Dear Yoga Teacher,
Do you see your student in a forward fold with limited range of motion and immediately assume, “oh their hamstrings are tight?!” You might be right, but it’s a limited and short sighted assumption.
We can’t look at the body in isolation. We can’t look at the hamstrings and say “they are tight” without considering the rest of the body and it’s amazing connections.
Often people who appear to have tight hamstrings are actually adhered in the plantar fascia of their feet. That’s right! “Tight feet” can equal restriction in the entire backside of the body, hamstrings included! But the work would then begin at the feet. I love anatomy! Work the feet to loosen the fascial pull in hamstrings and range of motions increases! Now this certainly isn’t a rule, but it’s a possibility. My example is meant to expand your mind to looking at the body as a whole instead of isolated segments.
Here’s another example, a student comes to you and complains of having a “tight IT Band”. I’ve heard lots of teachers recommend foam rolling it to provide relief. The truth is if someone’s IT Band is already bothering them, foam rolling will likely aggravate it more. This is where anatomy matters. The entire upper leg (quad, hamstrings, and adductors) are all encased in what is called the “Fascia Lata”. Consider it like Saran Wrap surrounding the entire upper leg. The IT Band is a part of the “Fascia Lata” or the “Saran wrapping”, it’s just simply a thickened portion of it. So if someone is having pain in the IT band- look elsewhere. Often there is some imbalance somewhere else in the upper leg causing a “pull” or “strain” to the IT Band. The quads and Hams can be adhered to IT Band. You might also consider the calf, knee, and outer hip as parts that may influence the IT Band.
Anatomy matters. Looking at the body as a whole matters. It matters for the sake of our profession of for the health of your students.
If anatomy seems daunting and overwhelming, I suggest take it little by little. Learn a little each day and before long you’ll know more than you did today.