MetaAnatomy: A Modern Yogi’s Practical Guide to the Physical and Energetic Anatomy of Your Amazing Body
THIS BOOK IS not really an anatomy book.1 I think of it more like a book about connections. It’s funny, but when you ask people to define connections, they often tell you about the times they felt disconnected. These disconnections often remind us that something is amiss. Something is out of balance. Whether it comes from strife in a relationship or an injury to the physical body, the raucous sounds of disharmony wake us up to the beautiful potential of harmony.
As humans, we are a wonderful mess of contradictions. We are incredibly strong yet fragile. All of us look very similar—heck, 99.9 percent of our genes are similar2—yet the teeny differences make a huge difference in how we move through the world. Our bodies are made up of all of these seemingly varied parts, yet they work together like a world-class orchestra tuned to play the most intricate symphony. We are awesomely complex, but as my teacher Rod Stryker likes to tease us when we are getting carried away with ourselves, we are not that interesting or complex.
I still become giddy every time I get the chance to talk to someone about their magnificent form. As a student of the body for more than twenty years, I’m still amazed at the hidden gems and the new information that I continue to find. My intent in launching MetaAnatomy was to explore the dynamic beauty and poetry of who you are. The prefix meta-, like in the words metaphysical or metacarpals, means “beyond.” MetaAnatomy is my attempt to go beyond our often limited view of our own form.
I also really love the idea of meta-analysis, examining the data from many different studies that ask the same question: Who do we think we are? For millennia, humans, whether they are anatomists or yogis, have been creating models and maps to try to answer that very question. I believe that combining our understanding of the physical and energetic anatomies helps us form a richer view and experience of ourselves. My hope is that this combination will bring about a celebration of our differences and, ultimately, an honoring of our connectedness.
I’ve subdivided this book into three tasty nuggets. In part 1, “The Physical,” I introduce you to your physical form, or what I like to call the meat suit. We will do this first by deconstructing all of our bodies’ bits and bobs, which will give you the anatomical language you need to get to know your meat suit in all of its glory. While I have written these chapters for students and teachers of yoga, I firmly believe that they include information that everyone should know. Please keep in mind that what I’m giving you is just an introduction to some of the tissues of the body. In the interest of brevity and comprehension, only certain bones, joints, and muscles have been illuminated. I’ve tried to condense what can be the overwhelming topic of human anatomy into fun-size bites. In this attempt, some aspects have been simplified and generalized, but hopefully without diminishing their importance or compromising the accuracy of the information. Each chapter will conclude with a little taste test—a small experience or exercise to prompt you to put into practice what you just learned.
In part 2, “The Poetic,” my intention is to make connections between the physical and energetic anatomies, between systems or schools of yoga, between you and me as we share our embodied experience of being alive in these forms. Starting with different ways to investigate the concept of energy, we will draw correlations between what we can see and what we can experience. Then we’ll take a deep dive into our breath, our nervous system, and the ancient yogic technologies that can have an immediate impact on our physiology. These chapters each include a meditation that will help you turn all the theory into a lived experience.
In part 3, “The Practical,” we’ll talk about how to bring together all of the information in parts 1 and 2 to make real, lasting, practical changes in our lives as well as in our yoga practice. I’ll give you tools you can use to develop X-ray vision! This will allow us to look inside the meat suit and see the unique shape and proportion of your bones and joints so that you can then develop a personal practice that celebrates your uniqueness. I’ll also talk about yoga postures and yoga teachers’ verbal cues that can sometimes be problematic for students. With curiosity and the evolving lens of biomechanics and yoga therapy, we can at least open a discussion about the benefits of these postures and cues and their place in our own practice or teaching. Each of these chapters will include accessible minipractices that can immediately connect you to both your physical and your energetic anatomies.
Where applicable, I’ve tried to give a historical context or text when defining certain energetic maps and models. I have done my best to suss out the hotly debated timelines, definitions, and interpretations, but I’ll leave it to my more scholarly friends to argue the details. Instead of dissecting and separating the information into different yogic lineages, I find it more interesting to view how cultures, art, schools of thought, and societies have had an effect on the study of both yoga and anatomy, as well as how these factors continue to contribute to their evolution. I have included a lot of Sanskrit, as its definitions have a way of unfolding to expose a treasure trove of understanding. But I’ve decided to leave the diacritical marks out of the Sanskrit terms so that we can remain friends.
If you are looking for instructions on how to get into full Lotus or pictures of bikini-clad models performing Chin Stands, sadly, you won’t find them in this book. Feel free to use it to even out a wobbly table leg instead. But if you’re looking for a practice to maximize your unique potential or if you’re looking to teach or practice safe, anatomically meaningful healing sequences that help you explore the more subtle aspects of your energetic, mental, and emotional bodies, which drape your true self like layers of fine silk, my great hope is that you will find it here.
In this book I’m sharing what I’ve learned from the amazing teachers that I’ve been lucky to study with. I’m sharing it as I have remembered it and through the lens of my own lived experience. In other words, any praise can go directly to my teachers, and any complaints or disagreements can be forwarded to me.3
All my classes and workshops begin with the Sanskrit chant that was given to me by my first teacher:
Guru Devo Maheshvarah
Guru Sakshat Param Brahma
Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha
It is a lovely, profound chant, that I translate as the following: “The beginnings are our teacher. The start of something new, coming into a posture and even inhaling are an opportunity to learn the truth of who we are.”
The experience of right now, the present moment, can be our teacher. The trials and tribulations, the ups and downs, the sustaining of the breath or posture are all opportunities to understand the truth of who we are.
The endings of things can also be our teacher. The ending of a job or relationship, the exhale, and the coming out of a posture are all opportunities to realize the truth of who we are.
Everyone around you is a teacher who can help to illuminate the truth of who you are.
There is also a teacher who is indescribable and beyond all form.
I offer all of my efforts to these teachers. Everything, everyone, and every moment become an opportunity to learn about ourselves.
This book is just the beginning. My hope is that after this introduction to your body, you will be excited to continue learning and asking questions. Even after many years of studying the body, I’m amazed at how my perception and understanding continue to shift. My first attempt to understand the body came from books and two-dimensional pictures. It was only after I started to work with real bodies in yoga classes and anatomy labs that I came to realize how utterly unique we all are. Looking at real bodies also begins to reveal the truth that everything is interconnected, interwoven, and interdependent. While it may be helpful to label individual body parts for study, the reality is nothing can be separated. Many of the separations that we label in the body were just arbitrary ones drawn by anatomists. But when we take a larger view, considering things like tissue function and action, we see that everything inside of us is truly connected.
The celebration of our differences and the ever-shifting transient nature of body, mind, and emotion can lead us to recollect and reunite with the part of us that is unbound and pure potential. When we recognize that part of us in ourselves, it becomes easier to recognize it in others. It is my sincere hope that this practice will ultimately lead us to remember and honor our connectedness.
I’m so happy to be on this path with you.
Let’s get started!
PART ONE The Physical: Your Meat Suit
CHAPTER 1 Them Bones, Them Bones
Move Your Bones
CHAPTER 2 Do You Come to This Joint Often?
Feel Up Your Tissues
CHAPTER 3 I’ve Got Your Back, Jack!
Spend Time with Your Spine
CHAPTER 4 Shake a Leg
The Pelvic Hula
CHAPTER 5 All Up in Arms
Find Your Dog
CHAPTER 6 You’ve Got Some Nerve!
CHAPTER 7 We Interrupt This Book with a Message from Patanjali
Sutra Taste Test
PART TWO The Poetic: Your Subtle Self
CHAPTER 8 What Is the Energy Body?
Multidimensional Being Meditation
CHAPTER 9 Nadis and the Nervous System
Inner Antenna Meditation
CHAPTER 10 Chakras
Bija Mantra Chakra Meditation
CHAPTER 11 Breath and the Four Diaphragms
Your Inner Jellyfish Exploration
CHAPTER 12 The Embodied Heart
Breath of the Heart Exploration
CHAPTER 13 Agni and the Digestive System
Inner Smile Meditation
CHAPTER 14 The Brain
PART THREE The Practical: The Embodied Yogi
CHAPTER 15 Some Assembly Required
CHAPTER 16 Segment 1: The Foundations
CHAPTER 17 Segment 2: The Sacred Spot
CHAPTER 18 Segment 3: The Power House
CHAPTER 19 Segment 4: Shouldering the Burden
CHAPTER 20 Segment 5: Sticking Your Neck Out
CHAPTER 21 Closing Ceremony
About the Author
About the Illustrator
About Sounds True
Praise for MetaAnatomy
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|Epub||September 20, 2021|
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