Book Review: The Key Muscles of Yoga by Ray Long 

Book Review by Marcus J Freed and

Recent years have seen an explosion of yoga teacher training programs and there are more qualified teachers and advanced practitioners than ever before in history. As a result we have more resources available including Ray Long’s beautiful book series which begins with The Key Muscles of Yoga, subtitled ‘Your Guide to Functional Anatomy in yoga’.

Although it is hard to imagine that any single book will include all of the anatomical information that would be needed for a yoga teacher or serious practitioner, Long’s book goes a long way to informing us about the specific muscles that are used in any one asana, along with beautiful illustrations. He explains: “Human anatomy and physiology is a vast subject, as is the art of Hatha Yoga. Nevertheless, combining knowledge from both fields is extremely beneficial to the Yoga practitioner….It is not necessary to memorize hundreds of muscles and bones to experience the benefits of applying science to Yoga. What is necessary is the functional understanding of a manageable number of key anatomic structures, in their settings…to optimize your practice, break through blockages, and avoid injuries’. (p7).

The pictures really are the selling point, as is the clever organisation of the book. Chapter 12, for example, deals with the Trapezius which is a key trigger-point for anyone who suffers from a sore upper back (in other words, anybody who spends more than 30 minutes a day sitting in front of a computer). The book has very clear pictures of the muscles being used in a variety of postures and this is helpful for gaining a deeper understanding of both our own bodies and those of our students.

Knowledge of anatomy is key to every yoga asana practice, and the author introduces a gentle spirituality through pictures of the chakra/energy-sources that are activated in any one pose. He also makes it clear that this is the kind of book that is to be read slowly and methodically, and the book’s binding gives it an important durability that ensures it will stay a part of your library for a long time.