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My Skeletal Variation Story

So what is skeletal variation?

Essentially it is the acknowledgement that every bone in every body is different.

As Paul Grilley would say, this means that “what is easy for one skeleton is impossible for another”.

If the shape of my hip socket is different to yours for example; it might be deeper, angled forward and down, or even positioned more anterior on the front of my hip bone, my experience of turning my leg in or out in my hip socket will look and feel very different to yours.

If the two of us were side by side practicing baddha konasana (butterfly) or virasana (saddle), they could look very different and require different kinds of adjustments, props or variations.

Historically, the shapes of bones have not been factored into the practice of yoga.

Instead, there has been a focus on muscles, bandhas and the carrot on a stick notion that if you work hard enough on the postures, they all have the potential to be “mastered”, but it depends on you and your efforts, that old adage “practice practice all is coming.”

The truth is, that once you have met a compressive end range of motion stopping point, you cannot move that joint any further in that direction.

And that is ok!

We really need to start dismantling the paradigm that the ultimate goal of yoga is flexibility, and allow for more alignment consideration for people to find the positions in their bodies that feel best for them.

Understanding skeletal variation is the missing link in yoga.

I think it is the missing link in all movement practices actually.

But because I come from the yoga world, I have seen the impact of a well- intentioned teacher cueing the room with their expectations of where limbs should be able to point/reach/touch/open “one day” without really understanding functional anatomy and bone variance.

Because of this, I think strict alignment cues and goals in yoga have created unnecessary psychological damage; students developing self- limiting belief about their own body and having low self-worth inner dialogue because they still cannot get their heels to the floor in down dog, or that they struggle getting their heels up onto their hips in padmasana, or that their hips never rest down on their heels in child’s pose even though they have been practicing yoga for many years.

It is deeply satisfying for me, and deeply healing for others when the penny drops for them, that all this time the thing they struggled with in their own yoga practice was their skeleton, and that perhaps now they can give themselves permission to be where they are, rather than working towards some pedestal posture that is not realistic for their bones, and doesn’t really matter anyway!

What do you get out of the yoga asanas?

Is it really about the particulars of strict alignment cues?

What is the functional intention of each posture?

What does it actually have to offer?

If we can return to this kind of exploration in the practice, I believe that yoga will become a lot more accessible for all bodies, and a place where deep healing and self-acceptance are allowed to flourish.

And because of all of that, I am deeply passionate about educating yoga teachers about skeletal variation and helping them have a better understanding of their felt experience on the mat, both for them and their students.

Karina x


Functional Anatomy Yin Yoga Online Course



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