Iceland is a small country, and sometimes it feels like things are set in the ways that they’ve always been, so when I emailed the (only!) medical school here telling them about Living AnatoMe (LA), I didn’t expect a response. Months went by, and then one day, I received an email from a student who said my email had been making the rounds. I set the wheels in motion, rented a space, mats, did my outline, emailed the first year students with the dates and place and we had a little course ready! It was 6 weeks of 1 hour and 30 minute classes a week; the number of students that signed up and were able to come to my class were around 20 out of 45 first year med students.
I used the resources available to me from the LA course outline but I also put my own twist on it. I added so-called functional movements like squats, lunges, pushups and the like, had them explore their own anatomy through guided self massage and touch as well as posture assessments where i taught them about how to look at the body and notice anything out of alignment or even just noticing the way a particular body was held. We drew a scapula together identifying most of its crooks and crannies, mountains and valleys, as well as a full on yoga/Pilates class with music and sweat and of course relaxation in the end.
In the first class I introduced the planes and directions of the body and anatomical position in an alive and dynamic way and noticed straight away that this way of looking at those things was interesting and fun for them. Not only are these concepts new to the students but also the language is new, studying anatomy in English and Latin can be very daunting for people that have English as their first language let alone their second. We also looked at different students doing roll-downs and noted the lordosis and kyphosis (and scoliosis of some) and range of motion of the spine. At some point we did a Pilates side-lying combination for the deep lateral rotators complete with an intense piriformis exercise… I don’t think they’ll ever forget how it feels when the piriformis is firing and hopefully the facts around it like innervation, insertion and origin and piriformis syndrome were imprinted. I plan on fine-tuning and offering the course again next fall, maybe this time the medical school will show interest and allow me to borrow a spine or a pelvis to use for visual aid.
The opportunity to teach a living anatomy class appealed to me as a dancer and, in general, as a student of human anatomy and movement. Having studied dance and, later, Pilates led me to open myself up further to anatomical education, and teaching this class to the medical students helped me see ways to dig deeper into the material and understand how movement and anatomy complement each other in life and in pedagogy. We all are aware that we humans learn by doing and after doing teaching what we did is the best way to solidify knowledge. I learned a lot and recommend teaching LA not only because it helps you grow as a teacher but also because it gives you back so much. Long after having taught the classes I still get flashbacks or lingering thoughts and speculations that start to mold and form into deeper meaningful ways of teaching and looking at the human body. I strongly recommend the LA course to other movement and body instructors and practitioners who want to better understand the fundamentals underlying their craft.
About the author: Gudrun is a Pilates Instructor and engineering student in her native country of Iceland.