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The Best Skeletal Anatomy DVD on the Market
on August 29, 2005
Paul Grilley has made a name (sometimes infamously) for himself in the Yoga community with this informative DVD on anatomy and Yoga. Grilley is a proponent of "Yin Yoga," an approach to practice that focuses on long, passive stretches as a way to gently mold the muscular, ligamentous, and fascial tissue into a more pliable state. His anatomy DVD comes out of that conception of the human body, which will fascinate some and irk others.
The main component of the DVD is a lucid exploration of anatomy through two major themes: compression and tension. Tension is something that most of us are familiar with: relative tightness or tone of a muscle. Most yoga practices focus on "tensile" stretching, which seeks to lengthen and stretch the belly of the muscle to create greater flexibility. Because of this, according to Grilley, most Yoga practitioners ignore the "compression" aspects of a practice. Compression occurs when two surfaces (bones, soft tissue, body mass, etc) "hit" in such a way that more movement is not possible. Compression, Grilley argues, has more of an impact in practice than we would normally think, leading to frustration as we try to go "deeper" into poses, thinking that the restraint is muscular. Occasionally, Grilley says, this is really boney or structural blockages, and this is something we will not be able to get around.
The DVD journeys joint by joint through the body, with Grilley providing a number of excellent examples through audience members . Each person demonstrates either an extraordinary amount of mobility or an equal extraordinary lack of it. Both are fascinating, especially as the models take some classic "problem" poses, such as Urdhva Danurasana (Wheel), Adho Mukha Svasasana (Downward Facing Dog), and Virabhadrasana B (Warrior II). Yoga instructors will find their jaws hanging in amazement as seemly intractable problems with students become instantaneously more clear: it's not the muscles, it's the bones! Any yoga instructor worth their salt will watch this DVD and immediately apply its principles to the ways they approach asana practice, and such thorny areas as hands-on adjustments in particular poses.
A part that may irk some teachers is his presentation of hypermobility in certain joints (elbows and knees) as being natural, and one that should be exploited. One can almost hear that agonized yells of exercise science graduates, for whom the idea if nearly heretical, if not downright dangerous. However, Grilley's thoughts on the issue are sound: why shouldn't people explore, in their own practice, their range of motion, regardless if hyper or hypomobile. I do not think that Grilley is suggesting that people should lose their ability to control these joints through muscular ability, which is the primary concern of exercise science. Instead, he is focusing on the capacity as no more or naturally than "average" mobility or hypomobility.
Grilley's excellent presentation, humor, and use of real-live models demonstrating hyper- and hypomobile ranges of motion make this one of the most immediately practical tools on the market. This is an essential part of any practicing Yogis library, and indispensable for teachers.