Tag Archives: anatomy

Connect To Your Core: Core Anatomy, Integration, and Application

In Forrest Yoga, we do core work. If you’ve never encountered this in a yoga class before, your first thought might be WHY? A strong core is incredibly important. In our modern day, “weakness” comes not just from lack of tone, but also from too much tone, or tightness. Sitting at a desk all day confers both lack of tone in some parts (lower back, pelvic floor) and too much tone in others (psoas, rhomboids). In Forrest Yoga, core work builds tone and connection where it is lacking, and releases tension where hyper-tonicity is adding to weakness and disconnect.

Our core muscles protect the bones and organs of our trunk, hold our organs in our abdominal cavity, and connect our trunk to our legs. A healthy toned core, one that is neither flaccid nor rigid, provides the best support for our vital organs, and in particular our guts. It’s a new way of thinking that “toned core” means “healthy guts” more than “six-pack abs,” but this is what Forrest Yoga does: takes you far deeper into understanding your body, and also helps dismantle a lot of popular, but erroneous, ideas.

In this two-hour workshop, we’ll review the basic anatomy of the core, in particular the muscles most commonly used in our basic core moves. I’ll explain what the muscles do, then you’ll experience that (integrate the information) by doing the poses yourself. For regular practitioners, you’ll get a new level of detail in understanding your core work poses. For new folks to Forrest Yoga, you’ll get a crash course in knowing how this part of your body works. Doing the poses following the anatomy part of the workshop should help everyone feel more educated and aware about this part of our body that for many of us, is an area we’d rather not think about, or don’t really understand well.

Once we’ve talked about and experienced our core muscles, we’ll put it all together into a back-bending class (yup, you use you core in that too and the more intelligent you are about the application of your core muscles in back-bending, the more pleasure and the more results you’ll receive from your back-bending practice). You’ll feel the support of your core from, as Ana Forrest likes to say “crotch to crown” and that’s pretty exciting. My experience of core work is that it makes me feel really connected, really powerful, sexier, and more alive.

I hope you will join us on Friday, May 15th from 7-9pm at Yoga in the Heights, 317 Central Ave., in Jersey City, NJ. www.jcheightsyoga.com

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From the Archives: Oh, My Aching Psoas!

Here’s another archival post from my other blog Metropolitan Observer, where I blogged about yoga and other things before I started this blog. If you’ve been following my posts, you may have noticed I’m just a wee bit obsessed with the psoas, a postural muscle that is part of your core and can basically be summed up as “hip flexor.”

Where does the psoas attach? To the lesser trochanter, a knob on the inside of the femur, shown here in the circle.

Psoas attaches to the lesser trochanter.

The psoas is a long, thin muscle that starts in the posterior (on the back) mid-spine and sort of wraps around to the front (anterior) of your body where it finally attaches at the lesser trochanter on the inside of the femur bone.

The psoas is used in hip flexion and extension, but it is so much more than that. It is a highly sensitive muscle that responds to what is happening around it, having led to some writers calling it an “organ of perception” more than a muscle. The psoas plays a major role in both posture and a person’s gait, and changes in these will affect the psoas, as changes in the psoas will affect both of these in turn.

Here’s an article I posted about a year and a half ago where I first began to gain awareness about this fantastic muscle. If you’re interested in learning more, check out another post I wrote, “The Sensitive Psoas.”

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Oh, my aching psoas!

The psoas muscle is not one most people think about, or even know about! But having spent the last two months in an awesome yoga teacher training, I know about muscles I didn’t even know existed! The psoas being one of them. It is a deep muscle that essentially attaches your upper body to your lower body. It starts on your last thoracic vertebrae and attaches to the following four lumbar vertebra. If what I just wrote sounds like Greek to you, the psoas attaches deep within the body, behind your rectus abdominus (the 6-pack muscle), to your middle/lower spine.

Shaped like a hammock or a sickle, it is a spirilic muscle, meaning it spirals. Paula says it is a feminine muscle. In me, today, it is a REALLY sore and stiff muscle. And when psoas is tight, lordosis, or swayback, happens, which I have right now. I’m a mess.

I have this because in kundalini class on Tuesday, one of the kriyas involved scissor kicks for four minutes. I could’ve plugged in more and used my abdominals instead of my psoas (hip flexor) to lift my legs, but when you’re in the throes of kundalini, working through a weird kriya with the intention of releasing negative energy, well psoas be damned! there are more important things to attend to!

But I’m paying for it a bit today. I’m walking funny, I get stiffer the longer I sit at my desk, and I can’t WAIT for yoga tonight to bring some much needed attention to this very stiff part of my body right now. I’ll be doing a restorative class, actually, which holds poses for much longer than in a regular yoga class. I need that extended time in poses to help release this tension. Any movement will be good, but I’ll really benefit from the parasympathetic response that the restorative practice will induce. It’ll also chill me out supremely (parasympathetic response = relaxation response) which is just great as tonight at 9:04pm, we go into New Moon in Taurus and I will appreciate being grounded and calm for my bath-and-gratitude ritual (soak in a bath of sea salt/apple cider vinegar and make a list of 10 things you are grateful for).

Taurus Moon helps us get more in touch with emotional attitudes around abundance. If you are having blockages towards prosperity (however you define that and “what” you are prosperous around), Taurus New Moon is a great time to set an intention for being receptive to abundance! I clearly have an abundance of psoas energy right now, but I am grateful, because I received this due to the determination I practiced kriyas with on Tuesday 🙂

For more info on the psoas, check out this video on MyYogaOnline.com, a cool site with good information for yogis, yoga teachers, anatomy freaks, etc.

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The Sensitive Psoas

Click to enlarge

Just over a week ago, a random sequence of events arrived at me confronting an injury that I did not fully understand. I went from having some slight pain and stiffness in the outside of my hip to not being able to sit up, bend down, or walk. I was limping and unbalanced. My gait was completely altered. I was fortunate enough to be seen by the amazing Hellerwork practitioner Anne-Marie Duschene the next day. She works at Reflections Yoga doing bodywork for many of the cast members of Fela! The Musical, amongst others.  I know Anne-Marie from the studio but doing bodywork is a very different way of knowing someone. Especially in the attuned, intuitive presence of a master, this work can allow you to feel the state of your being physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It can be very intense, but in the safety Anne-Marie provides, it’s all good.

At this time, I thought something was wrong with my psoas, a long, deep postural core muscle that can be thought of as the top of the leg (for a far more in-depth look at this concept, this series entitled The Opinionated Psoas is fantastic).  I came to find out it was inflammation in the area around my greater trochanter (more anatomy geekery: the outside knob on the femur/thigh bone where leg muscles attach). Turns out there is a whole diagnosis of this condition: greater trochanteric pain syndrome. Since my psoas was not injured, but was responding to the things around it, I came to find out something about an entirely new part of my body that I would have never known was so complex. I also came to have even more respect for the sensitive psoas.

The psoas is something of a witness: never itself being directly involved, but transmitting information about the body with the expressive range of a violin. This amazing article sees the psoas as an organ of perception, more like a tongue than an anatomical muscle. It calls the psoas “the filet mignon of the human body: juicy, delicate, tender, and very responsive.” There is even a book dedicated to the psoas, outlining the various roles of the muscle, including its connection to childhood conditioning and growth, the fear reflex, and labor and childbirth.

This is not the first time the psoas has literally called out to me by indicating pain or discomfort or an altered gait or something just off in that area. I have a feeling the psoas has some things to teach me. I will let you know what I discover!

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