When many people are asked to consider learning anatomy, questions that often arise are: “Doesn’t it involve spending a lot of time studying thick textbooks full of complicated latin names?”; “Isn’t it very difficult and/or very boring?”; and, “Isn’t that something that only doctors, nurses and physiotherapists need to know about?” The answer to all these questions is, “No!” Human anatomy is the study of the structure of the human body. It is one way that we experience and know about our physical selves.

The textbook approach is just one way to learn anatomy which is especially appropriate for healthcare professionals. An alternative is experiential anatomy which is very practical in its approach. It’s interesting, fun to explore, and offers great benefits to anyone who takes time to work with it.

And we all rely on this knowledge all the time, whether we know it consciously or not. When faced with a unfamiliar physical task we have to figure out how to organise our structure in order to do it – how to lift , how to climb, how to manipulate an object – and before we can organize our structure we have to have some idea what it is. Even the familiar things that we rarely question, like walking, we once had to figure out how to do by applying our knowledge of our structure.

We all have enough basic knowledge to get by most of the time. But often some elements of this basic knowledge are inaccurate – at best that limits what we can do, at worst it can cause us harm. Even a little extra accurate knowledge of how our physical structure is put together can change how we perceive ourselves, how we move and both our susceptibility to injuries and our ability to recover from them.

Experiential anatomy differs from the textbook variety in its emphasis on functionality. To explain a little more about the kind of process involved in a class. For example, where does your arm begin? At your shoulder joint? Your shoulder blade? Your breastbone? Your spine? In your…

Through looking at pictures and anatomical skeletons we get some idea of what the structure is like. Then through simple guided movements and touch exploration, both alone and with others, we can get a feel for what is really there in ourselves. You’ll be surprised just what a difference such a simple process can make to how you move and how you feel about yourself. And you’ll notice that the latin names are not mentioned.