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Do Yoga Teachers Need to Know Anatomy? Yes, All 3 Types

Reading Time: 5 minutes

DATE: 2023-06-21

There are certain things you need to know as a yoga teacher. You must know how to cue a student into a specific yoga posture (asana), for instance. An understanding of meditation and breathing is also important. But what about anatomy? Do you need knowledge in this area as well?

Do Yoga Teachers Need to Know Anatomy?

In short, the answer is yes. A yoga teacher must have anatomy knowledge, like any other fitness instructor. You must understand what each body part does and how they are connected. This knowledge can then be used to create a safe, effective yoga practice.

Not knowing anatomy as a yoga teacher is like not understanding food as a chef. A good chef knows that you must sear meat at high temps to lock in the moisture. If you don’t, you’re left with dry, lackluster food. If you don’t have anatomy knowledge as a yoga teacher, you can wind up creating a lackluster yoga class.

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3 Types of Anatomy It’s Important for a Yoga Teacher to Know

Let’s take this one step further. Not only is it important that yoga instructors know anatomy, but they must know the three different types:

  • basic anatomy of the human body 

  • functional anatomy, or the anatomy of movement

  • yoga anatomy

The Importance of Human Anatomy Knowledge 

Basic human anatomy involves studying the various organs and systems. Areas important to yoga include the skeletal system, muscles, and joints. Knowledge of these topics helps you understand how certain poses impact the body. It becomes easier to grasp how Cat-Cow pose stretches the neck and back, for instance. And you can more easily see how Pigeon pose could help improve hip mobility.

Understanding the physical makeup of the body also helps reduce injury risk. You become aware of muscle and joint limitations. This keeps you from extending them too far when doing poses. You also know what contributes to muscle tightness. This helps you create a sequence that can help the muscle (and yoga student) relax. It also tells you which poses to avoid or when bolsters might be needed.

Plus, the more you know about anatomy, the greater your ability to pass this knowledge on to your students. You’re able to educate your student as to why a specific posture or movement is beneficial to them. This encourages them to develop a regular practice that boosts their health and wellness.

Why Functional Anatomy Knowledge is Critical Too

People have postural patterns. These patterns refer to how we move based on our body’s structure and life experiences. An example is always throwing with your right hand versus your left. Or maybe your right calf muscle is weaker than your left due to a previous injury.

Understanding the mechanics of physical movement helps yoga teachers create effective yoga classes. You’re able to develop sequences that align with the student’s movement patterns. And you can design sequences to help improve these patterns through asana practice.

If a student’s functional movement is severely restricted or dysfunctional, physical therapy may be needed. Knowledge of anatomy helps you understand when this type of referral is important. This enables you to provide students with more benefits.

The Third Type of Anatomy: Yoga Anatomy

In addition to basic and functional anatomy, it’s also important for a yoga teacher to understand yoga anatomy. This involves anatomy as it relates to yoga specifically. It includes knowledge of how each yoga pose impacts the body.

Every part of the human body is impacted by yoga. At the same time, each pose affects it differently. Understanding yoga anatomy helps you develop sequences for certain purposes. You might select certain poses to include in an active recovery class, for example. Or you could use your knowledge of yoga anatomy to design a class for certain demographics. You might offer yoga for seniors or expecting mothers.

How a Yoga Instructor Can Learn More About Anatomy 

One way to increase your knowledge of anatomy is by researching it online. Look up “anatomy of the body” and you’ll get over a billion results. The National Library of Medicine is a trusted source. On its anatomy page, you’ll find links to learn more about body basics, anatomy, and physiology (1). (Physiology deals with the function of living organisms and how they work.)

Encyclopedia Britannica is another. On its human body page, you’ll learn all about various bodily systems, chemical composition, and more (2). If you learn best by seeing, this page also includes images. That makes it easier for you to put this information into context. 

Another option is to take a yoga teacher training course. Yoga teacher training provides foundational knowledge in all three anatomy types. It also includes instruction in other topics important to a yoga teacher. You learn about the history of yoga and yoga philosophy. It also covers how to break down poses when teaching them to a yoga practitioner.

Yoga teacher training also provides tips for how to build and grow a business. You learn how to market your classes to potential students. It discusses liability insurance and student waivers. Some even provide access to yoga client intake forms.

Taking teacher training can be helpful for new yoga instructors. It helps you build your knowledge and skills. Training can also be beneficial for more experienced teachers who’ve never gone through it. Certainly, the course will cover some topics you don’t know or aren’t familiar with. 

Completion of this course also provides greater credibility. Most teacher training courses come with yoga instructor certification. Being a certified yoga teacher tells prospective students that you know how to help them develop a regular practice. It also differentiates you from other instructors who aren’t certified. This gives you a step ahead of your competition.

If the teacher training course is approved by the Yoga Alliance, you are eligible to become a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). This designation offers another layer of credibility to you as a yoga instructor. 

If You’re Not Interested in Anatomy, Is Becoming a Yoga Teacher the Right Choice for You?

Like with any profession, there are pros and cons to teaching yoga. So, it’s more about deciding whether this is the right career path for you.

If you’re not interested in anatomy, this doesn’t mean that you should count yoga teaching out. Sometimes it helps to shift your perspective. Instead of looking at anatomy as a boring topic, start thinking about your own body. Become curious about how it works. Notice how the bones and muscles work together in unison. Consider the role each plays as you practice each yoga asana.

Even if this doesn’t stoke your anatomy interest, that’s okay too. Just remember that the more you understand how the body works, the greater your ability to help your students. And the lower your risk of injuring them during the process. This makes learning about anatomy important to becoming a safe, effective yoga teacher. 

If you’re ready to take the next step, the ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy offers a Yoga 200 course. This yoga teacher training is approved by the Yoga Alliance. It is a 200-hour online course that includes access to a weekly virtual study studio. Together, this provides the knowledge and skills needed to be a successful yoga teacher.


  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Anatomy. MedlinePlus. Retrieved April 14, 2023, from https://medlineplus.gov/anatomy.html 

  2. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Human body. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 14, 2023, from https://www.britannica.com/science/human-body


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