Q: I’ve played basketball all my life and have really bad lordosis. I have tried all different types of stretching philosophies and have contacted several experts about stretching with no success. I bought your book not really with the hope of fixing the problem but to learn a little more about the Psoas muscle.
I was really surprised, it gave me a brand new way of looking at stretching and posture in general. While practicing constructive rest for 20 minutes two times a day I’ve experienced a type of energy flowing up my legs and my spine shaking to the floor, is this normal? What’s the connection between the psoas and the lordosis? I’d love to bet taller for playing basket ball!
A: Constructive Rest position is a simple means of allowing a gentle yet powerful realignment to occur. By working with gravity the psoas muscle and corresponding back muscles are free to release unnecessary tension, which may include muscular shaking or quivering through out the legs and trunk. The spine finds a natural balance.
Awareness is key to posture. The more sensory aware of your bones, the more movement expresses itself through the core of your being and the less compensation and muscular tension. Rather than trying to compress or straigthen the spine to eliminate lordosis, I encourage the expression of the spine and psoas as a means of returning to a neutral dynamic core. Yes as the psoas releases and regains its suppleness, your spine will regain its full lenthen and your arms will reach high in the air!
Q: As a survivor of Incest in my teens, I wonder whether your course and books provide a way for me to connect with my body and my sexuality? My experiences have had a profound impact on my personal life and now in my late 30’s I am perhaps stronger to really tackle them head on.
A: Great question! Non-invasive and non-manipulative Psoas explorations offer a safe and simple way to reconnect with your true sense of self. Working with the core muscle and energetic midline are empowering ways to find coherency and safety within. Somatic explorations nourish and support our personal integrity. The psoas muscle in particular is intimately connected to our sexuality, integrity and sense of safety.
For a full body orgasm to occur the psoas muscle, as tenderloin, must be supple, dynamic and juicy, other wise full expression is curtailed. Returning to the midline and completing the primal expression of fetal and startle, curl and arc. Softening the jaw and deeply relaxing the belly while gently rocking on ones side, invites head and pelvis to reconnect through the spinal cords movement.
One can begin at any age. As long as you are alive there is life energy and life energy is sexual in nature.
Q: In a book review, in your recent newsletter, you comment that “because the psoas muscle is part of the “reptilian” or subconscious brain and cannot be controlled by conscious intention…”. However, in your Psoas Book, you have exercises/techniques for releasing, toning and strengthening the psoas muscle…should I be confused?
A: The appearance of confusion may be in defining the word control. The psoas is part of the primitive brain, central nervous system and the enteric brain or what we commonly refer to as our gut feelings. This survival response is vital to our very existence. Although the messages that we receive may be masked, misinterpreted, ignored or repressed, the message is true – just as gut feelings are true. The body doesn’t lie. So although one cannot stop the message (control) one can respond to it by consciously paying attention. In The Psoas Book (which by the way I wrote almost 30 years ago), I understood that one can’t “control” the muscles message however it is possible to sense and experience its movement. Release of tissue tension, the quality of tone and lengthening (not to be confused with strengthening) can feel dynamic and powerful. The key word here is AWARENESS. Release, tone and lengthening are simply movement experiences that enhance body awareness or somatic perception of internal messages within the tissue that is called psoas. One can become aware of the psoas through isolated movements: One can become whole by listening to its message. Awareness, rather than control is the path to wholeness and thus a healthy psoas.
Q: Is the psoas an emotional muscle? I just started doing the exercises recommended in the Core Awareness Book, and during your tele-class, and each time I try to be in constructive rest, I start feeling a strong ‘pulsing’ or trembling along both my inner thighs, particularly at the midpoint of the thighs.
I’ve tried adjusting my feet but the trembling continues and is pretty intense, so much so that a part of me doesn’t want to ‘go there’. Am I having some sort of psychosomatic reaction? I think a part of me is avoiding even trying the exercises because I don’t want to tap into my ‘core issues’. I have tried ‘forcing myself’ to stay in constructive rest, but that doesn’t feel right. Rolling into fetal position is the only position that really feels good to me right now. Should I follow my instincts?
A: The psoas is an emotional muscle! Your experience in constructive rest is a common one. I have had it myself. The leg muscles begin to let go of unnecessary tension; held energy that is both chemical and structural that vibrate and even shake the legs involuntarily. If trembling or shaking does occur, I let it. I feel safe on the ground so I know that any emotional feelings releasing are not happening in the moment and so is what may be called ‘old’ material.
I like that you are following your instincts and rolling into fetal position (on ones side with legs curled and the spine a soft C shape) when you feel ready. I recommend taking it slow and do not force anything. Always allow time after exploring constructive rest for taking a walk around the room or outside in a garden; drink a glass of water and simply be aware of feelings, thoughts and sensations that may be present. You could also try taking a warm bath using epson salts to help release stored toxins in those tense muscles.
Avoid bracing your legs by placing the feet wider apart then the pelvis. Rather than accommodating leg tension I recommend keeping your feet aligned with your hip sockets (front of the pelvis). A soft ball, yoga block or balloon the width of your pelvis, placed between your knees can often help relax the adductor muscles on the inside of your thighs. Keep your skeletal alignment and then allow any muscle dominance to let go around the supportive bones.
Q: Is it possible that my therapist possibly injured my psoas? I already had L4-L5 instability and now it is much worse after my massage; my back has pain and my leg is weak. I slowly recovered but a month after the massage and another gentle psoas release, I am back where I was; with my spine instability, weak left leg, pain in the upper buttocks and pain in the left groin. What should I do?
A: Palpation of the iliopsoas is due to a misunderstanding of its function, is uncalled for and in my opinion detrimental for resolving the original injury or trauma. When a therapist “works on” or trigger points the psoas they do so because the muscle is tight and they hope to release its tension pattern. However they do not understand that it is tight for a reason and that as bio-intelligent tissue, the psoas is protecting a deeper injury and dysfunction – most often overstretched or torn ligaments. Manually releasing the tissue often bruises the supple, dynamic and expressive psoas and may retraumatize the already vulnerable core. If their is “relief”, it is short lived.
The psoas protects the midline and is simply a messenger – so don’t shoot the messenger! When ligaments are torn or over stretched, the psoas compensates to protect midline integrity (the central nervous system). It is tight for a reason and over time, due to misuse, can become dry and shrink, thus causing even more sensations of tension. However, as soon as the original dysfunction is resolved, the tissue we call psoas will let go. Invasive, direct, and even “gentle” psoas manipulations go against the muscle’s natural defense response. As part of the flight/fight and freeze response, such approaches can drive the original dysfunction deeper.
To recover, I recommend constructive rest position every day, and suggest that you read my books, articles or tele-classes to understand how to heal your original imbalance or injury. A workshop or retreat will provide direct experience in rebalancing and healing the spinal injuries while you regain a supple dynamic psoas muscle.
Q: I want your opinion on the psoas and pregnancy. I had my fourth child, and found after his birth my psoas has tightened horribly, with accompanied back pain etc. I had a good pregnancy, did yoga and danced and felt good, but now it feels like my body is falling apart.
A: Congratulations on the birth of your child! Possibly your SI Joints (sacral iliac joints) got stretched or torn during birth and so your psoas muscle must get involved in an attempt to balance and maintain pelvic stability. Rebalancing the pelvis is key to a healthy psoas, healing the ligaments essential and possibly adding the tradition of “mother roasting“, which involves consulting an accupucturist for MOXA treatments to “energetically close” the lower charkras. I have an article available on mother roasting written by granny midwife Raven Lang – it is a beautiful tradition that strengthens the pelvic core and feels delicious.
Q: I have been working with your book for about three weeks now. I am a pilates and yoga teacher and practitioner but was injured skiing three months ago- broken ribs, collarbone sprained sterno-clavicular joint. I am aware how much I use my superficial hip flexors for everything – I imagine instead of the psoas – so I get terrifically tight through the rec fem and have sacroiliac pain.
I am trying to come back to movement by trying to recruit my psoas instead of cheating by using my rec fem and quads. I also practice Bartinieff fundamentals – leg slide and femoral fold but it is extremely difficult to flex the hip without grabbing in the front of the thigh. Please advise – thanks!
A: There are several areas I wish to address One is that your injury has a trauma aspect to it – the falling reflex and survival response is the psoas and so there will be a reaction from the accident that needs addressing and it will be an important apsect of your healing. It is not about controlling the core but resolving the disruption. I recommend the fetal curl (on your side) exploration. You can more described under my article section (Trauma articles)
- Psoas Health & Trauma Recovery (Massage and Bodywork Magazine)
- Iliopsoas – The Flee/Fight Muscle for Survival (Positive Health Magazine)
- The Iliopsoas Muscle (Deep, Complex and Mysterious Part One: A Bio-Reverent Approach (Massage Magazine) and The Iliopsoas Muscle Part Two: A Practical Approach (Massage Magazine)
Second – for the psoas to function well, the sacral iliac joints must function coherently by regaining stability and balance. I believe you need to rethingk your perpsective regarding the psoas. You are correct that behind the flexors is this delicious bio-intelligent tissue you will want to access and you are mistaken that you need to engage or in your words recruit the psoas. Allowing the psoas to inform you is a being and awareness capacity verses a controlling/doing event. I hope you can join me for a workshop…
Q: Is pain in the hip, groin, and low back caused by psoas problems, especially when sitting for long periods of time? I do the simple relaxation technique (constructive rest position) and it works, but it does not last.
A: The key phrase within your question is “sitting for long periods.” How one sits will either support the healthy psoas or engage the psoas for support. Bucket chairs (designed with scooped bottoms), found in most office chairs and car seats, offer little or no support for the pelvic basin. Rather then sense support from the bottom (sitting on your sits bones), the spine collapses and falls behind weight bearing balance. The psoas gets involved countering the lack of skeletal support. Try sitting on a chair with a firm cushioned seat that is FLAT or place a wedge on top of the chair to create and encourage both skeletal support, muscular integrity, and open hip sockets. The wedge helps lift the hips slightly higher than the knees, which is very important when sitting for periods of time. It is also important to move about and walk regularly.
A: A woman’s menstrual cycles is directly influenced by the health and suppleness of their iliopsoas. One reason for this is that the nerves of the reproductive organs embed through the iliopsoas.
Therefore if you have a dry, tight Psoas you may experience more cramping. Releasing your Psoas using the constructive rest position can help relieve tension caused by a tight Psoas. Many women have found that using constructive rest helps eliminate the need for pain medication.
Anatomically the Psoas supports kidney and adrenal health. The Psoas also plays a key role in the fight/flight/freeze survival response i.e. fear. Regaining a supple Psoas can resolve and eliminate chronic fear often associated with menses.
The healthy expression of the iliacus muscle, which fans open and lines the inside of the pelvic bowl, provides a structural support for correct placement of the reproductive organs, good blood circulation and improved neurology.
Because the Psoas muscle is a messenger of the central nervous system, regaining a healthy Psoas, in combination with nourishing the nervous system, really does play an important role in facilitating a healthy menstrual cycle.
Nourish your nervous system by: eating nutrient dense foods, eliminating processed foods from your diet, drinking plenty of fresh clean water, fostering somatic awareness (different from exercise), and going to sleep by 10PM most evenings. Sleep cycles influence the vital energy, and a good nights rest promotes good liver functioning. Remember at night is when we eliminate toxins, repair, and restore.
Most of all learn to release and/or regain a supple, dynamic, and juicy iliopsoas. It provides the structural, emotional and circulatory support necessary for healthy organ functioning while relieving the pressures and stress associated with menstrual cramps.
A: I have many approaches for working WITH the Psoas rather than working ON the Psoas. Once one understands the bio-intelligence of the Psoas as a messenger of the central nervous system, protocol for working with the Psoas changes.
I recommend healing the dysfunctions that call upon the Psoas to compensate in the first place; hydrating the dry Psoas tissue with movement, sound, and breath; enhancing proprioceptive development through movement and awareness; completing developmental primal reflexes, which may still be exhibited; correcting ergonomic imbalances; and supporting normal healthy function through core integrity.
One very important concept I present is the difference between getting “release” and resolution. Release is not the same as resolution. Trigger point approaches, for example, are release techniques; however, the Psoas is not the problem 99% of the time and even when it is, trigger point manipulation, in my way of thinking, is not a solution. Once again, getting a ‘release” through manipulation and palpation is not the same as resolving the message that the Psoas is communicating; rather, it may shut the messenger up but only for a relatively short time! The message must return as a biological imperative. I have heard the Psoas called the muscle of the soul…your deepest proprioceptive connection to earth and living with integrity – I teach therapist how to learn the language and listen to its message!
Q: In your flicker photos (2009 Summer Retreat), there are several of women floating in water on their sides using pool flotation devices (noodles). Is that a psoas release?
I floated in my pool one afternoon exactly in that manner long before I came to your work and had the most profound experience: As a firefighter I was struck with terrible chronic fatigue that kept me off work for 2 years. One day I simply got in my pool and just floated using my noodles and naturally came to the protective curled position. Soon I was discovering that I would just “open up”, after a while and felt very peaceful…I “recovered” if you will. The best way I can describe it is that my body seemed to be recharging. Fast forward several months and I’m back to full duty and riding my beloved fire engine. There is no question that floating in that medium and it that manner was part of a healing response to my sympathetic system which was always turned on. I never understood what it was nor have I ever seen anyone do that until I came across your pictures. Thank You very much for your work.
A: Yes the fetal curl is a psoas release position, and on a very deep level this fetal position or Primitive C also helps to resolve the sympathetic survival response. It is therefore useful for trauma protocol. Fetal is a very powerful position that we instinctively return to when we need to regain integrity within our core. Notice how in some of the other pictures people eventually uncurl to open fully to the medium of water. This natural opening cannot be forced but is a result of a spontaneous resolution.
Water is an incredibly useful medium and it is why I offer a Psoas Retreat at Rio Caliente each year. The source of water at Rio Caliente is a thermal underground volcanic lake. This odorless mineral rich (no sulfur) water is nourishing to the nervous system. Returning to water (our primordial source) refreshes and renews!
A: Serious golfers know that full hip socket rotation is a must for a powerful, dynamic, and accurate swing! Faulty swings will twist and disrupt the ability to keep ones eye on the ball.
Releasing the psoas is key to developing and maintaining healthy hips. Gaining a fluid, juicy psoas is also the best way for skeletal joints and muscles to function synergistically. Active recovery work plays an important part in balancing the imbalances inherent in the sport. How many golfers end up with hip socket dysfunctions that lead to low back or knee injuries? The concepts of a healthy Psoas and a neutral core is essential for everyone and specifically to the golfer.
Q: After listening to your podcasts I feel okay allowing myself to be in anterior pelvic tilt (lordois) rather than try to control it in some other way toward a more posterior tilt of the pelvis. Yet when I’m “allowing” myself to go there, I feel it keeps going – should I keep going?
A: We humans are living processes not static objects. Your system has an expression that it is attempting to complete. So yes keep going there while safely in constructive rest position – on a padded floor, use a softly 3/4s deflated slo-mo type inflatable ball placed under the back of the upper Psoas (behind the solar plexus) to help you feel supported and open your throat – it is what I call “startle” expression.
I recommend exploring “startle” position and here is why: if I understand that my organism is expressing itself and is not a static object than I pay attention to the expression and value it as meaningful. For example the expression we call lordosis expresses a warding off or startle response, which lifts and thrusts the body. Have you ever watched a 2 year old have a tantrum? What do they do? They arch their spine and scream. That is an expression of frustration, dismay, anger, or warding off – whatever it may be called, it is a core expression. We are living organisms that EXPRESS – however we learn to control our expression and we do it in many ways through various forms of inhibition. I am not interested in acting out but I do see that expression lives on in the organism and when I allow myself to move in the direction it is already going or manifesting, with conscious awareness, I can recover neutrality or what may be understood as a more balanced position in space and time.