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by Eric Franklin and Alison Wesley
Human Kinetics, 2019
Review by Beth Cholette, Ph.D. on Nov 19th 2019
Understanding the Pelvis is a short publication (<100 pp) that has the feel of a handbook. Ultimately, that's exactly what it is, a guidebook for yoga practitioners in general and yoga teachers in particular. At the title suggests, the book centers around the movement of the pelvis, applying knowledge of this area to the practice and cueing of various yoga asanas (postures). The book is based on the Franklin Method, a mind-body method developed by author Eric Franklin and designed to teach embodied movement. This method employs dynamic imagery, which is utilized throughout the book in the form of colorful anatomical illustrations and detailed cueing suggestions.
In the Introduction, the authors posit that imagery and cueing used to teach yoga need to be based on function. They suggest that many common cues taught in today's yoga classes focus on avoiding injury, thus implying that the body needs to be protected from harm and creating a sense of fear. Instead, the authors advocate prescriptive cueing, or cueing that aims to change qualitative aspects of the movement (as opposed to aesthetic aspects).
The first section of the book provides an overview of pelvic anatomy and function. Through straightforward illustrations combined with practice suggestions, the authors introduce the various parts of the pelvic anatomy. The information includes the pelvis, the two halves of the pelvis, the sacrum, the hip joints, and the spine, touching on the bones and muscles that impact all of the above. The second part of the book examines the biomechanics of the pelvis as related to a series of 26 yoga postures (presented in no discernable order).
The authors begin with mountain pose. They encourage this posture to be dynamic, a sense of movement within the stillness. They discuss familiar cues associated with the pose (e.g., "tuck your tail"), including reviewing what can go "wrong" with these common forms of cueing. They then recommend alternative cues or "ways in." For mountain pose, one of the more esoteric ideas they offer is to "get on your femur heads." Other cues are much more visually imaginative, for instance the idea of "the legs imagined as strong geysers supporting the hip joint and pelvis from below" (and accompanied by a drawing illustrating the legs as geyser). The remaining postures are analyzed in the same manner. The authors include many basic yoga poses commonly found in today's asana classes, including foundational postures such as cat/cow, child's, and downward-facing dog; a range of standing poses, from crescent lunge to the warrior series to triangle and side angle; and postures falling into the categories of twists, balances, backbends, and forward bends.
Although the authors strive to use simple, clear language, the material is complex. I have been practicing yoga for almost 20 years and have taught yoga for the past four years, and yet I struggled to comprehend the intent of the cues at times. I found that even a basic exercise such as touching the sitz bones (p. 3) was not as simple in the application to my own body. And yet some of the cueing did resonate with me. In particular, the visualization of each pelvic half as a wheel (with the two wheels moving in opposing directions in asymmetrical postures) is something that I have already incorporated into my own personal practice, as it has helped me to attain a greater sense of both ease and stability in my postural practice.
In the end, I found this book to be useful and enlightening, if not always completely clear. The most appropriate audience for this manual is yoga teachers, although perhaps very experienced/motivated individual practitioners would also benefit; this is certainly not a work I would recommend to the yoga novice.
© 2019 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.