Should I present an English version of my online anatomy course?

julia zatta

What an exciting week! Last last Tuesday I announced my first online anatomy course (in Spanish) and was taken aback by the response. Within the first hour of posting my newsletter I received 3 inquiries from people as far away as Brussels and the Canary Islands. Even more exciting has been the enthusiasm and encouragement received from people near and far. It was an unexpected and wonderful surprise and I want to say thank you!  

Launching a new project is always a bit scary. My main fear is that of making a fool of myself in “public”. Maybe it’s because I can’t see the actual people on the other end of the screen so I imagine a slew of ugly trolls waiting to launch their poisonous comments at me. And this fear holds me back when it’s time to advertise a new project.

What helped me overcome my reserve was the encouragement of a group of strangers at a local meetup. At this particular meeting, each of us was expected to present a project and ask for feedback. My project was this online course. The observations I received in return, unanimously conceded that my hesitation was coming from fear, rather than from an actual obstacle. Ha! Again and again I see that my imaginary trolls are my greatest limitation.

So now that the ice is broken, and the trolls are contained, I’d love to know this: who is interested in an English version of my anatomy course?

A little bit about the course:

I originally designed this course for yoga practitioners in my local community with the intention of introducing them to the subject of anatomy. A lot of yogis want to know their body better but are daunted by the vast and complex subject of human anatomy. The course I’ve designed is intended to introduce yoga practitioners to anatomy in a simple, easy to understand manner. You will learn the names and location of some of the main muscles and bones of the human body as well as their implication for movement. 

Sound interesting? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments! Please write me at julia@juliazatta.com

How do I protect my low back in yoga? (Part 1)

Today’s question comes from Mar who wants to know:

“How can I protect my back in backbends?”

While there are many factors that contribute to low back pain in yoga, the one I want to address today has to do with bad posture. I’m talking about the habit of thrusting the hips forward and turning the feet out when standing. Charlie Chaplin famously adopted -and exaggerated- this posture.

charlie chaplin posture análisisThis apparently harmless stance creates tension deep to the buttocks, possibly compressing the sacrum and low back. When carried over to yoga, this postural habit will have you pushing your hips up as high as possible in urdva dhanurasana (bridge pose) with painful consequences to your low back.  (Here’s a completely different expression, of the same postural pattern).

The anatomical perspective:

Our hip rotator muscles live deep to the “glutes” in the buttocks. This muscle group is comprised of six individual muscles that connect the back of the femur to the pelvis. Acting together, these muscles turn the leg out, a movement also called “external rotation of the femur.” When standing, tight hip rotators will also tilt the pelvis backwards, while the two actions combined (external rotation of the leg and posterior pelvic tilt) may result in sacroiliac joint compression and back pain. 

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 8.53.13 AMAllow me a little digression. Have you ever heard of the piriformis muscle? It is the most “famous” of all the hip rotators. Here’s why: it is singlehandedly responsible for a painful condition known as piriformis syndrome. Piriformis syndrome is caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve by way of an overly tight piriformis muscle. Luckily, this painful condition can be relieved through stretching and deep tissue massage.

Now, back to posture. If we move through life with our own version of Chaplin’s gait, our posture will affect how we perform asanas (yoga poses). This is because posture is not a static “thing”, but a pre-conditioned movement pattern. Those of us who habitually thrust our hips forward and splay our feet out, seek stability by tightening our hip rotators. This habit will also affect how we move into asana. When tightening the deep buttock muscles, it will be difficult to maintain the knees “hip width apart and parallel” in yoga poses such as bridge. This clenching will also compress the sacroiliac joint and cause discomfort in the low back.

The good new is that we can retrain our posture by bringing our femurs to a more neutral position, thus freeing up our low back and avoiding unnecessary pain.

Try these easy steps:

  • Standing upright trace a horizontal line from your pubic bone to the outer edges of your hips. Here, you’ll be able to palpate the proximal portion of the femur, the greater trochanter, an easy easy to palpate  bony landmark. 
  • Now, initiating movement from your greater trochanters, move your femurs into a slight internal rotation. Visualize the movement of your leg bones, as this will help you to better execute the movement. Keep your buttocks soft and your breath relaxed.  Feel the subtle sensations in your body. Do you notice your sacrum growing wider? Does the weight distribution on your feet change?
  • After you’ve become familiar with the previous exercise, bring it into your yoga practice. Instead of pushing your hips upwards in Setu Bandha Sarvanghasana (bridge prep), focus on the position of your femurs in relation to your pelvis. Gently turn them inwards without tightening the buttocks. What do you notice now? Are your legs working harder? This is because now they’re actually supporting the weight of your body, whereas before they were pushing into your low back.

The purpose of this exercise is to help you gain awareness of your body (and your posture!) on and off the mat. Will you give it a try? 

PS: I’m teaching an anatomy and yoga workshop this Saturday -May 30th, 2015. Care to join us?

Anatomy Question:

“What is the relationship between the diaphragm, the psoas and the 12th dorsal vertebrae? Why is it important in yoga?” ~ Raquel

The psoas and diaphragm muscles are intimetely linked to one another, as one starts where the other ends. These two muscles meet on the anterior portion of the 12th dorsal vertebrae, right behind the peritoneum in the abdominal cavity.*

In this context, the 12th rib is a landmark that is easy to locate in one’s body: just draw a horizontal line from the inferior tip of your sternum (xyfoid process) all the way around to your spine. Yous should land just above your 12th dorsal vertebrae. Now that you know where that landmark is, you can also access -via your imagination- the back portion of your diaphragm, where it meets the psoas. 

Many yoga teachers use the language of anatomy to direct their student’s attention inwards (pratyahara).  If you are familiar with this language, you can follow your teacher’s instructions and place your attention wherever instructed. The attention required to do that fosters a meditative state in which you are totally present, here and now, aware of your body and listening to the sensations that arise. This is yoga!

*I made this video to help you see and understand the relationship between psoas, diaphragm and 12th dorsal vertebrae. I hope you like it.

Was this helpful? I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. 

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