Review of "Yoga Anatomy"

By Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews
Human Kinetics, 2011
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Feb 28th 2012
Yoga Anatomy

Yoga Anatomy is one of a series of anatomical guides from the Human Kinetics publishing group (additional releases include Pilates Anatomy and Stretching Anatomy).  Each manual in this series provides detailed, full-color illustrations of the muscles involved in particular movements.  What is particularly unique about the wonderful anatomical illustrations--provided here by medical illustrator Sharon Ellis--is that they are based on photographs of actual yoga poses, some of which were shot from above or below as the yoga models perched on a suspended piece of acrylic (see Page 68 of the text for details).

 This 2011 version of Yoga Anatomy is actually a second edition.  The original Yoga Anatomy was released in 2007 and gave credit only to first author Leslie Kaminoff on the cover, although the co-author, Amy Matthews, was credited on the title page (along with illustrator Ellis) for "asana analysis."  Kaminoff is a self-described yoga educator:  he is co-founder of The Breathing Project, a New York-based yoga studio, and is well-known in the field for promoting therapeutic uses of yoga.  Matthews is a movement instructor holding several certifications in complimentary fields, including somatic movement and yoga therapy. 

In his Preface, Kaminoff notes that this latest version builds on the success of the original by adding in material that was deleted from the first edition due to space constraints.  This includes two brand-new chapters by Matthews; Kaminoff points out that the asana sections have been completely revised by Matthews as well.  These updates, along with new indexes and other improvements, add significantly to the overall volume of Yoga Anatomy, Second Edition, bringing the new text to 276 pages (up from the original 221).

The first part of this book forms a relatively brief but intensive lesson in anatomy, focusing on the movements and functions most relevant to yoga practice.  Kaminoff opens with a chapter on "Dynamics of Breathing," which details the way the breath moves through the body, particularly the actions of the diaphragm.  Next is "Yoga and the Spine," an essential breakdown of the spine and how it moves through various ranges of flexion and extension.  The two new chapters by Matthews, "Skeletal System" and "Muscular System," follow.  These short offerings (about 10 pages per chapter) describe the relevant anatomical structures and review the main principles of functioning for each system.

Kaminoff and Matthews jointly introduce the postures with "Inside the Asanas."  Here they describe how the asana analysis was conducted and what information is included for each pose (e.g., skeletal joint actions, muscular joint actions, breathing notes, etc.).  The asanas themselves are classified in the chapters which follow according to "Standing Poses," "Sitting Poses," "Kneeling Poses," "Supine Poses," "Prone Poses," and "Arm Support Poses."  Rather than being presented completely in a narrative format, the postural breakdowns now incorporate easy-to-read graphics which quickly inform the reader which areas of the body are in contraction versus extension.  The poses appear to be identical to those in the first edition, although supplementary variations are depicted here.

In addition to presenting an Asana Index both in Sanskrit and English, the new appendices include Joint and Muscle Indexes as well.  With this release of Yoga Anatomy, Second Edition, authors Kaminoff and Matthews have provided intelligent, useful enhancements to an already-excellent manual; this book may be worth the purchase even for those who already own the original release.


© 2012 Beth Cholette


Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.


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