"dispel from your mind the thought that an understanding of the human body in every aspect of its structure can be given in words..."
Leonardo da Vinci
I have been fascinated with the human body longer than I have been a teacher of yoga. Before yoga my interest was an aesthetic, or perhaps a soulful, one.
My teaching has a reputation of being 'geeky'. We pay precise attention to the the smallest details in the body. Attention and language can be sharp and fine as a scalpel. I've been told I render bones and guts into beautiful territory and make myself a tour guide. I am proud of this; I want to be known for an understanding and fascination with the human body. I want to help people feel their way into their own fascination. Though I talk of bones and joints and muscles and metabolisms, my interest is still rendered to soul. It's still heartfelt.
By which I mean I've enjoyed teaching most when students say they feel things they didn't know how to feel before. I am moved when students are surprised by their own strength - or the very notion that they might be strong. I am touched humble when people find something in their own body that feels like grace, or relief, or discovery.
I am fascinated by the way human beings - alone on this planet - are artists, dancers, government makers, philosophers and farmers, city builders, resentment holders, prayers. We are both animal and mineral, stuff like the rest of the planet, and we are something else.
Perhaps angelic. Self-recognizing. Self-aware. Cognizant.
I am interested in the human body precisely because I'm interested in what makes human beings humane. The human body is the playground of art, dance, ceremony, war, and tattoos. We are born and we die, both of which remain largely mysterious, but between the two mysteries there is a thing we each do, uniquely, called 'self'. We have a 'life'. Whatever we do, whoever we are, our lives take place within a certain context. A form. A body.
Anatomy is not necessarily an answer so much as it is a way of asking. It implies precision, curiosity, respect and understanding, a body of knowledge. I am interested in the anatomy of human beings, the pathways and potentials of movement, the press of the lung, the spurge of the heart, the smooth length of bone. But I am also interested in the anatomy of emotion, the biology of love, the map and language of instinct. Anatomy is a science but it is also an art. The body is both general and individual. There is anatomy to the story of human thought, the bones of human hurt, and the spine of human morality.
Becoming a yoga teacher opened my private, poetic, yearning kind of questions to a new language. Science. Physical hard sciences. Biology. Chemistry. Evolution. Medicine. These things terrified me. I am, for the most part, uneducated. I never took algebra, let alone chemistry or biology. I only nominally have a high school diploma. Anatomy brought to light how uneducated I am and that stung. It frightened. In my fascination and terror I studied hard and read wide.
Maybe I became a geeky yoga teacher precisely because I am uneducated; the conflict and meld of traditions comes naturally to me. The conflict. The meld. I understand science as a thing of flesh, and of poetry. I don't approach science from a place of 'understanding' or mastery, but confusion and question. I've found science and anatomy to be pathways to growth, skill, competency, clarity. Clarity is precious and so I continue to study hard and read wide.