Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Psoas Muscles

The Pelvis is the foundation from where the practitioner begins the journey of practicing and understanding asana. An unstable pelvis is equal to an unstable spine. Also an unstable pelvis while practicing yoga can cause more damage to the body. The psoas muscles originate and attach at the lumbar region ( and insert at the femur. When tight they can pull the lumbar down, unstabilize the pelvis, and in certain cases cause disk herniations. Five to ten minutes in Constructive Rest Position is a great way to stabilize the pelvis while releasing your psoas.

To release the psoas lay on your back and begin with a soft belly breathing:  

Udiyana Bandha Pranayama:

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Pelvis

The pelvis: A keystone for yoga
By Liz Koch

The pelvis is the keystone of our physical structure and the foundation of a centered yoga practice. To feel centered and supported from within, our pelvis needs to be balanced and functioning as part of our torso without torques or twists. A balanced pelvis becomes a base of support for the spine, rib cage and head. It becomes a bowl containing and supporting the organs, nerves and viscera. A balanced pelvis frees the illiopsoas, the core muscle and increases range of motion in the hip sockets, preventing lower back and knee injuries.
The stable pelvis and the psoas muscle work in harmony-they form a partnership. The psoas muscle, a large, massive muscle, bridges the trunk to the leg. When used properly, it is a guide wire and as such, sensitively responds to the movement of the spine and the legs. When misused, the psoas muscle becomes rigid, limiting movement. Over time, misuse shortens the psoas muscle. A shortened psoas flexes and pulls on the pelvis, compressing the hip sockets and destabilizing the lower back.
As in any relationship, a dance occurs between pelvis and psoas. What often shortens the psoas is a destabilized pelvis, one that can no longer properly transfer weight from the trunk to the two legs. The psoas is then called upon to hold the trunk and leg together. Becoming a weight-supporting element, the psoas no longer can function freely as a muscle. It begins to function as a ligament and over time loses its suppleness as a muscle (i.e. begins to shorten).
In yoga asana, overextending, forcing a stretch and poor positioning can all stretch or tear pelvic ligaments, destabilizing the pelvis and shortening the psoas. Ligament damage or the overstretching of ligaments happens when they are under inappropriate tension. The pulling away of the bones one from another pulls, stretches, or tears the ligaments. Like the chicken and the egg koan, looseness in the sacrum and SI-joints calls upon the psoas to help hold the bones together. The body then further compensates by overdeveloping external muscles such as the hamstrings, gluts and adductors. This in turn pulls the bones further out of alignment and engages the psoas in holding the person together.
Proper positioning of the pelvis and releasing, toning and lengthening the psoas muscle is an integral part of stabilizing the pelvis. It is also an essential step in using the proper hip, pelvic and leg muscles, protecting the lumbar spine from compression and thus assuring the accuracy of each yoga posture. Focusing on the pelvis centers the work squarely inside the very core of your being.
To release the psoas, place yourself in the constructive rest position before you begin to practice asanas. Lie down on your back with the knees up and your feet on the floor. Arms rest below shoulder height to the sides, across the chest or on the pelvis. Place feet as wide apart as the width of the hip sockets, which are on the front of the pelvis to both sides of the pubis bone. In this position, the psoas will begin to release. No force is used to flatten the back. Just simply be in the position and focus your attention on the weight. Where is weight felt in the pelvis? Is one side heavier than the other? Do nothing but notice. As the psoas begins to release, after 5-10 minutes, the weight will begin to even out.
To tone the psoas, begin on all fours (cat pose) and explore the ability to shift weight from four points to three points. The position demands accurate placement of each bone in its socket perpendicular to the floor. Begin by releasing the psoas in the front of the right hip socket. Without shifting the pelvis, begin extending the right leg behind you, only releasing the leg to extend out. The movement begins at the hip socket-in the front of the socket-not in the dropping of the spine or the tipping of the pelvis. You can only extend the leg as far back as you can maintain a stable pelvis.
This is very exacting work. You cannot tone unless you can voluntarily release the psoas. Toning is the act of engaging the psoas properly. It is an eccentric muscle which means it never shortens. Engaging or toning the psoas means it never contracts, but falls back along the spine, always lengthening both the front and the back of the body.
For lengthening the psoas, the modified or full pigeon, when properly performed, is a psoas and iliacus stretch. Once again, positioning is crucial. Most people twist the pelvis in this pose. Rather, keep the pelvis balanced and stable, and release and stretch out from the core. Keeping the pelvis forward and stable may change the range of movement, but the stretch is deeper and you can isolate the stretch the psoas and iliacus muscle rather than pull on the pelvis. Lunges are psoas stretches.
Liz Koch is the author of The Psoas Book, a comprehensive guide to the iliopsoas muscle and its profound affect on the body/mind/ emotions. Liz was recently featured in Yoga Journal (May/June 99) and Yoga & Health (London England Oct 98).

Thursday, December 3, 2009


            The practice of mindfulness could look at the possible causes of separation, stress, illness and seek for mind/body reintegration, or somatic/cognitive/emotional healing, which can be very beneficial for trauma survivors, rather than relying totally on symptoms’ relief drugs. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote “Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves…Consider, for example: a magician who cuts his body into many parts and places each part in a different region—the hands in the south, arms in the east, legs in the north—then by some miraculous power lets forth a cry which reassembles whole every part of his body. Mindfulness…can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life (Nhat Hanh, 1987, pp. 12-13).” The Sutra of Mindfulness says: “When walking, the practitioner must be conscious that he is walking. When sitting, the practitioner must be conscious that he is sitting. When lying down…that he is lying down…The mindfulness of the positions of one’s body is not enough, however…We must be conscious of each breath, each movement, every thought and feeling, everything which has any relation to ourselves (Nhat Hanh, 1987, pp. 12-13).” “Mindfulness itself is the life of awareness: the presence of mindfulness means the presence of life, and therefore mindfulness is also the fruit (Nhat Hanh 1987, pp. 21-22). This more eastern vision advocates awareness of and control over the mind during the simplest everyday actions--practicing mindfulness is creating unity within every moment in life.

Body & Mind
            There are a variety of ways to feel body/mind healing and integration. Jung writes: “…It is the here and now, for to be really in the here and now, one must be in the body…anything experienced outside the body has the quality of being without body; so you must experience the whole thing over again.  It must come in a new way…Whatever you experience outside of the body, in a dream for instance, is not experienced unless you take it into the body.  If you have a dream and let it pass by you, nothing has happened at all, even if it is the most amazing dream; but if you look at it with the purpose of trying to understand it, and succeeds in understanding it, then you have taken it into the here and now, the body being a visible expression of the here and now…if you had not taken your body into this room, nobody would know you were here; though even if you seem to be in the body, it is by no means sure that you are, because your mind might be wandering without your realizing it.  Then whatever is going on here would not be realized; it would be like a vague dream that floats in and out, and nothing has happened (Harris, 2001, pp. 62-63).

Autogenic Relaxation

Counting backward from 10 to 1. 
Phase 1: Heaviness
-My arms and hands feel heavy.
-My legs and feet feel heavy.
-My arms and legs feel heavy.
Phase 2: Warmth
-My arms and hands feel warm.
-My legs and feet feel warm.
-My arms and legs feel warm.
Phase 3: Heart
-My heart is calm and relaxed.
-My heart beat is slow and relaxed.
Phase 4: Breathing
-My breathing is slow and relaxed.
-My breathing is calm and comfortable.
Phase 5: Solar Plexus
-My forehead is cool.
-My forehead is calm and relaxed.
-My entire body is calm and relaxed.

(From IYT Yoga Manual)