How many of you are familiar with the song These Boots Are Made For Walking? (Here's a link for those of you not familiar with it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV-iL-1mjf8)
This morning I woke up with Nancy Sinatra's song in my head. Specifically the line, "these boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do..." got me thinking that our bodies are meant for moving, but that's just NOT what we do - at least not often enough. Lack of movement shows up in so many ways. Maybe for you, it is a stiff neck or wonky low back that goes out every so often.
In my practice, I've found the psoas to be a muscle that contributes to issues on many levels. This muscle has been coined the "fight or flight" muscle. From an evolutionary standpoint, when we perceive danger, this muscle contracts and readies itself to either stand our ground and fight or to get us the heck out of there!
However, in our day-to-day lives, we tend to sit more than move. Spending long stretches of time in front of the computer or binge-watching shows on TV may have a detrimental effect on this muscle. The more time we spend in a sitting position can cause this muscle to shorten.
Have you ever been on a road trip with long distances between rest stops? How did your body react when you got out of the car? Did it take a while to stand up straight or get your legs moving well? A tight psoas is associated with difficulty standing straight from a seated position or low back pain when walking for an extended time. Think - hunched over and a shortened stride when walking to relieve the discomfort.
Something Else About The Psoas
You may have read or heard that the body stores emotion and trauma. The psoas is ground zero for this. Remember, this is the fight or flight muscle. If there was ever a time in your life that you wanted to get away from an emotional, physical, or traumatic event, were verbally or physically abused, and could not run away or fight your way through it your body and specifically, the psoas still readied itself to act. Those feelings, emotions, and memories are not only accumulated in the mind but are also cached in our tissues and energetic field. That has a lasting impact on the mind, the body, and the spirit.
Think about your six-year-old self. Say there's a situation that you want to run and hide from but can't. The visceral reaction. the clenching of the psoas becomes associated with those feelings of fear, and inadequacy. The emotions, feelings, and tension are stored in the body. As an adult, maybe you have an injury to the hip/low back area, and it stays tight and won't release - it just won't go away. Well, the past may be informing the present. Sure, as a grown-up you have more understanding. Maybe you ice the area or add heat. Perhaps you get a massage but still, the tension in the area persists. Could it be time to look deeper?
That six-year-old had a limited vocabulary or didn't feel safe telling someone what happened or how she felt about it so she kept it inside. That tension may never have gone away in the body. The psoas is always ready to get up and go if needed. As an adult with that injury, the deep memory of emotion and the inability to respond is still there as memory in the muscle also referred to as "issues in the tissues" by some massage therapists. It's very likely you don't remember this event that buried hidden feelings in the body.
As part of a healing process including massage, stretching, and strengthening it may be necessary to include other methods of healing like breathwork, positive self-talk, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness. That six-year-old girl did the best she could with what she knew at the time. Now she knows more and can be kinder to herself. Acknowledge she did a good job. It's okay now - you have it from here.
Heading #1: Strengthen
Heading #2: Lengthen
Heading #3: Breathe
Is Strengthening the Best Policy?
I have a few suggestions when it comes to the tenacious psoas. Creating strength in the core and gluteal muscles is vital for the psoas to work properly. Sitting for much of the day shortens and weakens this muscle. Creating strength in the surrounding muscles creates structure and support for this weakened area in order for it to function more efficiently.
Personal Trainer: You learn the best exercises for this area as well as being taught the proper form for each exercise
Physical Therapy: Trained by a specialist in structure and muscle movement and PT may be covered by insurance
YouTube: This is an option, but you must be very careful. You won't have someone making sure you perform the exercises correctly which may lead to additional issues.
Lengthen After You Strengthen
Maintaining flexibility is an important component of keeping us moving as we age, and one of the best ways to do that is by stretching after exercise. Uh oh, I think I actually heard an audible groan when you read the word "stretches". Well, hopefully, my voice in your head is reminding you of the importance of lengthening your muscles. You know, it's not all up to your massage therapist! Your body, your work.
Yoga is a great way to create flexibility while also using breath and mindset techniques for a well-balanced experience
Personal Trainer: Some gyms have trainers on staff who teach stretching, and in some cases, there are gym-like companies that have staff who stretch you.
It's All In Your Mind
Some positive strategies go a long way
Breathwork: Learn specific breathing patterns that activate the parasympathetic nervous system creating a rest response in the body. You can contact me for more information
Positive "I am" Statements: Saying a mantra like "I am safe", or "I am strong" can redirect the mind and over time become a part of your belief system. You can combine these positive affirmations with breathwork to create a shift from the automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) that run through your mind.
Speak To Your Best Friend: How would you respond to your best friend when she makes negative statements about herself? Speaking to ourselves as we would our best friend is a positive way to redirect harsh words to ourselves.
Want to learn more about breathwork or other services I offer? You might just find one to best support the changes you want to make so you can move forward and live life with more ease. For example, tapping is a great modality to create positive shifts in your mind and body. Click Here to view services.