We Finally Address the Elephant in the Room: a list of my favorite anatomy and biomechanics teachers

Hello sweet peas. Thank you so much for replying to my survey about what you would like me to talk about here on the blog! You gave me so many good ideas and I am having a blast researching and writing and thinking about how I can serve you all best.

In different ways, what many of you want to know more about is how to tailor a practice to an individual’s needs. That is essentially what I teach in my teacher training, so it is a huge and complex topic! {Sidenote: I am only teaching one live teacher training this year, check out all the details here.}

Because it is such a big topic we will spend the next few months exploring it here on the blog. Are you excited?? I am!

To get ready for all we will learn together over the next few months, make sure you have read these blog posts. They lay the groundwork for what we will start to dig into more deeply over the coming months.

Here are some of the things we will talk about over the next few months:

  • How to Prepare For/What To Do In A First Session
  • The Basic Structure of a Private Yoga Class
  • How to Explain The Differences Between a Group Class and a Private Session
  • How To Work Within The Framework of Our Student’s Goals
  • What Is the Yoga of Discernment, and How To Teach It

But you know what we have to talk about first? The big giant elephant in the room: Anatomy, Physiology, Biomechanics, Functional Movement Patterns and how little yoga asana teachers are initially taught in these subjects.

Many yoga teachers feel insecure about their lack of anatomy knowledge. This insecurity about lack of anatomy knowledge is totally normal. We ALL feel it, me included, because it is true! We don’t know enough. There is so much to learn about the body and how it functions and then even more to learn about specific individuals bodies and how they are patterned. It is overwhelming! {I personally think most 200 hour yoga TTs don’t have nearly enough focus on anatomy, but that is another topic for another day.}

Since my first 200 hour teacher training more than a decade ago I have taken many more trainings focused on anatomy and yoga therapeutics. I have also had many of my own injuries and the healing work that has happened as a result have had a huge impact on my teaching. I also still feel nervous when working with a client with a new injury, and am continually working to educate myself on the latest research on the body, the neuroplasticity of the brain, the science of pain, and the most skillful ways to work with musculoskeletal injuries.

This comes up a lot in my work with new private yoga teachers because many students who reach out to teachers for private lessons are doing so because they can’t attend group classes. Some of the most common reasons students reach out to a private teacher is because they have an old or current injury, limited strength, unstable balance or a lack of range of motion that makes your average public class inappropriate.

I teach a really deep and complex training on how to tailor a practice to an individual’s needs.

In my trainings I teach how to create and hold energetic space so you can teach anyone, anywhere. {The perfect, quiet space or really easy, engaged student is no longer necessary to enjoy your private teaching.}

One of the most complicated topics I teach is how to Meet A Student Where They Are. {As in: what that even means, how to figure out “where” your student is, why it is important to teach in this way, both for the evolution of their practice and the growth of your business.}

I LOVE teaching Observations and Assessment Skills so you can create super specific sessions for your clients right on the spot!

What bolsters this information really well is a deeper knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics.

In the spirit of that, today I will recommend all my favorite functional movement and anatomy teachers that you guys should be following! Some of them have teacher trainings, and those will be amazing to take when you have the time and the financial resources. But many of the teachers I recommend have tons and tons of free resources, in the form of podcasts and blog posts. There are many ways to slowly and steadily increase your anatomy, physiology and biomechanics knowledge without spending any money!

If you just sign up for these people’s email lists, read their blogs and listen to their podcasts your teaching will change and deepen for the better.

First up, Katy Bowman of Nutritious Movement. No one has changed how I think about movement, exercise and the body more quickly than she did. She has a hilarious podcast, Katy Says, and she blogs regularly as well. Her books have tons of corrective exercises that will be helpful for private yoga teachers.

My own anatomy teacher Jason Ray Brown has a wonderful teacher training, but he also has an awesome blog with tons of super specific anatomy focused articles just for yoga teachers. Here and here are some of my favorites articles he has written.

I love the way yoga teacher and biomechanist Jenni Rawlings is questioning the yoga status quo with questions like, “are some movements inherently bad?” She and I agree, no natural human movement is inherently bad!

My good friend Diana Zotos is a yoga teacher and physical therapist and she has SO MUCH to offer our community! She has an advanced teacher training she teaches in NYC and London, but she will also be releasing an amazing video library of 60+ videos with really simple yoga-inspired physical therapy exercises you can use with your clients. Stay tuned for that, coming soon! {If you get on her list, you won’t miss it!}

One of my very favorite movement related podcasts is Liberated Body with rolfer Brooke Thomas. Brooke is smart and thoughtful and has amazing teachers on her show. I always learn so much when I listen to it. {Bonus, I LOVE listening to podcasts while I’m driving, doing the dishes or rolling my glutes out on a tennis ball. Killing a whole bunch of birds with one stone is one of my favorite pastimes.}

While we are on the topic of podcasts, don’t miss Yoga and Beyond with my friend, yoga teacher and movement geek,  Ariana Rabinovitch. She gets amazing teachers on her show and always asks them exactly what I would want to. She also is working on a series of books exposing common yoga myths. This is not to be missed!

{Between Katy Says, The Liberated Body and Yoga & Beyond podcasts there are more than 150 episodes to listen to if you go all the way back to the beginning, and I recommend you do! That should keep you busy for plenty of long walks and dish cleaning and tennis ball rolling.}

I am a big fan of Jules Mitchell and the decidedly science-y tone she is finally bringing to the conversations yogis are having about the benefits and risks of an asana practice. Get on her email list so you don’t miss a blog post. {Bonus, she doesn’t send out too many emails!}

Leslie Kaminoff is a wonderful leader in our yoga community and no one teaches about breath and pranayama like he does. Soak up as much from him as you can. This article about Leslie sums up so well many of my own theories about teaching.

Mr Fascia, Tom Meyers, has some neat resources on his website in addition to information about his books and trainings.

I am DYING to do a Dissection Workshop with Gil Hedley, but it hasn’t worked out for me yet!

I don’t have much personal experience with Yoga Tune Up practice but several teachers whom I love and trust {and who work for me} LOVE Yoga Tune Up, and have used this practice with fantastic success with our clients. People love it, and I respect the ideas it is founded on!

I love Amy Mathews’ approach to embodied asana, and she teaches regular weekly classes in NYC. If you live there, go see her!

{NOTE: This is by no means an entirely comprehensive list. I am sure I left out a bunch of wonderful people. These are just my favorites. I would love to hear from you though! Who do you love learning from?}

And one last thing before I let you go my loves. If I could impart all of you with anything, it would be this:

I wish for you the ability to look critically at your own teaching without beating up on yourself.

I wish for you the desire to learn more and to become a better teachers without being crippled by anxiety.

Our students DESPERATELY need us to be able to do that.

THE YOGA COMMUNITY AT LARGE needs yoga teachers who care about their craft, are aware of the holes in our education and continuously work to better our teaching. We all ALSO need teachers to BELIEVE STRONGLY in their abilities and the importance of all the amazing practices that can help transform our world so in need of them. This means that teachers CANNOT hide their light and teachings under the blanket of FEAR.

We have to have the STRENGTH to look really critically at our own teaching {and the holes in our education} WITHOUT being crippled by self doubt. That doesn’t serve anyone.

Does is it feel like I am yelling? That is because I am and because I LOVE YOU and because this is so important to me.

Okay, now go and roll your feet out on a tennis ball, listen to one of these fun podcasts and get back to me and let me know if it has been helpful.


19 Responses to “We Finally Address the Elephant in the Room: a list of my favorite anatomy and biomechanics teachers”

  1. Katja

    Super helpful and interesting post, Francesca! Thank you for sharing. (The dissection workshop is on my yoga bucket list, too. :))

  2. Kristi Smith

    My first (and only) private client came shortly after I finished teacher training (she found me via my old yoga blog (I’m now blogging about food and not yoga, lol)). She was 80 years old and had debilitating scoliosis. Talk about fear! Her mobility was so limited that we did very little in terms of traditional asana, and those we did were heavily modified. That experience led me to realize just how unprepared I was to teach yoga (I have had a personal practice since 2002), and I pulled my services listing from my blog. I feel like my teacher training couldn’t possibly cover the necessary info in the short amount of time allotted, and what was covered wasn’t necessarily info that would have helped me teach someone like my client. My own yoga career aspirations came to a halt due to fear, and so this post really resonates with me. Thank you, Francesca!

    • Francesca Cervero

      Hi Kristi! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences here. Is your new website called Figs and Chevre?? That is so cute!

      Yes, I agree that with only a 200 hour teacher training, you were not prepared to safely teach a student like you describe. But that does’t mean that you never will or never should! With a little more training or research or experience the options you have to teach and to serve are endless.

      You also should know how imperfect I am as a teacher. Even after all my thousands of hours of trainings and many thousands of hours of teaching experience {it must be close to 10,000 hours now} I still have so much to learn.

      Some of the best advice I can give to a teacher who is newer on their path is to keep it simple. Keep your teaching simple, keep your class plans simple, keep your themes simple. Don’t worry about being fancy or new or reinventing the wheel. Keep your teaching simple so you can focus on what is important and spend your extra time learning and researching, rather than planning.

      Lastly, I am not sure if this is what you need to hear, but in case it is:

      If you are feeling vulnerable or unsure of yourself you are not alone.
      {and this BUT is HUGE}
      You cannot dwell on your imperfections because it will get in the way of your learning and THAT will keep you from offering your best to your students.
      As Liz Gilbert says,
      ONWARD my loves.

      • Kristi

        Hi Francesca! Yes, my new site is called Figs & Chèvre! And, thanks 🙂

        I think I jumped the gun a bit with that one client, which made me realize that I wasn’t yet ready to teach. I re-evaluated why I enrolled in teacher training in the first place, and I remembered that it was solely to deepen my own practice. I would love to re-explore teaching at some point, though.

        Thanks for the advice and your reply! They are both very helpful 🙂 And, I think that what you said about not dwelling on your imperfections applies to EVERYTHING in life! It’s seriously spot on. Thanks!

      • Francesca Cervero

        All totally makes sense Kristi. Sending you love on your path! <3

  3. Marco

    “wish for you the ability to look critically at your own teaching without beating up on yourself.

    I wish for you the desire to learn more and to become a better teachers without being crippled by anxiety.”

    I wish this was easy to do 🙂 specially when you are a perfectionist. This has been probably the main obstacle to my teaching practice, always postponing till I feel I know better. I try to do it anyway but that thought is always in the background creating some anxiety or insecurity.

    And being injured doesn’t help either. For different unknown reasons my body has become so stiff instead of more flexible. I know is not that important but still the thought is there “how can I teach yoga when I can’t even touch my toes?”

    Maybe this is something you can talk about on your next blog. And thanks for the amazing list, which reminds me again that I have so much more to learn! Lol

    • Francesca Cervero

      Yes yes yes Marco. I understand. I am not at all suggesting it is easy. I am just saying that it is possible.
      These are all blog posts that I think might help you quite a bit:

      Having a healthy body is not a requirement to be a yoga teacher. None of us will be healthy all the time, but we will always be teachers. I think what is going on in your body is an amazing opportunity to learn more. Is there something about the way that you are practicing that is making you feel more stiff? Is being more stiff even a problem? Hyper-mobility can be extremely dangerous, and for many of us, it is healthier and better to work to get stronger {and sometimes even “tighter”} that to constantly be working for more more more range of motion.

      Does that make sense?
      I know how hard this can all feel. Sending you so much love on your path.

  4. Jenni Rawlings

    I am so honored that you included me on your amazing list of recommended resources, Francesca! I know and admire the work of every single person on this list and am so thankful that our yoga community has them all as wonderful sources of information for our practice and teaching. Just for the record, I’m a yoga teacher and a definite body geek, but I’m not a biomechanist (I noticed you included that in my description – just FYI. 🙂 ) Also, I’m thrilled to know that you appreciated my recent “Are Some Movements Inherently Bad?” article. No natural human movement is inherently bad, right? 🙂 Thanks again SO much! I look forward to reading more posts from you.

    • Francesca Cervero

      I am so happy to be connected with you Jenni! I love the work you are doing! And sorry about the incorrect introduction…thanks for clarifying. I just saw the mini online anatomy workshops you have on your site. So smart and helpful. I will have to check those out! <3

  5. Antonia

    Great list, thank you for compiling! Another great resource for folks, when time and money come together, is the Yoga for Seniors training with Kimberly Carson and Carol Krucoff at Duke Center for Integrative Medicine. Made a huge difference for my sense of confidence in bringing yoga to older and de conditioned seniors. Love the advice to keep learning. Most important. Thanks again!

  6. Lisa Harris

    Hi Francesca, I just had to comment on how disappointed I am that you mentioned Yoga Tune Up in the particular fashion that you did. While your opinion is absolutely valid, mentioning it in the way you did will probably dissuade your followers from checking out what is one of the most comprehensive programs out there for learning about the body and how to teach from an embodied anatomical, biomechanical perspective. The Yoga Tune Up community are active followers of all of the other wonderful teachers you mentioned and the content of our classes brings all of their work in as well. Yoga Tune Up training is an excellent way to gain the skill and confidence needed to teach informed movement in today’s yoga culture.
    I’m so happy that you are spreading the word about so many of the key wonderful yoga/movement teachers out there!

    • Francesca Cervero

      I am so glad you mentioned this Lisa!! It is by no means my intention to dissuade people from studying this wonderful method. As I said, I have immense respect for the ideas it is founded on, and I have seen it work wonders with clients. I just meant to be truthful, I have not had wonderful experiences with it for my physical body. But the other part of that truth is that I haven’t had much experience with it at all. I will make a tiny edit in the post to reflect both parts of that truth. Thanks again for brining this to my attention. I have so much respect for you, and all the other Yoga Tune Up teachers I know! I would never want to offend anyone. Thanks // Love. <3

  7. bridget

    Can we have an honest discussion about people who have tricked the public into thinking they are anatomy experts, by being intentionally vague or misleading about their education?
    Lets start with Amy Matthews & Leslie Kaminoff & Jason Ray Brown.

  8. Jen O

    Hi –

    To add to your list: Paul Grilley. While he’s better known for yin yoga, his real wheelhouse is functional anatomy. Paul’s trainings fill up quickly but he has a DVD that’s been around for years and another one is due out any time now.

    And Paul’s student Bernie Clark also recently published the first couple of volumes of his book “Your Body, Your Yoga” which closely follows what Paul teaches, but then goes into way more detail. This book is so incredibly comprehensive – I really think it’s required reading for all yoga teachers.


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