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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.
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on September 22, 2005
Paul Grilley has given me an entirely new outlook on yoga and why someone like me (who is fairly flexible to begin with) cannot do lotus pose easily...while my husband who (along with other muscles)has the tightest hamstrings on the planet, can do it with ease. It's all in your bones! If you are a teacher, serious yoga practitioner, or just would like to understand why you and some of your yogi counterparts differ so dramatically in the appearance of your must own a copy of this dvd.

We have to stop beating ourselves up for not looking a certain way during our yoga practice, and start tuning into ourselves, and the sensations achieved rather than aesthetics.

Have confidence in exploring your own full range of motion, while always being aware of the 2 major limitations explored on this it tension (muscular) or compression (skeletal). Tuning into these sensations can make all the difference, and allow you to explore modifications, or alternate postures altogether.

Paul Grilley is a very thorough presenter, and very easy to listen to and learn from.

They say you usually retain 10-15% of what you hear in a lecture, I retained at least 90% of what I heard in Paul's demonstrations.

I highly recommend this dvd for yoga practitioners of all levels.
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on November 19, 2005
Solid, clearly presented anatomical breakdown of yoga postures, free of dogma and jargon, yet respectful of yoga (and Taoist) philosophies and the concepts of yin and yang qualities in relation to the yoga practice.

Most importantly Grilley separates limitations in range of motion into two kinds: Muscular tension (changeable with practice) and skeletal compression...i.e. one bone meeting another and stopping motion at that point (fixed).

Key poses are performed by students with a wide range of body types and bone structure in order to demonstrate how this comes into play in postures involving pivotal joints (shoulders, neck, pelvis, spine, etc.)

Overall, Grilley's theories about working within the unique body to create a suitable personal practice present yoga (rightly) as inclusive and liberating as opposed to fixed, systematic and binding.
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on December 28, 2006
I started doing yoga 3.5 years ago. Because I needed to use so many props, I stopped for a period of time to focus on increase my upper body strength. After watching this video, I realized that, while the weight-training did help, the CORE of my problem was short arms and short legs...relative to my torso! I will ALWAYS need props (blocks) when doing yoga simply because of my body proportions. I also realized that I will NEVER be able to do certain poses (such as headstands)...again, because of physical proportions (arm length) and lack of adequate neck extension relative to arm length. With the information in this dvd, I was able to immediately modify my power yoga in a way (using props) that allowed me to get the maximum benefit of various poses without feeling that I was 'cheating'! While I recommend this dvd to everyone doing yoga, I especially recommend it to individuals who have short arms/legs! With blocks, I can now maximize the benefit I get when doing my poses!

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on June 5, 2011
I will start out letting the reader know that I am a very new practitioner of yoga; I've been at this for about four weeks.

I would recommend any person starting out in yoga (or any sport) should view the DVD Anatomy for Yoga with Paul Grilley. This excellent video gave me worlds of insight into how the bones work (or don't).

It has greatly improved my approach to some of the yoga poses. And though I have far to go before I get past tension and face compression, I am now able to practice yoga mindful of not just what the muscles and tendons are doing, but what the bones are doing. I can now really focus on what the pose is meant to achieve and....

Well, I don't know how to explain it, but there's just something about knowing what the bones are up to that helps. Perhaps it's that it lays to rest a bit of the mystery of what's happening to the body and thus some of that restraining fear dissapates allowing a freer yoga practice.

I suppose once I have been doing yoga awhile and am in a 'different place' I will use the tools Mr Grilley's DVD has given me in different ways, but for now it's simply comforting to know my bones a little better!

While compression/tension was a main focus, the section on proportion was eye-opening as well. I sort of had a 'thing' about using props because I thought 'hey, if I use a crutch, I'll never improve.' Wrong! What a sad misunderstanding of what props are! Now my little blocks sit right next to my mat waiting to make my short little arms a little longer so I can properly achieve triangle pose.

I almost wish this video were titled 'Bones: A DVD for people who have them.' It seems such a shame that this DVD's title might limit it to people who practice yoga. Everyone should watch it!
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on February 25, 2007
This is a wonderful DVD for yoga practitioners. First, anatomical knowledge is benefitial for yoga practice because it explains what each pose does, what it's supposed to do, and how to prevent harm. Second, Grilley's view that everyone's different is valuable in a competitive society, where everyone wants to be the same. Accepting ourselves, our good and bad qualities, is something that yoga helps with. To be dogmatic about yoga may be contradictory. So, Grilley's words are both insightful and reassuring. Fighting what nature gave is futile. Work with what you've got, not against it. I feel I understand my limitations better.
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on October 12, 2006
I agree that this DVD does gloss over a lot, and is hardly authoritative, but, it's a DVD not 14-week college course. Given the time restraints, I think this DVD does provide a great deal of useful insight. I think his technique of using live models of different body types really helps the viewer retain the key points he's making. I think some of the areas are more complicated that he's got time to address -- in particular hip rotation -- but no one would watch, let alone buy, a 12-hour dvd set. As it is, it's the best 2-hour introduction (or is it 3?) to anatomy for yoga that i've come across. Of course any yoga teacher interested in this approach should also have the Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, a book which will take you way, way more than 2 hours to read.
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on October 16, 2006
Having just completed my Level II yoga certification, I purchased several books and DVDs regarding anatomy to prepare for the certification test. This DVD was the most helpful. Paul Grilley does a nice job of making the material clear and memorable through words and with students modeling the different concepts he is presenting. Clear, enjoyable and educational.
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on July 17, 2010
In many of the reviews many people recommend this as a must for Yoga instructors, but it is as important, if not more important for students to see it. You are the only one that can really tell how your body works and feels. It's important that you know what it is, exactly, that you are feeling. This DVD, is a must see for anyone practicing Yoga, teacher or student. Despite the name, and length, this is not a complete anatomy, but a skeleton anatomy. At first you may wonder why you need to know about the skeletal anatomy. The reason is, that is what ultimately restricts your movement. Tight muscles and connective tissue will stretch over time, but your skeletal structure will remain the same, and you need to work around it. If you try to push pass the restrictions of your skeletal system, you could seriously injure yourself. And that is the whole point of this DVD, to learn what is simply tension that can be worked through, and what is compression caused by the alignments in your skeletal structure.

The DVD contains almost 4 hours of lectures divided up into sections covering the various points of movement in the body, including places that you wouldn't normally think about, like the scapula. Paul starts each section with an overview of what he is going to be covering in each section, then gets into more detailed discussion. He explains the difference between tension, and compression, and how you can tell the difference, so that you don't injure yourself, and get the most out of your Yoga practice. He show how the different joints work, using a model skeleton, and how minor changes in the bone and joints can affect the way the joints move. He then brings up people with differing skeletal structures to show the types of restrictions that you would see in the joints and how they would look in different poses. This is immensely helpful, especially for people new to Yoga. If you are just trying to look like other people doing the poses, but don't understand the difference between muscle tension, and joint compression, you could hurt yourself. What Paul stresses throughout these lectures is not to worry about looking like everyone else. You need to get a feel for your body, and if you run into skeletal restrictions, you need to learn to work around them, which he also covers.

Overall this was a very interesting and informative DVD. I actually learned a lot about some points of compression that I had been fighting against thinking that it would loosen up. I am now working around those restrictions. Paul is a very good teacher and covers the subject thoroughly, while still keeping it interesting and easy to understand. By first showing how the joints work using a skeleton, and then bringing up real people to show how differing skeletal restriction actually look in certain poses, it makes it much easier to grasp the whole picture. I highly recommend this DVD for all Yoga practitioners.
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on November 3, 2012
I am a yoga instructor who teaches anywhere from 18-20 classes a week all around town. What Paul speaks of in this DVD is what I see in classes. Vastly different bodies all with differing ranges of motion and for different reasons (age, injury, bone structure, muscular restriction, facial restriction). I believe it is important as a yoga instructor to understand which of these can change and which can't and to give students safe and proper instruction on how to change what can be changed while not giving them false hope or dangerous ambitions about what can not be changed.

Also I believe it is important to recognize as Paul points out that "it is not about how it looks but about how it feels." Oddly it is the teachers I know who seem the most obsessed with "proper alignment" to supposedly keep people safe in their classes who I hear the most complaints about people getting injuries from. Work WITH your students not AT them. You can only come to understand their bodies along with their help, not by trying to shove their bodies into some idea of what you were taught in teacher training. This is a unique living human form with a history, not a piece of clay for you to mold into the perfect asana.

I wish more yoga teachers would both watch this DVD and listen to what Paul is saying. It of course makes our job as instructors harder, and takes away the false sense of control that we have that we can somehow keep people safe by saying the right words in class. Once we accept what Paul is telling us we no longer have an instant fix for every problem and we are facing the great unknown. We have to start asking questions when a student has a problem and perhaps tell a student that we don't know exactly how to help them right away. We have to allow exceptions to the "rules" and cues we use in class.

Its so funny how in yoga we are trying to get people to start being in touch with their bodies but then we insist on them ignoring what their body is telling them so they can look like they are doing the asana the way we think it should look. Again, it does not mean that it can't be better, that the first expression of a pose that they come to is ideal. You work WITH them to find the best expression of the pose that they can, but ultimately for some bodies that is going to look vastly different then what is on the cover of yoga journal. Some very basic fundamental alignment cues are just wrong for certain individuals and put an unnecessary strain on that individuals body.

To paraphrase Paul "there are exceptions to every rule" and as yoga teachers it is more challenging for us to open the pandora's box that we don't have all the answers and that people should question what we are saying if it does not work for them. The things we say to students are supposed to be helpful but we should be alert and awake enough so that we can see when an exception is staring us in the face. Trust your students, have faith in them, let them help you help them. There really is no other way.
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