Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews Review

Review - Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews
Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews. Courtesy of

This book will change your life.

Ok, maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but it will change the way you look at yoga poses. You've felt them in your body, maybe your teachers have explained what's going on inside, but actually seeing the interior workings illustrated offers a whole new level of understanding, especially if you are a visual learner.  ​Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews' Yoga Anatomy (first published in 2007, second edition 2012) offers a truly unique opportunity to look at yoga poses from the inside out, thanks in no small part to the work of medical illustrator Sharon Ellis.

Kaminoff is the founder and director of The Breathing Project, a yoga studio in New York focused on breath-centered practice, and is an expert in yoga and breath anatomy. Matthews also works at The Breathing Project, is a Laban Movement Analyst, and teaches Body-Mind Centering, all of which means she knows a lot about yoga and movement. With these two experts at the helm, the introductory chapters covering the dynamics of breathing, the workings of the spine, the skeleton, and the muscular system of the body are informative and accessible. 

What Makes This Book Different?

The illustrations of yoga poses are what really makes this book special. In a multi-step process, each asana was first photographed. These photos were used as a reference by Ellis as she posed a skeleton to match the postures and then drew the bones by hand. The muscles and other anatomical details were added using a computer. As a final step, the muscles most involved in each pose were highlighted. The result is a wonderful combination of a photorealistic drawing and an X-ray, which work beautifully to expose exactly what's going on inside.

This book answers the question "What muscles are used in this pose?" for more than 60 of yoga's most commonly taught asanas. The chance to see inside the poses is a great tool for yoga teachers and students at all levels. Detailed written explanations of how the body is working in each pose as well as breathing instructions further illuminate the subject. 

In the second edition, the authors expanded their introductory chapters with more information on the spine, the bandhas, and the musculoskeletal system. It also includes more illustrations, more poses, and more variations, making it about 50 pages longer than the first edition. 

I have a lot of yoga books, but Yoga Anatomy is the one I find myself reaching for most often because it's offering something that I'm not getting anywhere else. Attending class regularly and using this book when questions arise is my recipe for a really solid yoga foundation. Yoga Anatomy is an invaluable addition to any yogi's library.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher.