Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cool psoas experiment!

The psoas major and psoas minor are incredibly vital to maintaining healthy posture both in daily life and while belly dancing. Unfortunately, you can't really touch or feel your psoas muscles with your hands, as they are deep within the torso. The psoas muscles originate from the spine, right at the bottom of the rib cage, and come forward where they attach to the inside of the legs, which is the only part of the psoas that we can actually feel with our fingers (without dissecting ourselves, and that would be dangerous and a little messy).

The psoas muscles are hard to identify within the body. It's a lot easier to find and flex your bicep than it is to flex your psoas. Yet, the psoas muscles are very much involved in maintaining dance posture and home position. The tuck of the pelvis is achieved not only by contracting the lower abdominals but also the psoas muscles. But I was obsessed with answering this question: If when doing standing torso undulations, using the lower abdominals to achieve the bottom part of the undulation but without letting the pelvis rock back and forth, what keeps the pelvis still? The psoas! Now... how on earth do I know if they're actually engaged?

After taking a workshop on anatomy for bellydancers with Sarah J. Locke, I became obsessed with being able to to identify when my psoas muscles were working and when they weren't. And after nearly a year of becoming hyperaware of what my torso was doing, I finally came up with something that worked for me.

So, I experimented, and I came up with this little exercise:

Try this: Stand up, and get into dance posture: Feet parallel and close together, knees bent, pelvis tucked (glutes loose) using the lower abdominals, and chest lifted. Now slowly release the lower abdominals but keep your pelvis tucked and completely still. Hold it there. You should feel deep within your torso and on the inside of your legs where they attach to the pelvis, the psoas muscles, working away to keep your tuck as you release your abdominals. It may take a few tries to get the feeling, but it totally works. It's also a great way to isometrically strengthen your psoas. If you hold it long enough, you'll really feel those psoas muscles working away!
Maybe you're not as much as a geek as I am, but I thought this was pretty cool!


Amber said...

That is extremely cool. I've been learning more and more about isolating the different muscles in my body, and moving different parts independently, like the trapezius, and other shoulder blade supporting muscles. It's so rewarding and challenging!

Anonymous said...

Aloha from Kauai. I happened across your blog and wanted to point you in the direction of Structural Bodywork or Structural Integration. This is a system of massage developed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf that seeks to reestablish the natural alignment and balance of the human being. We work extensively with the Psoas muscle(s) in our work, and do indeed touch it several different ways. My training in particular works with increasing awareness of this as a core muscle to our well being, vitality, and even effectiveness in our lives. You're definately onto something powerful in your explorations of the psoas and may want to connect with a practitioner in your part of the world.

Kimo Baenen