Discovering Anatomy

Discovering Anatomy

“Practice becomes an exploration of your strength and flexibility.”

 – Jessica (300h YTTC January 2022)

Discovering Anatomy: When I embarked on the 300-hour Yoga Teacher Training in Goa, I wasn’t exactly excited about the anatomy part of the course. For me, learning anatomy felt like memorizing complicated Latin words for obscure parts of the body that I wasn’t even quite convinced were in there. I had the prejudice that anatomy was a square, Western science, something I felt like I hadn’t come to India for a yoga course to learn about. And I wasn’t feeling those supposed parts of the body, neither going about my daily life nor on the yoga mat. My body consisted of my head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Well, the feet and tummies, arms and chin are natural.

However, it took little time before I discovered that Yogi Chetan Mahesh, lead trainer of the 300-hour Yoga Teacher Training, taught with an approach that would revolutionize my relationship with anatomy. Rather than treating it as a separate subject, he made it a natural part of the training journey for a yoga teacher.

“The thread of anatomy is intertwined through all modules—the practice, myofascial release, and even philosophy.”

 – Yogi Chetan Mahesh (lead trainer of the 300-hour YTTC)

My Journey of Discovering Anatomy

Shoulder stability

On the first day, Mahesh put the twelve of us doing the 300-hour Vinyasa Flow YTTC into a plank position. He went on to completely transform the way I practice this popular yoga posture. He explained precisely how and where this posture should be felt and which sensation should be predominant. He communicated through subtle alignment cues and visualizations of which direction energy should be sent.

Focusing on alignment through learning about this often-visited posture at the start of the course, Mahesh demonstrated his passion for correcting and working with unhealthy patterns of alignment that one might accumulate as a practitioner. Nobody’s practice is perfect, and most of us have the potential for improvement, even in the postures we have practised countless times, maybe for years.

Mahesh tells me about having had to work through two shoulder injuries in his rotator cuff muscles. He found that he needed to work hard to correct poor alignment in postures such as plank and chaturanga dandasana, learning about the importance and implications along the way. This experience, however, allowed his understanding of the shoulder to advance to a whole new level. Now, even though injuries are never welcome, the knowledge she acquired helps her teach the anatomy of the shoulder “from a safety precautionary perspective”.

Discovering Anatomy

Better teachers

Holistically, experiencing injuries and other bumps in the road ultimately allows us to grow as teachers. Mahesh tells me these experiences usually make us better and more patient yoga teachers. And as he says about the teacher-student relationship: “As a yoga teacher, you must make sure they’re practising safely”. Safety, though, might be an elusive concept sometimes. We might have to experience the unsafe to understand it fully. As they say, we learn through trial and error, and even though I know this to be an undeniable fact, it is so easy to become frustrated by, if not necessarily by, a severe injury, even just aches and pains in the body.

I have learned that understanding anatomy, of how our body works as an integrated, unique, strong and vulnerable entity, is crucial knowledge for a yoga teacher to attain. While doing a yoga course in India, I was lucky enough to encounter teachers with knowledge from different cultures and disciplines, different centuries and perspectives, and different personal experiences that made the knowledge both more specific and relatable. In Mahesh’s words, learning about anatomy in the 300h Vinyasa Flow YTTC at AYM Yoga School in Goa “helps understand limitations to your practice, encouraging students to determine their limits, bringing better anatomical awareness”.

Integrity and Pratyahara

Another important aspect of yoga that I learned from Mahesh during the training was the importance of understanding the integrity of the posture. Once I learned that every posture has at least one but often many integrities, the physical and mental experience of practice transformed. Focus became easier as I understood the purpose and meaning of what I was practising at a much deeper level.

When I asked Mahesh how he makes anatomy so fascinating, he answered: “I make it so applicable to yoga. It very much applies to the practice”. He also told me anatomical knowledge “helps internalize more to bring about pratyahara on the mat, rather than the mind drifting”. That’s precisely the effect I have experienced after learning about the integrity of postures. It’s like a mental drishti for me; I know where to send my breath, and my body’s intuitive small changes in response to the knowledge about integrity make a difference.


Learning about anatomy during the 300-teacher training turned out to be boring. In fact, I have learned a lot about myself, my prejudices, how bodies function in asana practice, and last but not least, about the limitations in my practice. I’ve come to understand, for instance, that what I’ve walked around (uncomfortably) thinking was a knee problem for more than two years was most probably a consequence of having ridiculously tight quadriceps. The knees and the quadriceps, I have realized, affect each other. It seems obvious now and comical in retrospect, but I’ve never even reflected on the fact that there are muscles on the front of the thighs.

Mahesh’s approach to teaching anatomy has planted the seeds for both a personal practice and a future as a teacher, where anatomical awareness will undoubtedly play a crucial role.

*** Next 300 hrs in Yoga Teacher Training starts 5th April, and if you can’t make it India by then, the dates for next season are also on the website! ***