Holding Heartbreak in the Psoas. ~ Kate Robinson

Via Kate Robinsonon Sep 10, 2013

yogabalance

I had been in pigeon and spontaneously started to inexplicably tremble. My teacher came over and put her hands on my low back while I struggled; then I began to pour tears.

My back, like most bi-peds, has been an above-the-crease topic for the greater part of my walking years; specifically, my lower-back and hips. Recently I suffered a breathtakingly painful injury that ruptured two of my intra-vertebral discs between l3 and l4, and l4 and l5. I went from a near erotic range of mobility to that of a Barbie. I could move, but not much. The MRI suggested I be sliced open and re-masted into a more seaworthy ship. Upon the advice of a friend I decided to wait the option out and continue to use yoga to help get myself out of pain.

Thus began and so continues my quest to heal my weeping spine.

There is an agreed upon suggestion in some sage-scented communities that most back pain is rooted in psycho-emotional pain.

I agree with this, up to a point.

That point is where such thinking offers utility and after a car accident or a blunt force trauma linking emotional baggage to that injury is at best, demoralizing, and at worst, rage inducing. It wasn’t until I had a few months between me and the searing yellow light of “banshee-pitched” pain that I could stomach the thought of evaluating just what, architecturally, perhaps as a result of sullen postural choices, had made my lower back more susceptible to this type of domino effect of ruptured discs.

All of this lead me back to a class I had taken prior to the fortuitous event.

I had been in pigeon and spontaneously started to inexplicably tremble. I couldn’t settle my right hip down and so my body began to shake with vigor. My teacher came over and put her hands on my low back while I struggled; then I began to pour tears. This brilliant teacher/cranio-sacral therapist stayed after class to talk about what had happened. I left understanding that my body had began to release muscular tension around a dense area of nerves (piriformis). The shaking came as a result of the muscle fighting to hang on to the gripping and all the lactic acid that was flooding the area. Some people refer to this type of event as going into “process” on the mat.

My understanding of the anatomy of the lower spine has lead me to an awareness of my own postural predilections.

The cycle of the psoas and sorrow.

  • A sitting job- tightens the psoas, pulls and demands more of the (muscles connected to L3, 4 and 5)
  • Having hunched shoulders can give the upper-back kyphotic characteristics, making your spine look like the top of a fiddle head fern. This collapsing of the chest closes your heart chakra. Rounding shoulders and larger breasts also pull the chest into subtle collapse.
  • Sleeping on your side—in a fetal ball, destabilizes hips and IT bands and shortens the psoas.
  • Avoiding pelvic/sacral second chakra awareness/range of motion (tense and closed hip flexors upper quads hips and glutes)

In Chinese medicine, the lower back—specifically pain in the left and right hip area of the back—represents one’s ability to ask for and receive help. I suppose this makes sense if you consider the jaw muscles and tension, TMJ and the resulting head-aches. We can agree the link between the jaw and stress is obvious. Why then, should the hips (a mirroring of the jaws) also be deeply affected by stress and emotional fatigue? This is another article. Let’s get down to some solutions to ease the pain.

Kate Robinson

Poses and tips to open these areas.

  • Spend 10 minutes a day on your back with your knees on a chair in a 90 degree position to help release the low back.
  • Use a folded blanket under the sits bones to help tilt the pelvis forward and keep your back straight.
  • Pigeon, figure 4
  • Bada konasanah, anjanay (lift from ribs)
  • Happy baby, half happy baby
  • Use blocks for forward fold
  • Low cobra, sphinx
  • Moon salutations if you must get your vin-on

Herbs can ease muscle tension.

Macerate and soak them in an organic carrier oil (aloe oil, coconut oil, sweet almond) and use 3-5 (ideally) of them to make your own recipe.

  • Search for organic when possible.
  • Chamomile, lavender, valerian and St. John’s wort relax muscles.
  • Arnica and wintergreen (properties similar to aspirin) ease pain
  • Ginger, tumeric or capsacin to warm.

Also, consider sleeping on your back with your knees propped.

Remember to keep active and give yourself permission to take time for your own healing, whether that be on the mat, in therapy, with a massage therapist or in a hot bath. Healing takes time and pain, both physical and emotional, are indicators that it is time to slow down and address the working of your habits and your heart.

 

Like elephant journal on Facebook.

Assistant Ed: Stephanie Sefton / Ed: Cat Beekmans

About Kate Robinson

Kate Robinson is a yoga teacher in and around Boston. She received her certification at Back Bay Yoga. She also is the author of the book “Darling Angel Meat” from Shoe Music Press and has her MFA in Poetry and Literature from Bennington. You can find out more about Kate on Facebook and on her website.

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8 Responses to “Holding Heartbreak in the Psoas. ~ Kate Robinson”

  1. Joe Sparks says:

    Hi Kate, Sorry about your injury. It sounds like you are doing better and have come up with some good solutions. If you get a chance check out Michaelle Edwards website http://www.manayoga.com. She has developed a method of yoga that is effective in healing a tight and weakened psoas muscle. It is called YogAlign. Michaelle Edwards is also a contributor to Elephant Journal. She points out that Western cultures are sitting cultures, putting the body in a right angle which goes against our natural design of the spine, causes major damage over time to the vertebrae you mention in your article. She has come up with some pain-free, safe and effective solution that allows the body to return to its natural state of function. Her philosophy is to work smarter not harder, with postures that facilitate deep rib cage breathing. The SIP breath as she like to call it, lengthens the spine, which makes it possible to release and lengthen, the stored up tension in the psoas, which is very tight in most of us, due to decades of sitting. The best thing about YogAlign is, you do not have to perform any painful poses, it is more focused on alignment and posture. Which we can all benefit from. Thanks for sharing!

  2. lulutart says:

    I LOVED this article, Kate. You have such a beautiful voice, and I really connected with your story. I'm going through something somewhat similar myself, and yoga has helped so much. You're amazing — keep going!

  3. Luna says:

    Good article, except for one thing: sleeping on your back for a long period of time is not a good idea due to spinal nerve compression. The best position is on the side (avoid fetal position but slightly bed one or both knees) with a pillow between the legs and another in front if your chest, hugged to you (or one body pillow).

    Back issues, neck issues, and a husband who’s had cervical spine stenosis and surgery and sleep apnea, so sleeping position has been much researched in my home.

  4. Luna says:

    Oh I just love iphone keypads and typos. :p. my previous comment, with corrections:

    Good article, except for one thing: sleeping on your back for a long period of time is not a good idea due to spinal nerve compression. The best position is on the side (avoid fetal position but slightly bend one or both knees) with a pillow between the legs and another in front of your chest, hugged to you (or one body pillow).

    Back issues, neck issues, and a husband who’s had cervical spine stenosis and surgery and sleep apnea, so sleeping position has been much researched in my home.

  5. yogalime says:

    Hi Kate, lovely article, thank you for sharing, wishing you well on your journey. Much love, Sky

  6. Arthur says:

    Hello Kate, this one is really best. About holding heartbreak in the Psoas whatever you shared is just awesome and I'm glad to learn such educative information through reading. Keep up coming.

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