The Anatomical Gifts That Keep on Giving

University of Massachusetts anatomical gift donor form

In a temporal twist of fate, last week I got the news that my father, Harvey Kaminoff, passed away about 5 minutes after I returned from the local FedEx office to overnight his anatomical gift donor forms to the UMass Medical School. Although my father’s death was sudden, it was not unexpected. Fortunately, I had just organized a family visit with him the day before his death at the nursing home where he had been cared for since last October. Over the decades of my anatomical study, Harvey expressed interest in donating his body to help others gain the same kind of experience he’d seen deepen my knowledge and practice.

I am extremely grateful to Amanda Collins, the Director of Anatomical Services at the UMass medical school, and her colleagues, who helped expedite the donation process in record time. The fact that Harvey’s body will be helping first-year medical students learn gross anatomy this fall in Worcester, MA tremendously brightened an otherwise sad occasion. You can read more about my father’s influence on my life and work in this Facebook post. It seems to have struck a chord, garnering more engagement than usual.

In my decades-long study and teaching of anatomy, I have been personally and professionally enriched by the generosity of many donors like my father, and it has been an honor to facilitate an anatomical gift – this time from the family’s perspective.

My dad in his youth, on the left, and with my three sons and me in 2017.

While I’m on the topic of anatomical gifts, I’ve just learned that two spots recently opened up for our previously sold-out Movement Anatomy Hands-On Cadaver Lab in Colorado Springs March 14-18. We are limiting participation to 6 students per table, so if you’ve ever dreamed of learning anatomy in this amazing format, our lab will be as up-close and personal a setting as you will find.

I will be teaching alongside the amazing Lauri Nemetz, MA, BC-DMT, LCAT, ERYT500, C-IAYT, a yoga and movement educator who specializes in myofascial anatomy as well as one of the lead dissector on the international team at the Fascial Net Plastination Project, and past faculty dissector for Anatomy Trains Dissections®. Once these 2 spots are taken, the course will be full, so reach out soon via the KNM Labs website.

I have provided links below for those inspired to learn more about anatomical gifting, which serves a different purpose from the organ donation choice on the back of most drivers’ licenses. They fill a vital educational need, and many regions across the United States are chronically short of full-body donations for the kind medical study we do in our labs.

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Hey, 2022…I’m back!

Well, a fresh set of Covid-19 antibodies wasn’t on my Christmas wish list, but I got them anyway. Between my original March 2020 battle with Covid, three vaccine shots, and a holiday bout with the Omicron variant that had me quarantining instead of festivating, I now assume I have sufficient immunity to get through 2022 with no further incident. I am very much looking forward to resuming teaching events scheduled for the first quarter.

The next in a series of popular 2-hour online workshops I’ve been doing for our U.K. friends at Keen Yoga is coming up at the end of this month on Sunday, January, 30 at 9:00am EST, 2:00pm UK time. The topic is something we could all use right about now: “Introduction to Healing Through Breath-centered Yoga.” The workshop is rooted in the perspective that there’s always more going right for a person than has gone wrong – something I’ve had to remind myself more than once in the past couple of challenging years. The recording will be remain available to replay for 14 days after the event.

Lauri and Leslie dissecting
Lauri Nemetz and me during the livestream of our first KNMLabs dissection workshop in October 2020

Looking ahead to March (the week of my 64th birthday!) Lydia, Lauri Nemetz and I will be back in Colorado Springs at the anatomy lab of our good friend Gil Hedley to lead a unique week-long cadaver dissection March 14-18. KNM Movement Anatomy Labs focus on interests of yoga educators, movement and fitness professionals, bodywork and massage therapists and artists.

A unique aspect of this hands-on lab is the opportunity to apply some of what you see in the lab in your own body during evening movement labs. There will also be opportunities to observe one-on-one work related to structural observations during the day’s cadaver lab.

We still have room for a few more participants, so click on the link above to find out more about this very special opportunity to experience human anatomy first-hand with an amazing group of individuals.

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Getting back to bizness

Change of seasons, and the discussion between Lydia and me turns to what to pack for teaching trips. Neither of us likes to overpack, but we have both underpacked, and that was most uncomfortable! Hand washing clothing in a hotel sink is only so effective.

This coming weekend I’m teaching a hybrid (in-person and online) workshop for Sun & Moon Yoga in Arlington, VA (predicted temps in the low 60s F). The title is a direct reflection on my own personal, present experience, Breath-Centered Yoga Practice: Maintaining Balance in Changing Times.

The weekend after that I will finally be holding the longest planned event in my history, for Matt Ryan at Manchester Yoga (predicted temps in the low 50s F). It was originally scheduled for May 2020, then October 2020, then May 2021. After holding multiple Zoom check-ins with the registrants, we will now finally get to spend time in the same space at the same time!

Pre-order your copy of Yoga Anatomy, 3rd edition.

Oh, and the third edition of Amy Matthews and my Yoga Anatomy should be shipping just about now! There are new chapters, new illustrations, new perspectives, and improved content across the board.

This has been a true labor of love through the Covid year as I fought post-covid brain fog and heart abnormalities, and Amy and I both spent most of the year outside of New York City, in Maine and Massachusetts, sheltering in low-population areas. Anyway, we hope you buy at least one copy! Bulk orders are definitely cheaper. Just sayin’.

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2-hour Bandha Workshop available to everyone online, November 29

Back on September 29, UK-based Adam Keen posted a wide ranging podcast interview with me that covered a lot of interesting ground. We had such a great chat, he invited me to teach a 2-hour online workshop to his students at Keen Yoga who practice mostly Ashtanga Yoga. He selected one of my favorite topics: “Demystifying The Bandhas,” and registration is open to all. Here’s the workshop description:

The popularity of vinyasa-based yoga practice has created a wide interest in the theory and practice of Mula, Uddiyana and Jalandhara Bandha – the “yogic locks.” In this workshop, Leslie applies his unique, experiential approach to clarify and, above all, simplify the practical, anatomical basis of these powerful, yet widely misunderstood tools.

One of the few benefits of the COVID-19 pandemic is that my teaching is no longer restricted by geography! Come join us online for some breath-centered practice with a strong focus on anatomical and personal inquiry.

illustration ©The Breathing Project and Lydia Mann

Sunday 29th November
2.00-4:00pm (UK) / 9.00-11:00am EST
Cost: £25 ($32) 
Click here to book now

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A bright spot for 2020…a live-streamed Yoga Anatomy cadaver lab!

Hello Everyone.

I hope you’ve been staying safe and healthy in the upside-down dumpster-fire that has been 2020 so far. I’m writing to let you know about at least one pretty awesome thing coming up.

In a couple of weeks, Lydia and I travel to San Diego to produce a Yoga and Movement Cadaver Dissection Lab along with Soul of Yoga and the fabulous Lauri Nemetz, with whom I’ll be co-teaching.

This week-long lab was originally designed to be in-person only but after the pandemic hit it was reconceived to also include a livestream, online event. Reimagined for a much wider online audience, it is now a 20-hour professional training that has been fully approved by Yoga Alliance and IAYT for CEU credits. 

We’ll be streaming this training from a state-of-the-art anatomy lab in San Diego and I’m offering a special $50.00 discount code for online registrations. All you have to do is enter Y-AN.ORG50 when you sign up. Once registered, you’ll be able to access the livestream in real time, or review the recordings for up to one month. That means if your schedule doesn’t permit you to view the training during the livestream, you’ll be able to watch, pause, rewind, and review for up to one month following the lab. We look forward to answering your submitted questions, if possible during the next day’s session. The daily schedule of topics is attached below and on the Soul of Yoga site.

If you are interested in attending live, we have a waitlist in case extra spots open up at one of the tables. To get on that list or to ask about any aspect of the lab, please contact me.

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The Return of The Breathing Project!

After much research about the best method by which to deliver high quality, accessible online content at a reasonable price, I am very excited to announce the launch of a digital version of The Breathing Project Studio on the innovative Union.fit platform.

Although the groundbreaking programming at The Breathing Project studio ended in the summer of 2017, TBP has continued as an educational non-profit through which I have developed material via many live events I’ve facilitated around the world.

Now, all this new and updated material will be available for live and archival streaming beginning Monday, April 20, 2020.

I have reproduced a weekly schedule that feels very much like that of the much-beloved physical studio in New York City. I will teach 1-hour practice and theory sessions Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with an exclusive live mentorship group every Wednesday afternoon. The full schedule is available at this link.  Once taught, all classes can be streamed at your convenience.

Class sessions can be paid for singly on a drop-in basis, or through a discounted 8-class pack. But, the best deal is the unlimited all-access community pass that includes the weekly live mentoring sessions. Registration details are available here.

At the above registration link, you can try out your first session at less than half-price (only $7.00) by entering this exclusive access code: LKYoga1. Please feel free to share it with anyone you know who’d be interested.

I am so very happy to be able to connect with you all using this amazing platform. Please reach out to me directly via email if you have any questions about these new Breathing Project classes. I very much look forward to sharing this new material with you.

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Old Friends, New Places, Special Spaces

I was very sorry to read about Yoga Yoga closing in Austin, Texas – not only because I had my annual workshop scheduled, but because I’d grown close to the yoga community there after a decade of teaching. Fortunately our friend Chris Totaro introduced us to Jeff Chen, and his team at PURE Yoga Texas who gamely provided a new home  for my October 18-20 workshop. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones as I continue my yearly Austin visits.

I rarely get to teach both the anatomy/physiology of meditation and my OM workshop in one weekend, but it’s auspicious those are the topics my friend and honest-to-goodness astrophysicist Tammy Bosler chose for our November 2-3 return to the Zen Center Regensburg! This is the same location I taught in 2017 and I was taken with the atmosphere of a space created by the practice of serious meditators. If you or anyone you know is interested in these topics and able to get to this beautiful part of Bavaria, please join us!

That same tour takes us to Wiesbaden – a city near Frankfurt I’ve only heard about – to teach for Jang-Ho Kim at Now Yoga, November 8-10. I have a special interest in mixed martial arts and I’ve heard Jang-Ho is an expert in Taekwondo, so I’m looking forward to learning more about how that connects with his yoga.

After Germany, we’re returning to London for a whole week of workshops, this time in both the Camden (November 12-13) and Soho (November 15-17) locations of triyoga. I’m particularly excited about the midweek sessions in Camden, targeted to practitioners using yoga for healing. This material gives me a chance to reference and honor the work of my teacher, T.K.V. Desikachar, who was acknowledged as one of the greatest exponents of individualized, breath-centered, therapeutic yoga.

The final leg of this trip takes us to B. Yoga, November 23-24, in Basel, Switzerland, another place I’ve never been. Meeting new places and people is one of the perks of my job, and my upcoming schedule certainly provides that.  Lydia and I hope to meet up with you on some of our journeys!

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A very full (Mr.) September!

Well, the month I’ve been waiting for is finally here: September 2019 is when everyone who purchased the Jade Yoga Calendar gets to look at my bare chest for a whole month. Being a calendar model is now something I can check off my bucket list, along with being on the cover of Yoga Journal (although it was the back cover, when Jade used my calendar photo for an ad in the May-June issue). A big special shout-out to the amazing photographer Francesco Mastalia, whose wet plate collodion work is truly gorgeous.

Now, Lydia and I are off on the first of two fall European teaching trips, and we’re excited to be starting our tour by visiting three new cities, as well as returning to some old friends in the fourth. That makes four workshops, in four countries, in three weeks.

First stop is Stockholm, Sweden to teach a weekend workshop for Yoga Shakti titled Breath-Centered Yoga and “Reimagining Alignment,” September 7-8.

Next, we land on the beautiful coast of Ireland in County Clare’s Lahinch Yoga for a midweek (Tuesday-Wednesday, September 10-11) program focused on integrating body, mind, and breath as well as non-linear teaching methods and arm supports.

Then, we hop over to Amsterdam where we recently added a Friday evening masterclass to accommodate the waiting list for our sold-out weekend program for Global Flow Yoga. The weekend will touch on some cool topics like fascia, fluids and creative chaos in the classroom, September 13-15.

From Amsterdam, we fly to Valencia not to teach but to visit the home of one of our favorite dishes – paella! It’s a trip we’ve wanted to do for a while, and we’re very happy to have a couple of days there before we wind up the trip in Madrid. This will be our fourth time teaching for our good friends Blanca and Pablo at Dhara Yoga. We really enjoy teaching in Madrid, and during this visit we’ll cover some more advanced topics related to Hatha Yoga theory and practice like Shushumna Nadi and the physiology of meditative states, September 20-22.

After all that, we will be more than ready to come home just in time for some rest and fall foliage. Enjoy the beginning of your fall!

ANNOUNCEMENT: For those of you who have been following my Wednesday night online classes on OmPractice, please note that due to my travel schedule, I am suspending those classes until further notice.

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Upcoming travel to fabulous places!

Rafael Corrochano from Radiantly AliveIn one month, Lydia and I will be heading to the other side of the world to teach for Rafael Corrochano and Jasmine Dañino, owners of Radiantly Alive in Ubud, Bali on June 1 & 2. This is a beautiful space amidst the treetops we visited last year during a 2-day holiday. During that too-short stay, Ubud became one of my favorite places and this will be my first time teaching in that yoga-haven. I hope to attract all those yoga retreatists for some breath, bandhas and om-ing between their massages and cocktails so please send all your vacationing friends and colleagues my way!

Shivom Yoga & Dance logoAfter Bali, we will teach a weekend workshop June 8 & 9 at Shivom Yoga & Dance in Hanoi, Vietnam. Lydia and I have dreamed about visiting this beautiful country for years and look forward to exploring both before and after teaching. We welcome your recommendations for affordable and restful places to visit.

Our yearly summer retreat in Cape Cod will be extra special this year, because we have added a Friday/Saturday workshop at the fabulous Orleans Yoga July 12 & 13. Studio owner Petra Ledkovsky was excited to learn that we’d be neighbors, so we put together an exciting program for this popular summer destination. It’s selling quickly, so book soon if you’d like to join us.

Rounding out the summer will be our first ever trip to The Yoga Think Tank in New Harmony, Indiana. My August 17 & 18 workshop will be held at the beautiful New Harmony Inn Resort. This event is being hosted by our good friends Shanda Packard and Karen Sahetya, and we are anticipating a weekend filled with inspiration, transformation, and fun. There are just 25 spots open for early registration, so if you or anyone you know is in that area sign up now!

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The Art of the Answer-Sutra (+ commentary), part 3

Here’s another exchange from my Instagram Stories Q&A, plus a bit more exposition:

Q: Would you instruct to use the breath to lengthen the spine?  Is this possible?

A: I generally do not give this cue unless the nature of the pose specifically calls for axial extension, which reduces all three of the major curves of the spine. And yes, any spinal action involves many of the major respiratory muscles.

“Lengthen the spine” is a very common cue given in yoga class that is strongly associated with safety and proper alignment. I believe that – for the most part – when a yoga teacher gives that cue, their intent is to keep the spine in neutral meaning: “don’t collapse into flexion or over-arch into extension.”  In fact, a neutral spine can be relaxed without being collapsed, and is a component of many asanas, including: Sirsasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana.

Anatomically it is not possible to lengthen your spine. The action of axial extension, in which all three curves of the spine are flattened and stabilized, can make you a bit taller – temporarily.  It is not a state you can live in forever, and you wouldn’t want to. It would be exhausting, and likely adversely effect digestion (acid reflux, anyone?).

Axial extension is present to various degrees in a number of asanas such as Tadasana, Virabhadrasana III, Dandasana, Malasana/Upavasasana and Mahamudra, as well as any pranayama in which strong bandhas are engaged. In fact, the muscular action that creates axial extension is, by definition, the action of the bandhas:

  • Mula Bandha flattens the lumbar curve;
  • Uddiyana Bandha flattens the thoracic curve; and,
  • Jalandhara Bandha flattens the cervical curve.

All these actions both reduce the ability of the spine to articulate and reduce the freedom of respiratory shape-change. In other words, the result is spinal and breath stability (sthira). As I said before, this is not something you want to hold all the time.

Bottom line: unless I’m teaching one of the practices in which axial extension is specifically called for I do not refer to “lengthening the spine.”  You can find more detailed information about spinal actions in many of the major asanas in our book Yoga Anatomy.

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