have no where to move. I’m trapped. My shoulders don’t allow for me to move into the back bend when my arms are confined in a strap. Jenn was the first teacher to ever tell me that’s OKAY. My body needs to let the elbows go out in order to press up. WHOA. I thought I just had jacked shoulders all these years.

Had I been working WITH my body instead of AGAINST it, I could’ve saved myself a lot of frustration and physical strain. I will take this personal revelation forward with me as I continue to watch student’s bodies and understand how they move differently. That’s been one of the hardest parts of being a beginning teacher. We have only 2 experiences to pull from thus far: what we’ve experienced in our own bodies and what we’ve been told by other teachers (which isn’t always what works). The more I can work with different bodies with varying limitations and range of motion, the more I’ll be able to spot what’s dangerous/out of alignment and what’s a workaround for someone’s anatomy.

At least I can stop beating myself up over my tight shoulders.

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