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Yoga Anatomy Book Recommendations

Updated on December 15, 2015

Learn Yoga Anatomy

As a yoga teacher, I'm expected to know enough about the anatomy of the human body to understand how to practice the yoga poses more effectively. With this knowledge I can give better instructions to my students, and help them work through their own physical difficulties in the asanas (yoga poses).

Anyone who practices yoga will benefit from learning more about the anatomy of their own body. With a better understanding of the musculoskeletal system we can learn how to bring our body into a more optimal alignment in the yoga poses. Good alignment promotes greater health benefits, and results in less injuries.

There are many excellent yoga anatomy guides to learn from. I've listed my favorite yoga anatomy books below.

Image above from the cover of The Key Muscles of Hatha Yoga

yoga anatomy books
yoga anatomy books

Yoga Anatomy Books from Bandha Yoga

My current favorite series of yoga anatomy books are the Bandha Yoga Scientific Keys, written by Ray Long MD, and illustrated by Chris Macivor. The text is accompanied by exquisitely illustrated images of the muscles and bones of the human body, highlighting the muscles that are affected in each pose.

From the Product Description:

Through four-color, three-dimensional illustrations of major muscles, tendons, and ligaments, Ray Long describes the practice and benefits of hatha yoga. Specific anatomical and physiological descriptions highlight the agonist, antagonist, and synergist muscles that come into play with each pose.

There are two volumes of the Bandha Yoga Scientific Keys books.

  • The Key Muscles of Yoga (Scientific Keys Volume 1) - Describes the key muscles of yoga poses and how they are utilized. The illustrations show the skeleton, muscles, tendons, and ligaments in different postures.
  • The Key Poses of Yoga (Scientific Keys Volume 2) - Illustrates the correct muscle use during key poses of hatha yoga. Includes anatomical and physiological information about 55 fundamental yoga poses. Dr. Long shows the specific muscle groups that work together to bring the body into a healthy, optimal position for these poses. He describes how we can deepen and stabilize the poses by using these muscle groups intelligently.

Yoga Mat Companion, Volumes 1 - 4

There are also four Yoga Mat Companion books from Bandha Yoga will help you to "master the science" behind the poses of hatha yoga. As the name Yoga Mat Companion implies, these books are meant to be referred to during your practice of yoga postures.

From the Product Description:

The Mat Companion series provides you with beautifully illustrated, step-by-step instructions on how to use scientific principles to obtain the maximum benefit from your practice.

Yoga Mat Companion books

  • Anatomy for Vinyasa Flow and Standing Poses
  • Anatomy for Hip Openers and Forward Bends
  • Anatomy for Backbends and Twists
  • Anatomy for Arm Balances and Inversions

Yoga Anatomy Leslie Kaminoff
Yoga Anatomy Leslie Kaminoff

Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff

# 1 Yoga Anatomy book on

If you choose only one book as a reference for yoga and anatomy, this is it. Author Leslie Kaminoff is a yoga educator with over 30 years experience in yoga and breath anatomy.

Preliminary chapters clearly discuss the dynamics of breathing, and yoga and the spine.

The rest of the book covers the different categories of standing poses, illustrating each pose with a clear drawing of the pose, showing the skeletal structure and highlighting the different muscle groups that are involved in that pose (as shown in the diagram above, and on the book cover).

Image from Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff

Yoga Anatomy-2nd Edition
Yoga Anatomy-2nd Edition

Includes clear, detailed drawings and information about many of the classical yoga poses.

Each pose that is shown includes information about:

Pose classificationJoint actionKey structuresWhat parts of the body work in the poseObstacles to the poseBreathing in the poseOther notes of interest


Anatomy of Hatha Yoga - A Manual for Students, Teachers, and Practitioners

This was one of the first yoga anatomy books that I bought, while it was still offered only in hard cover. I continue to use it as a reference book. Anatomy of Hatha Yoga is much more thorough and comprehensive than the books I've listed above. I go to the books listed above first to get a good visual overview of the muscles and bones that are involved, and I come back to Anatomy of Hatha Yoga when I want even more depth and detail into the understanding of yoga poses.

Anatomy of Hatha Yoga: A Manual for Students, Teachers, and Practitioners
Anatomy of Hatha Yoga: A Manual for Students, Teachers, and Practitioners

From the Product Description

The book provides a comprehensive overview of anatomy and physiology of hatha yoga with special emphasis on the musculoskeletal, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. The book fills a void in the literature, bridging biomedicine and complementary medicine.

Author David Coulter discusses the basic premises of hatha yoga with foundational material accepted in biomedical sciences. All postures are discussed in detail and depicted in excellent quality black-and-white photographs. Steps in the postures are illustrated as well as terminal points of the positions.


Anatomy of Movement - by Blandine Calais-Germain

This is another good book that I've owned for a number of years, and I refer back to it periodically. It is useful for anyone who wants to study anatomy of movement, whether in yoga, dance, pilates, or other exercise.


Emphasis is on basic human anatomy as it relates to external body movement which mainly concerns bones, muscles, and joints...will be particularly useful to those who deal with integrated or complex movements of the body.

Anatomy of Movement (Revised Edition)
Anatomy of Movement (Revised Edition)

From the Product Description

Anatomy of Movement presents a dynamic, integrated approach to the study of the physical structures of the musculoskeletal system and their functional relationship to the movements of the human body. In clear and concise text illustrated with more than a thousand graphic drawings, the author guides the reader on a lively tour of the muscles, bones, ligaments and joints of the arms, legs and trunk. The focus throughout the book is on anatomy not for its own sake, but in its functional relationship to the actual movements of the body in dance, exercise, and other physical disciplines.


Other Yoga Anatomy Books Also Available

I've listed my favorite Yoga Anatomy books on this page, but there are a number of other very good options that you might take a look at also. The three following books all get good ratings on Amazon and elsewhere.

  • Functional Anatomy of Yoga: A Guide for Practitioners and Teachers, by David Keil
  • The Concise Book of Yoga Anatomy: An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Motion, by Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones
  • Anatomy of Yoga: An Instructor's Inside Guide to Improving Your Poses, by Dr. Abigail Ellsworth

Have You Studied Yoga Anatomy?

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    • KarenHC profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from U.S.

      @SmartYoga: It adds another layer of understanding to our practice :-)

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      No, I have to say I haven't really studied Yoga Anatomy! Only from the inside, listening to my body. I'll put it on my list of things to do!

    • KarenHC profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from U.S.

      @BarbsSpot: Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      @Lensmaster...Informative Lens on a healthy art form!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Awesome book list! I already own a few of them and the rest I will add to my Amazon wish list. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hello, great suggestions, but was curious if you've seen "Anatomy of Yoga: An Instructor's Inside Guide toâ¦" By Abigail Ellsworth?? I just ordered it from Chapters, and had looked at it in a store. Seemed to be really informative - differentiating the muscles stretched, and the muscles strengthened, as well as pronunciation guides for the asanas! Computer generated graphics as well as real photos of the human body practicing the postures. I hope I made a good choice!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Knowledgeable lens. Thanks for inform to me.

    • KarenHC profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from U.S.

      @AndrewMich: I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Yes, I can believe that yoga would help weight training -- balancing the muscle development with muscle lengthening and more flexibility in the joints.

    • AndrewMich profile image


      7 years ago

      What a fantastic article! Yoga has helped me greatly in my wieght training. Thanks for this great info.

    • OrganicMom247 profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow great books to help people learn more about their yoga possess.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      According to me,It's fantastic idea.I will must follow it.

    • hlkljgk profile image


      7 years ago from Western Mass

      these look fascinating. thank you

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      No on yoga anatomy...but anatomy yes. A tough subject for me. These look like excellent choices though.


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