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Tag Archives: Psoas

Ugh.  Writing about Session Five has been Such. A. Struggle.   I may be guilty of some perfectionistic tendencies.  And I really love Session Five and want to do it justice, honoring its magic.  But it’s also this deep session, at the core of the 10-series that works on the center of the body, corresponding to central aspects of our emotional beings.  Which all leads to me not having the easiest time writing about this gorgeous session.  But I’m going to try.

In Session Five we’re hitting the reset button.  We’re awakening the core.  We’re asking “Who am I?” relative to the inside self, the center, to instinct and vulnerability.  This is a core/sleeve session.  This is a top/bottom session.  This is a front/back session.  In other words, this session is the motherlode.  No wonder I love this session.

The main focus of Session Five, structurally, is the psoas, a muscle I didn’t even know existed before I first got Rolfed.  But now, I know and love the psoas, and hopefully you will, too.  The psoas is this beautiful muscle, or really, there are two, matching beautiful muscles, the psoai.  They run from the front and sides of the lumbar vertebrae (and the last thoracic vertebra), down through the pelvis and connect to the tops of the femurs.  Here’s a drawing of the psoai with their partners in pelvis stability, the illiacus muscles, which also get attention in Session Five:

The psoai are strong, long, and luscious.  Or, at least they should be.  Most of us spend so much time sitting that we have shorter than ideal psoai and they tend to be locked and loaded all the time, without the ability to relax and lengthen.  When you lift your leg in front of you, to go up a stair, for instance, your psoas is one of the main muscles responsible for that action.  And when you swing your leg behind you, to take a long, graceful step, for instance, your psoas needs to relax and lengthen.  Did you know your legs start above your belly-button?  Because they do, and the psoas is the muscle responsible for that.  I’ve found in my practice that overly tight and shortened psoas muscles are responsible for almost all the low-back pain I ever see, and I see a lot of low-back pain.  Shortened psoas muscles can also lead to hip pain, groin pain, sciatica, neck pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, restricted breathing, and jaw pain.  It seems like a pretty important muscle.  Oh, and to get to the psoas, we have to work through 4 layers of more superficial abdominal muscles and around the majority of your viscera (organs), just for funsies.  Session Five is amazing, but I never said it was comfortable.

Session Five goals (beside simply loving the psoas) include:

  • increased anterior-posterior (front to back) depth; (remember that Double Stuf Oreo we started working on in Session Three?)
  • to begin helping the core space open from the pelvic floor to the roof of the mouth
  • balancing the relationship of the thorax (rib cage) to the pelvis
  • establishing the front of the spine
  • having the legs function from the lumbo-dorsal hinge (at the bottom of the ribs)

We are working here with the front of the back and the back of the front.  What’s more representative of the front of the back than a muscle that connects to the front of the spine, but is considered an abdominal muscle (as opposed to a back muscle)?  When I first learned about the psoas, this concept blew my mind.  I’d never thought about the front of my spine before.  I don’t think it had occurred to me that my spine HAD a front.  Obviously, it does.  I just hadn’t thought about it.  This is the core of the core.  This muscle is the physical embodiment of the place between future and past, between top and bottom, and is literally at our center.  This is the session where we ask questions like:  What is core?  What is surface?  Where and how do they connect?  Are they balanced in relation to each other?

Naturally, on a personal level, I was interested to see if and how this session, with it’s deep abdominal focus would effect my ‘hip thing.’  And I’m always down for a little exploration around “Who am I, really?”  So I was excited to receive Session Five.  It did not disappoint.  As per usual, Dave worked his magic.  Some standard, structural Rolfing with a nice mix of SourcePoint to clear out some fear I didn’t know was hiding in my abdomen.  I got up from the table after receiving Session Five and started singing “I’ve got no strings” from Pinocchio.  Seriously.  My joints all felt so smooth and loose, without being floppy or sloppy.  And I felt a lot taller, and longer along my whole front, as if I’d been unzipped from a too-tight casing.  This is what I felt like:  I took a little walk around Dave’s office and felt so upright and tall, with my shoulders effortlessly back behind me, instead of rounding forward.  My feet were contacting the ground well and comfortably.  It was amazing.  And two weeks later, I still had no trouble with my ‘hip thing.’  Since Session Five, though, I have had a lot of internal and emotional upheaval.  A lot of questioning around what’s really important to me and whether or not my life reflects those things.  Questions around integrity and long-term happiness and fulfillment.  Again, this session is amazing (and obviously important), but not necessarily comfortable.  I’m grateful for the experience.  Session Five rules.


I’ve been thinking about Core a lot lately, SassyPants. Therefore, I wanted to write about Core. But I thought to myself, “Theresa, you always write about Core. And yeah, it’s important and all, but come on. The masses are tired of hearing about Core.” Turns out, I’ve written about Core twice. Once on January 3rd of last year, I wrote about my favorite Core muscle, the psoas.  And almost two years ago, I wrote about your energetic core, or your golden midline. So I’m going to write about Core again, since I don’t actually always write about Core. I just always think about Core, and I always want to write about Core.

So, ‘the Core’ is something Rolfers are always going on about. A whopping 4 sessions of the 10-series are devoted just to the Core. We’re always rambling about movement being initiated from the Core, and lengthening the Core, and accessing the Core. And while it all logically makes sense, I didn’t know what any of that felt like in my body until I was halfway through my second 10-series in the middle of my training to become a Rolfer. I got up off the table, and could feel my Core. It was lovely! So strong and stable! So long and tall! I felt like I could stand forever without getting tired. My Core could support me and my ‘sleeve,’ on the other hand, could just rest. Physically, I finally knew what Core meant.

In the last few years as I went through my Saturn Return, I had a very real sense of my non-physical Core. This was the essence of who I was as a human being. It felt as though my Core was a ceramic vase, and was being smashed to smithereens. Not exactly a pleasant experience. But among the shards and dust, I felt like a new core, this one made from un-smashable steel, was emerging. As painful as it was, it turns out I’d rather have a steel pipe than a ceramic vase as my Core, and I’m grateful for that brutal smashing. I now have a very clear sense of this indestructible mental, emotional, and spiritual core, to go with that physical core I found back in Rolfing school. Huzzah!

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of yoga. Well…a lot by my standards, which means 2 to 4 classes a week. And those yoga teachers, man, they just won’t stop talking about Core. Engage your Core! Use your Core! And they’re so right. Each pose, each movement feels better and stronger and more stable when my Core is engaged and active. It’s when I forget about my Core that I fall over or tweak something in a weird way.

So, yeah, Core is important. It’s a big deal. I might go as far as to say Core (and your ability to access it) is critical to a happy, healthy life. But learning to relate to your Core can be challenging. In my case, it took 15 Rolfing sessions before I could feel it. It took years of soul searching, and a fair number of tears, before I could emotionally access it in a moment. It took a lot of journal entries and long walks with friends before I felt confident in my Core. So if you’re there…if you know your Core and how to access it on all levels, good on ya! I’m so impressed. And if you don’t, if Core is still a bit of a mysterious concept to you, don’t fret. Little by little you will learn, if you want to learn, how to relate to your Core. And more importantly, how to make sure every movement you make, every word you speak, every spell you invoke, and every thought you think comes from your Core. And that will be a beautiful day, indeed.

Happy New Year to you, sassy pants! I hope you had a super rad and super safe New Year’s Eve!  Now, let’s get down to business.  Your back (or your shoulder, or your neck) hurts.  You tell someone.  They tell you to “strengthen your core.”  You do a bunch of situps.  Your pain doesn’t go away, even with your rockin’ six-pack.  What the…?  The thing is, your abdominal wall muscles aren’t your true core.  And until you actually learn not only to strengthen, but also to lengthen and to use your core, that back pain’s not going anywhere.

Wanna know what really is a core muscle?  Of course you do, so I’ll tell you.  Obviously, there are lots of core muscles, from the tiny ones in between each and every vertebra to big ones like the quadratus lumborum and the diaphragm.  But today we’re going to talk about my favorite of all the muscles and a beautiful example of a core muscle, the psoas.  When I first learned about the psoas, I thought it was spelled “soaz” ’cause that’s how it sounds, but I was wrong (for the first time ever!).  Now, right hereThe psoas and its buddy, illiacus, you’ll see a lovely diagram of the psoas muscle (both of them, actually), along with its best buddy illiacus.  The psoas muscles are that gorgeous pair running pretty much vertically along the spine, through the pelvis, and down to the top of the femur.

When people talk about hip flexors, they’re usually talking about the psoas.  Your psoas is your primary hip flexor, meaning it’s the biggest, strongest muscle that helps you lift your leg out in front of you like you might if you wanted to go up a step (or raise your torso up, if you’re hanging upside-down on the monkey bars).  But there’s a lot more to the psoas.  As you can see from our lovely diagram, the psoas attaches to the front of the spine all the way up to where the ribs come into the picture.  Now, if the front of the spine isn’t ‘core,’ then I don’t know what is!

Take a minute and put your hands on your low back.  Now, while you’re there, dig your fingers in a bit.  Feel all those big juicy muscles?  Can you feel all the way around your vertebrae to touch the front of your spine?  Of course you can’t!  There’s just too much muscle back there!  And you know who’s job it is to balance all that super thick muscle in the back of your spine?  The psoas, that’s who.  Told you it was a bad-ass muscle.  And if that psoas is overly loose, or just asleep at the wheel, it will struggle to balance out those super strong back muscles, leaving you with something we all know as ‘low-back pain.’  If, on the other hand, your psoas muscles are overly tight, they can prevent you from a full extension when you walk, leaving you hunched and suffering from something we all know as ‘mid-back pain’ or even ‘upper-back pain.’  That’s right, the psoas is a Big Deal.  Which is why people talk about strengthening your core to make your back pain go away.

Howevah, isolating your psoas can be really tricky, especially at first.  I didn’t even know I had one (let alone two) before my fifth Rolfing session!  And while I’d love to give directions right here, right now, I kinda have to stick my fingers into your abdomen to show you how to feel your psoas.  So if you want to get more familiar with your psoas; perhaps even fall in love with it, like I did, let me know during your next session.  There are lots of cool little exercises I can teach you to help isolate, lengthen, and strengthen your psoas to keep it happy and juicy and to keep you out of pain.


P.S.  The next Demo Day is Sunday, January 15th; just around the corner!  30 minute trial sessions for $10 all day.  Call or email me to schedule yours!