Hello, Psoas! Hell no, Psoas!
Photo Credit: Yoga Anatomy, www.yoganatomy.com/psoas-resources-old__trashed/
It's seems that every move I make in yoga class causes tension and pain in my ilopsoas muscle; this is the muscle that runs down the front of the groin --from stomach to leg-- in laymen's terms, on both sides. Simplified, It connects backbone to leg bone. This muscle helps contract the body into the fetal position - used when crying or scared, for protection or comfort. It fiercely engages during the Fight-or-Flight and Fear Responses; the psoas strongly contracts the body to "duck and cover". Because it contracts and is activated during emotional turmoil, the psoas can hold deep psychic and emotional tension from trauma for long periods, even after the trauma has ended*. With that said, it is understandable that my psoas is tense and tight. As I stretch and strengthen, it resists. Not only am I releasing muscle tension on the physical plane, I am releasing years of emotional tension held there.
I sit cross-legged all the time, so it is surprising to me that it is so hard to sit cross-legged for long periods. Perhaps because I am more aware of my posture. This is one of my goals during this trip: to regain and rebuild my strong, straight posture! I have always had such excellent posture-- from a strict upbringing where I was constantly reminded to "sit up straight" and "hold your shoulders back", to years of yoga training where I was constantly aware of my body posture and actions. Slowly, over the past few years, my shoulders have rounded, I slump most of the time, and I look down. Slumping, looking down, and rounded shoulders are all ways to self-protect: protect the heart from pain, protect the body from suffering, protect one's Self from the dangers of the outside world. My poor posture is a physical manifestation of fear and anxiety-- an obvious result of trauma that has reinforced itself over time. Doesn't mean it can't be undone, though! This self-protection mechanism of my psoas is one reason my posture is so bad; I have been in "protection mode" for a few years now: feeling unsafe, unsettled, lacking security, and so forth. I've been walking around in an emotional fetal position, and as Dr. Van Der Kolk repeats again and again my body is keeping the score of the hits I take emotionally, physically (sports injuries), mentally (stress and worry), professionally (jobs and money), spiritually (all of the above)... have I missed anything?
Within 3 days, my posture is already realigning. I am sitting straighter and breathing deeper. I am following Dr. Raj's instruction: "Smile and Let Go!" I have forgotten how cardinal is the psoas to my overall posture. I am recalling and re-learning so much of the yoga science and practices I have forgotten from disuse. Instead of beating myself up too hard for letting my body and my heart reach this state of disuse and ill-repair, pain and isolation, I am remembering that I have done the best I could do the past few years. I survived remarkable trauma and hardship and I have come through relatively sane and broken only to the point that is reparable. If I look upon myself with compassion, and I look back at the past few years with compassion, I have done remarkably well. I have faltered, I have fallen (literally and figuratively), but I pull myself hand-over-hand back up.
Here I am, in Rishikesh, healing my body, my soul, and my heart. My psoas is releasing, as I release. The asana classes, pranayama, meditation, healing food, treatments, medicines, environs... they are all working to heal and undo, to create and build. As I "Smile and Let Go", I am released from so many shackles of the past. I will continue to unbind myself, stretch my muscles and my mind, build my willpower and determination, and create the Gina that is strong enough--more than strong enough!-- to leap toward the future I want for myself, and into the next transition ahead...! See you there!
Additional psoas info:
*Reference "The Body Keeps the Score" by Vessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
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...meditating on the banks of Mother Ganges!