David Keil's Amazing: "Functional Anatomy Of Yoga" Book Review

I just interviewed David Keil for "The Yoga Podcast' (launching in January- He will be the guest of the first episode).

To prepare for the podcast, I read very carefully his latest book "Functional Anatomy Of Yoga, A Guide For Practitioners and Teachers".  

And I also watched all his DVDs again.   

That was a LOT of anatomy in one week!

My copy before I filled it with
And I have to tell you it had a PROFOUND effect on me.

For starters, it slowed down my practice, way down, because at every pose I would remember tiny bits of information and go:

 "Ohhh... THAT is what he means", 

and then move onto, say, "revolved triangle" and go "Ahhh... There is where the thoracic spine gets to twist!" and on and on and on and on....

The first part of the book where he goes over the terminology is a bit dense for me because I have very little knowledge of all the muscles and tendons and ligaments and joints.  

It helps, however, that some of the muscles have latin names...  Go figure, one advantage of being a Spanish speaker.

But once you get pass this first section you find that it is important to go through those first pages because just like in yoga practice, once you get the foundation right, you start to "fly" with the material.

One thing I really liked about the book is that from the very early pages he starts to integrate the anatomy into what that means for a pose, for you and me. Today.  

If you read it I can guarantee you will have to put the book down and strike a pose, just to try, test, and experiment.

I like that.  It is incredibly practical and focused on yoga.

And I am about to tell you a secret, and no, I don't get a commission.

The secret is that if you get both the book AND the DVDs on Anatomy (see review link at the bottom) then you get a 3-D experience. Why?

Because it's as if David comes into your living-room and you find yourself pushing your hands into your stomach trying to find your psoas, and then you can't help it and you HAVE to try that back-bend preparation. And down the anatomy rabbit hole you go!

The book is not only thoroughly researched and slanted, yes, towards yoga practitioners/teachers, it is ALSO challenging...

For example:

He has one part (and I paraphrase) where he questions the reader point blank.

He says:

"What is it I hear you say? You say you tried to do the hand-stand for 8 years and still nothing? Really? Don't you think maybe it's be time to change your "approach"?

And I laugh. 

Because he is right. 

I HAVE tried for 8, well maybe 6 years, and it IS time to change approach, but I had never read this book before. 

In my defense, it was not published yet. Now it is. Lucky us. 

I tried hand-stand yesterday and I was amazed at how FAR a little understanding can go. James tried it too (against my advise) because my excitement over so much learning got to him too...  

And on that note... I have to say James just got his first "head-stand".  I think I am happier than he is about that, and believe me, he IS happy.   So feel free to congratulate him on Twitter.

Back to the book, take for example this little nugget I got today (I am reading it a little bit each day because it would be hard to take it in all at once)

You know how a lot of people spray out the feet on back bends?  And you know how every yoga teacher worth its weight will tell you to keep the legs parallel as much as possible? 

Well David explains to me that the hip flexors don't like the feeling of the legs parallel, so they resist it.   

THAT is why we "avoid" it and open the feet out.

Same with the shoulders.  

When coming up into a wheel or backbend... if the elbows go outwards, they are "avoiding" doing the real work that has to happen.

Isn't that something?  Just that was worth the price of the book for me. Of course he explains all the terminologies which I don't remember right now.  I will have to keep returning to the book again and again.


1) What the book did to me:

A) It re-introduced asana practice for me.

For example, in a basic pose, like standing, just "standing" (toes touching heels slightly apart), if I simply lift my toes, that awakens the muscles around the lower part of my leg (tibia), which in turn informs how my quadriceps and hamstrings are aligned, and my pelvis, and how I stand, how I walk, how I move, the position of the spine, how I think and how I even live...


B) I FINALLY understand triangle pose. 

Finally GET WHY it is that the alignment has to go the way it goes... I used to just repeat what I was told, now I get it. So when I am on the mat, my body takes on a whole different meaning.

The yoga mat is a playground now.

C) The book made me love my body a lot more 

Because I now understand how amazing it is.

Just to notice, for example, that the hips hold two-thirds of the weight of my body, and that the tissue and ligaments that hold the leg together to the hip are so strong you could not pull it, even if 3 people were pulling, because it won't break, gives me a whole new level of respect.

2) Anatomy for Specific Asanas = GOLD

He has a section at the end of the book where he integrates all the anatomy lessons into the asanas. That is gold. For anyone who practices. 

3) It inspired me to ask LOTS of questions to David

When he was on the podcast yesterday, I had about 20 questions (and they kept coming), and they still keep coming.  

His approach is humble and fascinating, and I hope you hear the episode (I will post when it launches in January) so you can experience his humor, depth of knowledge, and great ability to make anatomy accessible for yogis and for everyone, really.

You can get the book here.  

P.S.: It is best if you buy it from this link because this helps David get paid for the years of work he put into this (even if not much (publishing books is not a way to get rich)) but at least a bit.

David's Website
Here is my review of David's "Hands On Adjustments" DVD
Here is my review of David's "Anatomy" DVD 
Davids's Facebook and Twitter

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This is How Powerfully Healing a Yoga Practice Can Be

On March 31st 1986 my mother jumped out of the 7th floor window of her bedroom. On her way down she crashed onto a glass table that was on the backyard of the owners of the ground floor unit. She died that day. She was depressed and desperate.

To me, that felt like I received two gun-shots, one to the head (an atomic explosion), and one big cannon-ball bullet to the stomach.

I am not writing to tell you that story. This is about how "healing" a daily yoga practice can be.

In 2000 on my first yoga class I realized that there was some relation between what I felt in my "stomach" and the pain of what happened when I was 18.

Eight years later I learned I had a muscle called the "psoas" along with others deep within my stomach which coincided with the time when I started doing drop backs onto the floor. From standing, droping backwards onto the wheel pose.

I could never do it. Still can't.

Since it was so hard for me, I learned the physical part of the 'dropping back' very well. I studied it from every angle, consulted every teacher. But still nothing.

Last June I visited Paul Dallaghan at his yoga center in Thailand.

I told him straight: I need help, I've been working on the physical part of the dropping back for six years, I've consulted dozens of teachers and I still cannot do it. Why?

"Let's look at it" Paul said, as he walked me to the wall.

So I dropped back with my hands on the wall, and as I came up I did the usual thing I always do:

I got dizzy, took a frantic inhale (as if I had been drowning) and then bent over, hands on knees, trying to catch my breath, dispelling the blur in my eyes, until when I could see Paul again.

He was looking at me intently. His full attention on my every move.

"This last part" he said "that desperate inhale at the end... That is drama, because the physical part is ready"

And just like that, with one sentence, I had the biggest AHA! moment of my life.

That "desperate inhale" is exactly what I had felt when I saw my mother being carried out, covered with a white blanket, face and all, dead, on a stretcher, to the ambulance that would take her to the morgue, to the nightmare.

The "desperate inhale" was still with me, right there in my psoas, in my inner organs, cannon ball made into flesh, and in my breathing.

BUT the physical part was ahead of me. Paul said: "the physical is ready".

The emotional body, however, had an extra layer on top of my muscles, and this extra layer still had a strong hold on me. It was stopping me from breathing.

That is how POWERFUL a daily yoga practice can be. Because we store strong emotional trauma both in the physical AND the emotional body.

When we heal the physical then the emotional pain can be released. It can float away... off it goes... like a cucumber detaching from the vine.

After that conversation with Paul my drop-backs have gotten a lot deeper, and I don't inhale desperately anymore when I come up, now I just breathe and smile.

And no, I still don't go all the way down, but I am no longer scared, so I know the pose will come -in time, no rush.

Back in NYC in September, talking to a very wise man, that James and I know, I asked him about the experience, and he asked me just ONE question.

He warned me before asking this particular question, which was weird, I guess he is used to having strong reactions to it.

"Go ahead, and ask me", I said.

"How much do you think you get out of holding on to this story about your mother"? He said.

KABOOM, another Aha! moment.

See, the body (physical) was ready to let go, and even the emotional body was beginning to let go (I was breathing as I was coming up), but I was still going around asking, and talking about it...


Because there is a pay-off to holding on to drama.

When you read that first paragraph, it probably evokes an emotion in you, you may feel sympathy, relate, feel sadness, think of something that happened to you, want to say "I'm sorry" to me.

We are good people at heart, and we are all compassionate at the core, so we feel for the pain of others.

And... right there, that is how... I get a "pay-off"... I tell the story and I get the "poor me"...I get attention, I get to reinforce my wound.


Even though I would not say I am exactly "healed" from that event, at least now when I think of my mother, I can come from a place of love and not be so caught up in the emotion.

I am "un-frozen". I can write about it. And this is just my experience...

I am not saying this is how it would happen for anyone else. That is the thing with yoga, it's an individual process.

And for me it's working. It is helping me release.

For example: I no longer think that people that take their own lives will be punished, or have to pay for it (which is what I used to think).

Now I see they were in pain, desperate, they did not know what else to do, they could not see any other options, they did the best they could.

And wherever my mother maybe now, with all the love that lives within me for her, I wish her a wonderful new start.

Te quiero mucho mama.

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Yoga And Breathing To Relieve Back Pain - Event in NYC Tue Dec/2

This is an opportunity to learn a few tips that can alleviate and sometimes even eliminate completely any back and neck pain from your life.

I am offering a special 2-hour workshop in NYC (in the mid-town area) on Tuesday, December 2nd from 5:00 to 7:00PM.

I hope you are around and can join me.  The session is great for preventing and avoiding all future back/neck pain.

The location of the event will be emailed to you after you sign up, within a week before the event, but it will be in the mid-town area of Manhattan. You can register here.


This is a practical yoga workshop for anyone who experiences back and/or neck pain from time to time.  For example if you sit (or stand) for long periods of time (i.e.: at work and/or while commuting)

It is also good if you happen to feel stiff in the mornings but the pains go away throughout the day, or if you experience general back or neck pain but you have many periods when you don't feel it. Meaning that the pain is temporary.


1) - A dynamic/short demonstration of the anatomy of the back and neck, and WHAT causes pain,  (Short lecture style)
2)   The ONE THING you need to know to AVOID ALL FUTURE back and neck pain
3)   We will practice together 6 easy and safe exercises proven to relieve back pain.
4)   We will also practice 6 easy and safe exercises proven to relieve neck pain.
5)   We will practice 3 simple breathing exercises to help the back be well supported and healthy
6)   BONUS: You will receive a FREE autographed paper back of the WSJ Best Selling book: "The Power Of No" because learning to say "no" to distractions and things that are not good for us is KEY to keeping a healthy back, neck, body and mind.

[Here is the link to the event in EventBrite]


The workshop maybe informative but not necessarily helpful if you have a herniated or dislocated disk, or a metallic or any other implant in your back or neck, or a chronic case of permanent back pain.
In a those cases you will probably benefit more from a doctor, and I am just a yoga teacher focusing on preventing and alleviating mild pain.

It is also NOT a good idea to come if you think it's an opportunity to pitch something to James. 


a) A yoga mat.   If you don't have one get this one for under $18. Because It does the job, it won't break the bank, and its all you need.  Or borrow one from a friend.

b) A good disposition and sense of humor.  We are doing yoga! 

c) Oh, and also, come in with comfy clothes... So you can relax and breathe easy.

P.S.: If you think someone else may benefit from the event please share it, forward it, tweet it... It's all good.

Hope to see you at the workshop.  Here is the full Eventbrite page for it.

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To The Voices That Say I'm Not Good, I Say...

To the voices that say: "It's crazy to call yourself a success",
I say,
   "There seems to be a crazy here, but it's not me"

To the voices that say "you are not worth it",
I say,
   "I disagree, but I know how you feel"

To the voices that say: "you are fat"
I say,
   "I have substance, and I know how to use it."

To the voices that say: "You have an accent"
I say
   "Yes, and it is elegant"

To the voices that say: "You are just fishing for compliments"
I say
   "I can see how you would see it that way"

To the voices that say: "I wish you would die"
I say,
   "Oh dear! It must be hard to feel so envious

To the voices that say: "There is nothing special about you"
I say,
   "I'm sorry you are short of sight"

To the voices that say: "You will die one day! You know?"
I say,
   "I've died so many times, I'm sure I'll be allright"

To the voices that say "You are not smart enough"
I say,
   "Oh but I am wise! Well beyond my ears.

To the voices that say "Your stomach is too big"
I say,
   "Yes, because I am a beautiful woman"

To the voices that say "You are getting older and you ain't pretty"
I say
   "There is beauty in giving life in new ways, in writing form-in dancing form-in painting form-in speaking word-in yoga pose, in any form!"

To the voices that say "You are not a prodigy and never will be"
I say,

To the voices that say: "it is not good"
I say,
   "It is"

To the voices that say: "You are not allowed, authorized, permitted"
I say,
   "Oops! Think I lost that memo.

To the voices that say "It has been done"
I say
   "It has not been done with my special touch yet"

To the voices that say "You have no proof"
I say,
   "I don't need proof for what works for me"

To the voices that say "There is no god"
I say,

To the voices that say: "You should shut up"
I say,
   "Oh men, you are in for it."

To the voices that say: "Yes you can"  -   I say:   "Thank you!"

To the voices that say "You can trust your voice" -  I say:   "Ahhh, f'course...Duh!"

To the voices that say "keep going, keep trying, keep at it"   -  I say:   "I will! I am!"

To the voices that say "There is talent here"  -  I say: "Yes! You are quite right."

To the voices that say "you are strong" I say:  "Thank you James"

To the voice that says: "Don't publish this, I don't know if you are really the embodiment of this", I say "Publish"

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Yoga Hack: Getting to Touch your Toes in a Sited Forward-Bend

You probably heard that the body is NOT stiff... the "mind" is stiff...

Pattabhi Jois said that, and he was right... And that can be proven by this lovely little hack.

If when sited, as you attempt a forward bend, you cannot touch your toes, you can have a partner (in this case James, thanks J) touch your feet while you grab THEIR hands...

See the photo below where James helps me in two different versions. (If you can't see the photo click "display images" on your Gmail)

On the left photo  he is hovering over me and the palms of his hands are touching my feet while I grab his wrists.

On the right photo  he is in front of me (less intimate form) and his fingers are touching my feet while I hold on to his thumbs.


The mind cannot distinguish what is it that is touching the feet... It cannot tell that it's not my own hands that are  doing it... Even as I clearly see with my eyes that it is James doing the touching.

Mind blowing ha?

And so the mind gets trained into thinking that it has the "type of body that can touch its toes or feet in a sited forward bend"...

And as the mind gets flexible... so does the body

Of course that is always keeping alignment in check and all the rest... Watch the video below for the full talk on forward bending, and thanks to Priscilla for asking me to go deeper into this mind blowing hack.

[If you cannot see the video here is the link]

For those of you in the New York area remember that I am teaching five more classes exploring the primary series of Ashtanga Yoga at Sky Baby Yoga in Cold Spring NY.  These are the dates:

Saturday,  October 4, 2013   -      9:15 Am - 10:30 AM
Saturday,  October 11, 2014 -      9:15 Am - 10:30 AM
Saturday,  October 18, 2014 -      9:15 Am - 10:30 AM
Saturday,  October 25, 2014 -      9:15 Am - 10:30 AM

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Yoga: Start Practicing with these 3 Profound Poses

My friend Cheryl asked for the 'impossible':  3 poses (and only 3) to get started with yoga...

I get it though, she is a NY Times best-seller author, a fully booked coach, as well as an international public speaker, not to mention she writes, every, single, day... So ... yeah, I get it, she only has a few minutes.

And so, after much thinking I came up with this short sequence which, even though is less than 10 minutes long, contains huge benefits for the body, mind and spirit.

[If the video is not showing click here to see it]

I am grateful to Cheryl for the question and quite happy that she liked it.

Ever since she shared it on Twitter the video has gotten 700+ views which is a cause for rejoice on my part, as I hope many more people catch the same bug of stretching and breathing and getting into this yoga thing.

For those of you in the New York area remember that I am teaching five more classes exploring the primary series of Ashtanga Yoga at Sky Baby Yoga in Cold Spring NY.  These are the dates:

Saturday,  October 4, 2013   -      9:15 Am - 10:30 AM
Saturday,  October 11, 2014 -      9:15 Am - 10:30 AM
Saturday,  October 18, 2014 -      9:15 Am - 10:30 AM
Saturday,  October 25, 2014 -      9:15 Am - 10:30 AM

I am also facilitating a weekend retreat of yoga including asana, pranayama, and kryas at Kripalu in November.

P.S.: My favorite book by Cheryl Richardson (who asked for the video) is The Art Of Extreme Self-Care because I realize I need to take time to do things that nurture me if I am ever to be able to give.

You can't  give what you don't have, so here is to YOU, hoping you take advantage of the short sequence and enjoy some yoga.

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Join Me For A Free Ashtanga Yoga Exploration Class 9/20/14 in Cold Spring

Come to SkyBabyYoga in Cold Spring this Saturday, September 20th for a FREE exploration into the Ashtanga Yoga world.

This (below) comes from their web-site, I hope you can make it…  And remember if you are in the NYC area, the Metro North train leaves you right at the doorsteps of the studio.

A FREE kick-off class to celebrate the start of a new six-week series in the practice of Ashtanga with Claudia Azula Altucher.

Come to this open-level exploratory Ashtanga yoga class in which we will go over the most beneficial poses of the primary series at a moderate pace and with plenty of modifications, so that everyone can participate and enjoy it.

You will get all the benefits of a hundred years of a traditional practice in a friendly and inviting environment:

- Open level (everyone is welcome and no prior experience with yoga is necessary)
- Learn a dynamic sequence that challenges but also 'blisses you out'
- Lots of modified poses so that nobody is left behind
- A breathing practice that meets you exactly where you are
- A sequence that you can take home with you - For life
- We will have an open mind and an attitude of fun to get the most juice out of the practice
- We will do the traditional opening and closing chant together

Hope you can join me.

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