My initial thoughts on anatomy training and entering the cadaver lab are found in my post from Wednesday. Today, we enter the lab.

The day was set up brilliantly. The morning had a lecture on upper body. Then we went into the lab and explored the upper body. It was FREEZING in there, but the formaldehyde smell didn’t bother me at all. Each of the eight bodies had a grad student in charge so you could ask questions. They would help you locate the muscles and nerves that look NOTHING like the anatomy books. The grad students had already prepped the bodies for us so there was no cutting.

We were told the age of the person and how they passed. I was shocked at my curiosity. I did listen and learn. And I did touch. Let me tell you, after memorizing the four rotator cuff muscles from a book, you think you’ve got it and then you go look for them…It was probably the first time I began to understand that we are truly all one, intertwined, connected mix of muscles, tissues, nerves, everything is all together. There’s not a perfectly perfect supraspinatus just sitting there waiting to be examined. We were in the lab for about an hour and a half, going from body to body. I said a silent blessing to each and every body and felt an immense amount of gratitude for them.

Your glutes have a lot of nerve...sciatic nerve.

Your glutes have a lot of nerve…sciatic nerve.

The afternoon was lower body lecture, then lab. No rotator cuff here. Now, what blew my mind, was the sciatic nerve. No wonder it’s such a pain in the ***. It’s HUGE.

Also fascinating, the glutes. In all of my trainings, I’ve learned in general, we have lost our ability to activate our buttock muscles because we sit all day long. Every day. Seeing the size of these muscles and knowing they are meant to be strong and utilized for healthy locomotion was really cool. Again, they were just layers of muscles that were not distinguishable to me. And the uterus. A baby grows in there??? It’s so TINY.

The cadaver lab experience was one I will not forget. It inspired me to continue on my journey of learning about my own body and the bodies I teach. I hope to attend a much more in depth cadaver lab one day. It’s official, I’ve become a body nerd and a bit of a science geek. Maybe you’ll join me?

Enjoyed this article? Read Awakening a Sleepy Gluteus Medius

Terry Littlefield

Terry Littlefield, RYT-500, Integrated Yoga Tune Up® teacher, and long-time practitioner, is a passionate educator with a big sense of humor and an even bigger heart. Her classes are a blend of science and spirit, breath work and ball work (Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls, of course), movement and meditation. If you want to have fun and experience safe, functional movement within your yoga practice, she’s your yogi.

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You’re correct – we do far too much sitting. What an experience to examine the muscles in the cadaver lab! I’ve only seen videos.

Rose Moro

I find this so fascinating and it is on my list of trainings to attend. As a RN and teacher of movement, I have studied and worked with live bodies, but to actually see and touch the inner workings of our miraculous body is something I want to experience. Thanks for sharing your experience and Ah Ha moments.

Sheila Ewers

Training in a cadaver lab is on my “bucket list.” The closest I have come is through video and the Bodies Exhibit in Atlanta. I would love to see and touch the muscles in an actual human body. I feel like all of the book learning of anatomy in the world still falls far short of the miracle of an actual human body.


I never had an interest in anatomy until I started yoga training in my late 40’s. Prior to that I was a City Planner!!! I dreaded every anatomy training because I was so clueless; however, the more I knew the more I wanted to know. I’m now pretty much obsessed with it and no longer dread knowing about it, and what it does, and how to treat it. I’d love to see the inside of a real human body, but for now I just watch all the medical shows and pretend.

Duygu (Dee) Ozkan

If anyone have asked me to go to a cadaver lab before the YTU level 1 training I would say mmmm no thanks! 🙂 The anatomy is always the part that needs extra attention from me to be understood 😉 Now I am surprised how interested I am with all the bones, muscles and the nerves. I feel lucky because I read this article right after reading the one ‘Keep Your Hips Healthy With A Happy Piriformis by Dawn Adams’. She mentioned about the Sciatic nerve and how to play with the muscles around that. For those who wants to… Read more »


Thank you for your post! I have been curious about attending a lab for a long time. Honestly, I don’t believe I was ready until recently. Now, I see how profoundly it can layer my education as a next level understanding of the human body. Your post was comforting to know it isn’t as scary as it seems; the next time I see an opportunity, I might just sign up … all because of you and your ability to appease my unease!


One thing in this post that really jumped out at me was your comment on how the glutes turn off from a lot of sitting. Yesterday was our hip day in the Level one class. I went for a walk last night and noticed that my gluteus maximus muscles were actually activating with every step. It was a strange feeling and I am so excited that they have finally turned back on.


Wow! Thank you for taking me with you into the lab! Before hearing about YTU I was interested in bodies and their movement, but more from a “yoga-spiritual” point of view. My own pain led me to the YTU direction which gave me practical, movement based information about my body and how to start healing it.
I never knew a body and its movement can be so interesting! Sometimes I feel like a body nerd and who knows…. maybe one day I’ll be in a lab too.

Erin Kintzing

Wow– this is so cool! It also helps set the context for self-compassion in our bodies to know that no ones muscles look or feel the way they are depicted in the anatomy book. It sounds like a simple, perhaps obvious concept, but I’ve gotten frustrated in my own self-care with not being entirely certain if I was actually rolling the infraspinatus or the supraspinatus or something else, and it’s nice to know that it’s all really just one big mess in there! The will be something I tell my students when I see them getting frustrated. Thanks!

Noelle Carvey

I can’t WAIT for a cadaver lab! I love how much I have heard that it is treated with so much care and respect. Especially what I hear of Gil Hedley. Thank you for this insight into your experience! I was wondering if it would be easy to discern different muscles, I can’t wait to try.

Pamela Ferner

Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I am so looking forward to having a similar experience in my future. I am currently in the yoga tuneup teacher training and, as a visual and experiential learning, I KNOW that seeing a real body would go a long way in helping me understand the where everything actually is (both directionally and related to everything else). The tone of what you wrote also makes this experience seem more accessible than I might have imagined.

Pascale hazledine

I have had the priveledge of going to the anatomy lab ,what amazed me was how strong nerves are!our medical student was incredibly knowledgeable and she loved sharing her expertise.i recommend it to anyone who studies movement.


I felt a bit closer to understanding the interconnectedness of ourselves. Great to reminded about the different experience of books and real tissues.

Kate Laird

I love your descriptions of the muscles being so intertwined and connected.

robin white

We observed a similar dissection in a Gil Hedley video recently, in an anatomy workshop–remarkable. The sciatic is thick with cable properties! I am recently recovered from a sciatic nerve injury, and here was a view of an example of the thing I had been rehabbing for a year (when the injury occurred it felt like an electric shock from the femur to my big toe, so now I think I have a pretty good interoceptive “map”). Regarding this sort of injury: the physician was appreciative of the fact that I was taking some yoga classes at the time, gave… Read more »

Natalie K.

I can totally relate to this experience, the first time I went into a cadaver lab, I was blown away. We study from books, and then some of us get the opportunity of seeing it in real life and its true it looks nothing like it does in the books. We are all truly one connected whole being.
Thank you for sharing!

shari Williams

I’m watching the 4 discs of the anatomy lab currently, and I find them fascinating. Thank you for your first hand experience and the attached picture which is so helpful for location the landmarks of this nervy nerve!!

Jo Harvey

so interesting about the sciatic nerve! Even more so our butt muscles. I am inspired to work them more. 🙂 thanks for the read.

Jo Harvey

great read and so interesting about the sciatic nerve. It must be an amazing experience to see our insides! Thanks for the read.

Sarah Pluscarr

I particularly liked the comment/paragraph on the glutes, and specifically how we may have lost our ability to activate our glutes because we sit all day. It motivates me to transform my lifestyle from a sitting lifestyle to an active/walking/moving/standing lifestyle. In the holy temple in Jerusalem, the Kohanim worked all day and there were no chairs. They either stood, or they slept. Seems like a good system to me!

Nancy Drope

Thank you Terry for sharing. I too, hope to experience a cadaver lab sometime soon. A Lifetime of learning, what an adventure for us all.

Lee-Anne Heron

Well said. A dissection is a great way to visualise how interconnected we are. Thanks for sharing!


Loved your article and reading a first hand observation of the human anatomy. I learned a lot just reading this article….sciatic nerve size (just by using the word Huge), etc. along with all of your other observations. Would love to hear more of them from your class experience. I’m an older beginning yoga teacher and have always loved anatomy but have learned it more from personal sports injuries and my own broken bones. Not the best way to learn but yet an effective way. Look forward to reading the rest of your blogs.