September 11, 2013

Holding Heartbreak in the Psoas. ~ Kate Robinson

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.

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.


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Assistant Ed: Stephanie Sefton / Ed: Catherine Monkman

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