The most important anatomy lesson I have ever learned

vitruvius man

Human anatomy is a fascinating field of study that has inspired awe in both scientists and artists for centuries. It is also a compelling subject for people who want to explore their own bodies as a means to better know themselves. In this context, anatomy offers us information that we can use to refine our proprioceptive awareness, the sensations of our inner body, thus enriching our lives. 

The most important anatomy lesson I have ever learned – and one that I love to teach – is the notion of different tissue “layers.” Think of the different tissues of the body as overlapping layers fabric, one resting on top of the next.

The skin is the outermost layer, we can see it and touch it. Right below the skin we encounter the superficial fascia. This connective tissue layer ensheathes the body like a wetsuit keeping all the underlying structures in place. The next layer down is muscle which is in charge of movement. Beneath the fleshy muscle tissue, we can feel our bones which support our structure and protect vital organs. Deep fascia is woven inbetween muscles, organs and bones, separating them from one another. Fascia also allows the different layers of tissue to glide over one anothther facilitating movement.

Refining my understanding of these layers has played a crucial role in my development as a bodyworker. Each layer has it’s own palpable characteristics: it can be slippery, fibrous, dense, thin, thick, spongy, etc.. The more attention I pay to each one the more my touch improves. Exploring layers has also given me more awareness of my inner body which results in a feeling of spaciousnees and grounding. 

I believe that anyone can benefit from developing more awareness of their body. For this reason, I teach my students to palpate these tissue layers on one another. When we touch, we learn in a whole new way: we associate information with a physical sensation, thus embodying it. Learning anatomy through touch and movement allows one to close the gap between abstract theory and physical reality.

010 FOTOS CLASSES JULY 2014-C

In just a few days you can learn anatomy with me. On the 12th of may I launch a brand new applied anatomy study group and I still have a 2 available slots. 

PS: Do you have any anatomy questions for me? Post them here.

Stretching: why its good for you & how to do it right.

People often believe they aren’t flexible enough to practice yoga, as if yoga were only meant for flexible people. It’s not! The opposite is actually true: a regular yoga practice will increases your flexibility and range of motion. So if you are feeling tight and stiff there’s no better practice for you than yoga. Take me for example: just recently I was able to comfortably do “the splits” for the first time in my life. I’m 41 years old and I never thought this would happen… Ever!  But it did. Just to be clear: I wasn’t born with the flexibility I have now, It has developed slowly over time, thanks to yoga.

The reason yoga bestows so much flexibility is that it involves a lot of stretching. Many of the poses regularly performed in a yoga class stretch and therefore lengthen the muscles. This is because yoga poses (asanas) hold the muscles in a lengthened position as you take several long slow breaths. This allows for short and tight muscles to reset their “normal” length to this new, longer position. This is the opposite of what you do in gym workouts where the muscles are shortened (and become bulky) through fast repetitions.

Though it may take a while to do the splits, the benefits of stretching are immediate. Stretching relaxes both the body and the mind. It reduces muscle tension, relieves stiffness and it also calms the nervous system, reducing stress. With consistent practice, stretching improves flexibility and range of motion. It also increases body awareness (proprioception) and improves posture.

Interestingly enough, the benefits of stretching are similar to those attributed to yoga: increased flexibility, stress reduction and relaxation. Coincidence? I think not! Yoga involves a lot of stretching which not only benefits the body but the mind as well. I hope all this talk about stretching has inspired you to give it a go.

Here’s a few tips on how to stretch safely to maximize results and avoid injury:

  1. Warm up first. It’s important to warm-up before stretching to avoid injury. Five to ten sun salutations – will help get the blood flowing to the muscles and raise your body temp. It is important your muscles are warm before stretching as stretching cold muscles can cause injury.  
  2. Hold each stretch for 3 to 5 slow breaths – or 10 to 30 seconds. Start small holding for 10 seconds at first and letting your practice build up over time. Holding a stretch too long too soon could cause over-stretching.
  3. Don’t push. Stretching should not be painful, it should feel good. Breathe mindfully into the tighter spots while keeping and equanimous mind (meaning, don’t judge yourself). And please, no bouncing!
  4. Make sure the stretch takes place in the muscle belly, not in the joint. An example: many people tend to hyperextend their knees which can create pressure on the tendons and ligaments in the back of the knee. This is a sensation you want to avoid. You want to feel the stretch happening in the muscle belly, not in the joint.
  5. Focus on main muscle groups. When choosing a stretching routine, focus on main muscle groups, such as the calf, front and back of the thigh, trunk, chest, shoulders and neck.
  6. For best results, practice regularly. 10 to 20 minutes of stretching 3 x a week is generally recommended for best results. Remember, this should not feel like a chore but like a gift: it is your present to yourself. You will be glad you did it.

I hope this article has inspired you to start stretching today – or better yet, to start practicing yoga. Sometimes committing to a regular weekly class can help establish a new exercise habit. 

PS: If you want to come stretch with me, I’ll be back to teaching my regular Thursday yoga class at Centre Cos on May 7th at 8:15 pm. RSVP required. See you on the mat :)

Anatomy & Yoga with Marta and Julia

yoga anatomy with Julia Zatta

If you follow this blog you already know how much I adore Marta Puig and her restorative classes. Marta is a great teacher who is particularly skilled in sequencing, articulation and effective use of props. Plus, I adore her BackMitra yoga prop, it makes every class delicious.

We are both excited to announce that we are collaborating on a series of workshops on yoga anatomy and alignment based asana practice all in one. We believe all yogis can benefit from learning anatomy: it helps to get in touch with the body and improves your yoga skills. Our goal is to offer a fun and dynamic approach to yoga anatomy. 

Here’s why you should come:

  • Two teachers means double the experience
  • Anatomy theory and Yoga asana practice all in one class
  • Visual presentation + take home material
  • Personalized instruction applicable to your level of practice
  • Inspiration for your asana practice

What is included in each class?

Anatomy class with Julia

  • Visual presentation
  • Printed material and resources
  • Partner exercises and explorations

Yoga asana with Marta 

  • Skillfully crafted sequence revolving around the central theme of the class.
  • Use of yoga props including my favorite: the BackMitra!!

What will I learn?

Class 1: Intro to anatomy

We will discuss the different tissues that make up the different layers of the body paying special attention to fascia = connective tissue.

Class 2: The breath

Breath is crucial to yoga: it is through breathing that we extend our vital energy (prana) and focus our minds inward. But how should we breathe, and why? You’ll find out here!

Class 3: Core strength

A strong and dynamic core is vital to a sustainable and enjoyable yoga practice. It also has great benefits off the mat. You will learn all about how to cultivate core strength and why this is important.

Save the date:

May 9th, May 30th and June 20th, from 11:30am to 2pm @ Zona Ioga, Sabadell. (Plaza San Roc 8, Entresol 1ª)

Special offer!

Sign up by April 17th, 2015 and save 15€ on your enrollment fee. Email me for details.

PS: If you’re interested in studying anatomy in depth, check out my Anatomy Study Group, next course begins in May. 

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