Over the last few years I have had the wonderful opportunity to teach the wonders of the human body. Mostly, these classes have been for massage therapists or yoga teachers but I have always wondered why more isn't done to broaden the spectrum of learning to everyone (beyond high school health classes) as this information is key in understanding how we interact at a fundamental level with the reality around us.
As a way of addressing this, I have decided to post information here that I feel is pertinent and useful for everyone. I am starting by tackling a fundamental question at the core of the issue: is it really necessary to study anatomy at all and if so, is it something everyone should do, not just therapists and teachers?
On the surface the answer seems quite obvious. As teachers or therapists (I'm speaking from the somatic viewpoint), we have to know about the body, how it moves, what we are doing to it when we practice and how to bring about a desired change when needed. However, when we take a moment, step back, look a little deeper and approach our body not as just a vehicle by which we navigate this world but also as a doorway through which we glimpse the great mysteries of the universe, then it puts the question in a whole new light and opens the field of learning to all.
The Bridhadaranyaka Upanishad states that the "source of all actions is the body, for it is by the body that all actions are done. The body is behind all actions, even as Brahman is behind the body."
As some of you may know, the ultimate goal of yoga is to reawaken the awareness of our intrinsic union with Brahman or the source of all. According to the passage above, one of the simplest ways for us to begin to experience this connection is to first know our body. It is all too common for people to move through life on autopilot without the knowledge (jnana) or awareness (citi) of their body, how it feels or what messages are being relayed from their deeper consciousness. Unfortunately, this lack of awareness pervades our culture and society and leads to the disconnected life experience we see all around us.
One of the most effective ways to begin to know the body is to study it. This is where anatomy comes in. Through awareness and knowledge of the physical structures and metabolic functions of the body we begin to sense something greater, an intelligence and organization to things. We become aware of a deeper undercurrent or force animating that which we study. The deeper we explore, the more our awareness of universal principles existing within our body increases.
Through the lens of this awareness we begin to view the body in a sacred, reverent way. What was once the rote study of gross physical structures and mechanical functions becomes a spiritual journey, a quest where our own experience of physical existence is no longer mundane or on "autopilot" but takes on a mystical hue.
In his note at the beginning of Dr. David Frawley's book, Inner Tantric Yoga, professor Lokesh Chandra quotes the Amrita-ratnavali saying that "the essence of all things resides in our bodies". This is why the study of anatomy is so important. It is a keystone in the foundation of understanding our physical being and connecting to not only our inner dimensions but also our planet and the cosmos at large.
For me, this is the true study of anatomy and the perspective from which I hope to present future columns on this topic for your enjoyment.
Copyright 2008 Thunder Mountain Wellness