How to keep your spine healthy


The spine is designed to perform the following 4 movements: flexion, extension, axial rotation and side-bending. If you want to keep your back happy, try to perform these 4 movements daily. There’s no need to be a specialist in anatomy to enjoy a healthy and flexible spine.

Here are some recommendations to help you move intelligently:  (more…)

‘The map is not the territory’, my thoughts on anatomy and yoga

Sometimes, the challenge of teaching anatomy to yoga teachers is conveying the idea that, despite sharing the same anatomical blueprint, each person’s body is unique. The anatomical map offers us detailed portrayal of the human structure, however it is still only an approximate representation of the actual body we inhabit.  (more…)

Yoga and scoliosis


Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine which involves certain consequences for the health and posture of the person affected by it. According to Elise Browning Miller -a senior Iyengar teacher specialized in back and sports related injuries- there are 2 main types of scoliosis: structural or functional (more…)

An update on my online anatomy course (and experience)

julia zatta

Hi there!

I feel like I’ve neglecting you as it’s been ages since I posted anything in English. I apologize for that! Here’s a little recap as to what I’ve been up to:

In July I launched my first ever online anatomy course (in Spanish) and I’ve been putting all my energy there, making sure things run smoothly and that everyone is happy and cared for. So far, it’s been a really positive and fun experience. I thoroughly enjoy delivering the classes and interacting with my students online.

I’m so pleased with our group’s diversity: we’ve got a majority of long time yoga teachers who bring a wealth of knowledge and personal experience to the table. We’ve also got an acupuncture student and a massage therapist in the mix. I’m enjoying getting to know everyone and seeing how the group’s interactions are unfolding in our private facebook group. (We’ve got a facebook group that serves as a forum to share our homework and anatomy-related information).

Some of the people who’ve signed up for the course are from Barcelona and Catalonia, while others log in to our virtual conference room from as far away as Madrid and San Sebastian. It’s exciting to meet people from all over without leaving the house. It’s also nice to see familiar faces and to engage with people I’ve known for ages but whom I don’t usually get to see very often.

Another thing I quite like about the online format is the amount of freedom that it grants us. We can communicate easily and fluidly via email, voice memos and Skype. Those who cannot attend the “live” weekly classes have access to video-recordings of each session. That way everyone moves forward at their own pace while remaining connected to and encouraged by the group’s progress.

This versatility is a game-changer for me. I didn’t realize how many people wanted to attend my classes but couldn’t, due to travel time, scheduling, work and family commitments. It’s actually quite hard to find a time and a place that works for everyone but it seems as though the internet -and all it’s nifty tools- has given us a respite and made life easier for everybody.

So, what’s next?

I’m eager to launch this same course in English. I’m curious to see what I can offer to the English-speaking yoga & bodywork  community. I also love the convenience of reaching people far away without all the overhead costs of travelling! I’ll be offering up some dates soon!! Stay tuned 🙂

In the meantime, I’d love to know what I can help you with. What are your anatomy needs?  What issues would you like to have clarity about? What do you want to learn? Email me!

Have a great week!


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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