I was relieved when I found Liz Koch’s book, The Psoas Book because it educated me on how I was going to heal the gripping pressure that runs down the left quadrant of my back and leg. This patterning goes back to the days of middle school cheerleading. I would practice twenty aerials in the front yard while preparing for try-outs. Landing on my left leg with the force of my body weight flying through the air was the beginning of the imbalance in my psoas. On top of that as an ambitious ballet dancer with an overly rotated turn out, flexibility, ballerina feet and loose ligaments, the ballet culture secured my psoas pain by demanding perfect lines from my outer body. (Not to mention that I was running and cycling ten to seventeen miles a day in between the above mentioned activities).
After my second child, I started back running too soon, which caused left tibial band pain due to the imbalance in my pelvis from having a baby and my past neglect of using my body intelligently. As a way to develop using my body intelligently, I started practicing yoga and pilates. This practice–along with running– kept me in good shape; however, it was not until I started my GYROTONIC® practice years later that I realized that I was posing in my movement practices, my inner body was weak and my autonomic nervous system was way out of balance. To sum it up, my psoas was short, over-firing sympathetically from this imbalance and I was stuck with a muffin top following me around!
Until I focused on releasing tension in my psoas, hip flexors and retraining the mapping of my nervous system in the way I access my pelvis, my body would not relax. I would breath, lengthen my psoas, and visualize using and lengthening my legs from the psoas connection, thus, retraining a new neural pathway that supports the tension flowing out of my constricted muscles. Intentionally, moving from my leg connections in my psoas, I know the re-patterning of my pelvis is successful when I feel the gripping release, my body soften and my body move with ease from an inner body alignment of abominable strength that I have never experienced before through force.
Liz Koch say’s by learning to relax the psoas muscles you literally are energizing your deepest core by reconnecting with the powerful energy of the earth. According to Koch, the psoas is far more than a core stabilizing muscle; it is an organ of perception composed of bio-intelligent tissue and “literally embodies our deepest urge for survival, and more profoundly, our elemental desire to flourish.”
Since I am challenged with lengthening my psoas muscles to be pain free and grow in my movement practice, I am committed to continued learning in my wholistic health practice. I’d like to share with you a sample of the research that Liz Koch and others have uncovered regarding the importance of the psoas to our health, vitality and emotional well-being.
The Psoas muscle (pronounced so-as) is the deepest muscle of the human body affecting our structural balance, muscular integrity, flexibility, and strength, range of motion, joint mobility, and organ functioning.
Growing out of both sides of the spine, the psoas spans laterally from the 12th thoracic vertebrae (T12) to each of the 5 lumbar vertebrae. From there it flows down through the abdominal core, the pelvis, to attach to the top of the femur (thigh) bone.
The Psoas is the only ‘muscle’ to connect the spine to the legs. It is responsible for holding us upright, and allows us to lift our legs in order to walk. A healthily functioning psoas stabilizes the spine and provides support through the trunk, forming a shelf for the vital organs of the abdominal core.
The psoas is connected to the diaphragm through connective tissue or fascia, which affects both our breath and fear reflex. This is because the psoas is directly linked to the re ptilian brain, the most ancient interior part of the brain stem and spinal cord. Koch states, “Long before the spoken word or the organizing capacity of the cortex developed, the reptilian brain, known for its survival instincts, maintained our essential core functioning.
Koch believes that our fast paced modern lifestyle (which runs on the adrenaline of our sympathetic nervous system) chronically triggers and tightens the psoas – making it literally ready to run or fight. The psoas helps you to spring into action – or curl you up into a protective ball.
If we constantly contract the psoas to due to stress or tension, the muscle eventually begins to shorten leading to a host of painful conditions including low back pain, sacroiliac pain, sciatica, disc problems, spondylolysis, scoliosis, hip degeneration, knee pain, menstruation pain, infertility, and digestive problems.
A tight psoas not only creates structural problems, it constricts the organs, puts pressure on nerves, interferes with the movement of fluids, and impairs diaphragmatic breathing.
In fact, “The psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, that a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.” Thus, creating an imbalanced autonomic system.
According to Koch, this situation is exacerbated by many things in our modern lifestyle, from car seats to constrictive clothing, from chairs to shoes that distort our posture, curtail our natural movements and further constrict our psoas.
Koch believes the first step in cultivating a healthy psoas is to release unnecessary tension. But “to work with the psoas is not to try to control the muscle, but to cultivate the awareness necessary for sensing its messages. This involves making a conscious choice to become somatically aware.”
A relaxed psoas is the mark of play and creative expression. Instead of the contracted psoas, ready to run or fight, the relaxed and released psoas is ready instead to lengthen and open, to dance. In many yoga poses (like tree) the thighs can’t fully rotate outward unless the psoas releases. A released psoas allows the front of the thighs to lengthen and the leg to move independently from the pelvis, enhancing and deepening the lift of the entire torso and heart.
Koch believes that by cultivating a healthy psoas, we can rekindle our body’s vital energies by learning to reconnect with the life force of the universe. Within the Taoist tradition the psoas is spoken of as the seat or muscle of the soul, and sur rounds
the lower “Dan tien” a major energy center of body. A flexible and strong psoas grounds us and allows subtle energies to flow through the bones, muscles and joints.
Koch writes “The psoas, by conducting energy, grounds us to the earth, just as a grounding wire prevents shocks and eliminates static on a radio. Freed and grounded, the spine can awaken”…“ As gravitational flows transfer weight through bones, tissue, and muscle, into the earth, the earth rebounds, flowing back up the legs and spine, energizing, coordinating and animating posture, movement and expression. It is an uninterrupted conversation between self, earth, and cosmos.”
It might be worth it next time you move intentionally that you tune in and pay attention to what your bio-intelligent psoas has to say. It is time to liberate the psoas from all of its outdated neural patterening.
This article was originally posted by Holly Hutcher-Shamir on www.oneheartconnection.com