On the Details of Anatomy


So, I open my email this morning and find three long messages from the administrator of the yoga teacher training I’m attending in May. Each lists, in fairly minute detail, the anatomical and philosophical basics that I am expected to be thoroughly grounded in before the course begins.

Normally, this would be the part I love best. The theoretical underpinnings of a discipline are the easiest bits for me to master. It’s a daunting prospect though when one’s only got three days left and when most of those days are intended to be spent handling logistical details (i.e., how to make the three kilos my baggage is currently in excess of disappear without violating the law of the conservation of mass).

The good news is that a course I did on Indian philosophy a few years ago for my Masters degree has given me more than a passing familiarity with the cultural, intellectual and religious presuppositions of yoga. The bad news is that I’m starting completely from scratch where the human anatomy is concerned—and this part unfortunately comprises the majority of the hundred-plus items on the reading list.

(There is a reason why I did not become a doctor—despite the fact that a ridiculous number of people in my extended family are doctors—mostly having to do with the fact that I get uncharacteristically lightheaded in the presence or at the thought of blood. Besides that, I have a profound dislike for confronting the frailty of the human body, and medicine, for me, represents the systematic study of the things that can tax the limits of that frailty—which is pretty much everything.)

The only upside I can see to this downside is that I can be a bit more precise in the future about the occasional things that ail me (i.e., “The back of my leg hurts from straining my hamstring with an eccentric contraction.”). It won’t make an iota of difference for my masseuse, who pummels me anyway with a consistency that’s actually rather reassuring, but at least I can lean back under the blows with the smug satisfaction of knowing what it is exactly that may be turning black and blue.

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