Tristan Gatto: beYogi Ambassador Spotlight
July 9, 2019
Yoga and Shoulders: It’s A Scapular Matter
July 18, 2019

Inside The World of Yoga and Anatomy


Anatomy is a hot topic in the yoga world today. A majority of yoga instructors who have graduated from traditional 200-hour teacher trainings complain that there is not enough emphasis on anatomy in many of these trainings. Currently the Yoga Alliance only requires 20 hours of Anatomy and Physiology as part of a 200-hour teaching curriculum. This can leave a newly certified yoga instructor at a loss for what asana may or may not be suitable for certain populations in their classes. 

Creating a Safer Environment for Learning

Many clients come to yoga classes to feel better and oftentimes fix issues they may be having in their own body – whether its back pain, flexibility and movement issues, or wanting to get stronger. It is up to each of us as a yoga instructor to provide the best instruction based on our training and promote an environment of safety and support for our clients. This is where personal responsibility and yoga instruction meets the pavement. Continuing education in anatomy, biomechanics, kinesiology, and musculoskeletal dysfunction can amplify your teaching skills two fold.

While learning anatomy and biomechanics can be daunting, it is important to know that it just takes time, memorization, critical thinking, and application of the information you are learning. Even learning one piece of information and applying it in your classes or theming a class around it helps you readily use what you have learned. 

Tips for Learning Anatomy and Biomechanics

  • Emphasize Muscle Action – while understanding the origin, insertion and innervation of muscles is beneficial, the easiest way to understand and apply anatomy to your teachings is identifying what movement or action each muscle produces. This will allow you to speak toward what you are trying to achieve in your classes. For instance, whether you want to stretch the hamstrings in Pyramid pose or activate it for stability in a lunging posture.
  • Understand Joint Movement – each joint in the body moves and operates in its own way, known as arthrokinematics.  Knowing the difference between the types of joints and how they move improves awareness of alignment and optimal joint positioning in each posture. Joints either roll, glide/slide, or spin. For instance, during a squat the femur moves on a stable tibia. The femur rolls backward while sliding forward on the tibia. With an anterior force already present on the front of the knee, it is important to cue students to draw the knee joints behind the toes and balls of the feet to protect the knees and keep the joint in Optimal Functional Position (OFP).
  • Familiarize Yourself with Agonist/Antagonist Relationship of Muscles – in order to produce movement in a joint, opposing muscles must work together. When one muscle contracts, the opposing muscle relaxes. For instance, if you were to sit in a chair and extend your knee – the quadriceps muscle, located at the front of your thigh, would contract to produce the movement, where as, your hamstrings, located at the back of your thigh, would relax to allow the movement to occur. The awareness of this relationship is important when encouraging students to stabilize in certain postures or allow for relaxation of muscle you may be targeting.

When learning the ins and outs of asana and alignment, it is beneficial as a yoga instructor to continue the study of anatomy and biomechanics beyond your initial training to not only improve teaching skills, but also to keep your students safe and in Optimal Functional Position in the joints. The silver lining in all of this is, now more than ever we have access to information, training, and educational material to gain as much knowledge as we want!

Below you will find, Tristan’s Top 3 Favorite Anatomy Resources:

Want to learn more about working with clients who have chronic back issues? Check out Tristan’s Spinal Reset Online Teacher Training – the only training that bridges the gap between physical therapy and yoga. This 50-hour interactive online training will provide you with all the knowledge and tools you need to bring healing to your entire community while tripling your income. Learn more by clicking here

yoga for your tendons

How to Prevent a Tendon Injury in Your Yoga Practice

real men do yoga

The Badass Guide to Yoga for Men

yoga for joints

Yoga and Shoulders: It's a Scapular Matter Part 2

Tristan Gatto
Tristan Gatto
Tristan Martin Gatto, PTA, RYT 200, is a resident teacher and educator at Yoga Den in Jacksonville, Florida. Tristan is an educator for Yoga Den’s 200-hour and 300-hour teacher training programs with close focus on anatomy, alignment, and safety. He is a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant in the state of Florida. Tristan is a featured writer in yoga anatomy for and is currently an ambassador for lululemon. He is a native of Buffalo, New York, and is a former professional vocalist and dancer with over 10 years of experience. He has performed on Carnival Cruise Lines, toured out of Nashville, Tennessee, entertained in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and Branson, Missouri, and also taught various styles of dance for several years. He lives by the motto, “Solid body, solid mind.”

Leave a Reply