Isn’t it amazing that what’s supposed to make us happiest also makes us so tense? Decorating, choosing the perfect gifts, rushing to find a parking space, crowding at the movie theater? Even writing about it is making my inner self get all tangled up.
Sometimes we feel hard to express tension and frustration and we are physically unable to relax. At those times, I find that positioning the body in an essential psoas release is a great place to start.
Why the psoas and what is it? One of the most amazing illustrations I have seen of it is HERE. Even if you choose not to look at it, know it’s a pair of long loin shaped muscles that run from your lumbar spine forward and end up attaching to the inner thigh area. Those ginormous muscles have an amazing ability to link the upper and lower part of the body for movement, but are also powerful communicators of stress and tension in the body, and often alert us of stress and frustration, through back pain, pelvic pain or digestive issues.
The goal of this relaxation exercise is to ease the tension in your deep core and lumbar area. To set you for it, go ahead and fold a large blanket until you have it square to the thickness of a firm pillow. Place it on the ground and grab a small pillow.
Before you go into the release lay on your back and assess how tense or relaxed your body is. Check your chin position, the shape and contact of your shoulder blades on the floor, how far your spine is from the floor in its different segments, are the backs of your thighs relaxed on the floor or are they lifted off the floor, where is your pelvis and generally how relaxed on the floor or ”lifted off” the floor you feel.
To set up for the release place your shoulder blades on the folded blanket (or yoga bolster). Place the small pillow or yoga brick under your head so that your chin can drop down and relax. Place your arms at your sides palms up. From here you can assess the elevation of your ribcage – you can touch your ribs and see how far they are sticking up, out or to the side. Ideally the ridges of your ribs should be flush with the flesh of your abdominals and not visible at all. Using your breath, gently breathe in and breathe out, allowing the chest to relax towards the ground and the low back to ease into an imaginable hammock.
You can lay and breathe in this position for as long as you like, preferably for at least 10 minutes. Most people who experience back tension and digestive distress want to spend even longer. I personally have had many days when I relaxed in this position for 30 to 45 minutes at a time and got up very relaxed and refreshed.
The great thing about getting unnecessary tension out of your neck and low back area is that the new state of your muscles communicates back to your mind that there is a new calmer version of you emerging from the relaxation. Your thoughts start to flow better, creative block gets broken, numerous aches and pains subside and go away.
Once done with your release, lay back flat on the floor to assess what changes have occurred in your system – are your shoulders closer to the floor, is your ribcage more relaxed, can you feel that space under your low back decreased?
December can be a crazy month, but there is something you can do – participate in making it less crazy by taking your own tension out of your way and going about your day with peace and flow.
Move well and happy Holidays!
December 13, 2013 at 5:23 pm
I love this psoas release! Do you recommend any specific movements or positions once you get out of the relaxed position? I’m always afraid I’m undoing everything by going immediately back to business as usual.
December 13, 2013 at 7:30 pm
Hi Melanie. Eventually you will be able to cultivate a relaxed position that you can take from the floor to your daily activities, it’s something that happens with time and experience and as you become more aware of the tension patterns you go into reacting to the world. In your case I would recommend laying on the floor flat after, then rolling onto all 4 and breathing in that position for a minute then going to sitting (you can sit criss cross on the floor) and breathing there and then going to standing. Another cool way to transition out of it is to do some slow crawling around on the floor, forward and back, before you get up. Hope this helps!
December 13, 2013 at 7:34 pm
Thanks! This sounds great. I will definitely try those suggestions.