A lot of yoga instructors have recently been asking me about the books I have read to educate myself about functional anatomy. Let me tell you, it’s been a long journey, and it’s far from over. I took the blue pill a while back when it comes to the latest anatomical research, and have not turned back. We have discovered so much about connective tissue, fascia, and how they relate to anatomy and movement in the last few years. If all of your anatomy and physiology learning is from a college textbook, I can tell you as a college professor that it is completely outdated, both in content and paradigms of how we view the body.
As yogis, we inherently know and understand this deficiency in the knowledge base, because we see the results of moving the body in more common sense ways, but up until recently, we haven’t had the research, terminology, and models to both explain and elucidate what we already know to be true. Now we do. However, it is just the beginning. The books I present here will be considered as the classical functional anatomy texts twenty to thirty years from now as we learn even more, but the beauty is that they provide the necessary paradigm shift to lay the groundwork for the upcoming research.
Written by a highly trained, experienced, and seasoned yoga instructor, this book offers the most complete introduction and application of the concept of fascia, functional anatomy, and movement for the yoga instructor. Joanne Avison does an amazingly thorough job of weaving together the history, models, and explanations of fascia and how to practically apply this knowledge in creating yoga classes with a more solid foundation and understanding of the human body. Her book is so pivotal, that I will be adopting it as the de-facto textbook for my 100-hour certification course.
Thomas W. Myers
Thomas Myers has spent countless hours with some of the greatest scholars doing original cadaver dissections that pay attention and preserve the “stuff” that used to be discarded in classical anatomical education – the connective tissue and fascia. This has led to the creation of a new paradigm of continuous fascial planes or “trains” as he calls them. He has documented and illustrated 12 different anatomy trains along with a definition of how he arrived at these distinctions. Interestingly, this model lines up fairly well with an understanding of why acupuncture meridians line up the way they do and how they might work physiologically. The book is thorough and creates a new model and basis for thinking about posture and movement; however, it can be too thorough and difficult to digest. It is worth having in the library though as a primary reference. The current edition is the third edition.
David H. Coulter
This award-winning book is one of the most thorough accounts of musculoskeletal anatomy as it relates to yoga poses. Updated in 2010 (Revised Edition), it catalogs all of the basic yoga poses and how muscles interact with bones and the nervous system. This book is great as a reference though incomplete in its scope as it does not consider in current level of detail the connective tissue and fascia as associated with movement and posture. The classic model of individual muscles attaching to bones is still a sufficient foundation and one that I still use in teaching my courses before making the paradigm shift to functional muscle groups as associated with fascial planes.
Gray Cook is a physical therapist that has solidified two systems for assessing movement issues with the goal of injury prevention and injury assessment. His Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is a series of seven foundational body movements that, if instructed correctly and consistently, do a faithful job of screening for injury risk. He has proven his methodology with top athletic programs and individual athletes. The premise is that highly skilled movements are built on top of foundational movements that provide a base of mobility, stability, and strength in the body. Sometimes, skilled movements can look normal while foundational movements may be eroding and going largely unnoticed until the point of injury.
The FMS is also a very helpful tool for the yoga instructor to walk the fine line between when to work with a client therapeutically and when it is time for a clinical assessment by a licensed healthcare professional. I also include the fundamentals of this screening system as well as yoga poses and movements that can be used to correct some of the deficiencies in my certification courses.
This first edition book is another foundational work on connective tissue and fascia that provides a slightly different model than the one presented in Myers’ Anatomy Trains. It serves as a great reference with stunning microscopic and anatomical images and illustrations. Think of it as the missing chapter in your standard anatomy and physiology textbook that covers the entire fascial system as another organ system in the body. I use this book regularly in my course design.
Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body - Robert Schleip, Thomas W. Fendley, Leon Chaitow, Peter A. Huijing
Robert Schleip, Thomas W. Fendley, Leon Chaitow, Peter A. Huijing
This book is the big daddy/momma of all the current knowledge regarding fascia as a cornerstone to functional anatomy. A compilation of three recent worldwide fascial congresses, this book has both basic information and clinical application/techniques as well as a discussion about fascia from every perspective you could possibly imagine including basic science, models, theories, treatments, diseases, and disorders. Though not designed as a textbook, I would consider it as a gold standard in information regarding fascia. There is even a chapter on utilizing yoga for fascial therapy (chapter 7.23).
The biggest challenge that I have had in recommending these books is that the yogis that have picked up and read a few of them describe them as fascinating and comprehensive, but voluminous and hard to digest. Trust me, I have had to read some of these two or three times before I was able to make sense of some of the content, and I have a doctoral degree. Don’t worry. With the right tools, foundation, and guidance, these books can serve as great resources, especially for a yoga instructor.
So read with an open heart and mind, and feel free to post your own reviews and questions below. Also, please share any additional books that you have found useful so we can grow this reading list together. I am here to serve…