MY FAVORITE CUES

New inspiring cue that revolves around the theme of the month each Wednesday. All content taken is taken down at the end of the month when new theme is posted.

THEME: THE PSOAS

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All cues are meant to be used when you’re in full expression of the pose unless otherwise noted.

All cues this month are from the book CORE AWARENESS by Liz Koch. Liz has spent over thirty years specializing in and researching the psoas muscle. While we are focusing on lengthening the psoas, toning the psoas is also important and will be addressed another month. I will be sharing inspirational insights on the psoas all month on my Instagram page.

Week 1

I call this THE PSOAS SWING! Stand tall and step your right foot up on a block (you can hold on to a wall or chair for support). Level your hips and allow your left leg to hang heavy. Begin to swing your leg in a pendulum type motion with no muscular engagement. Liz suggests to “ignite the pendulum motion by softening the solar plexus and sensing weight through the dangling leg.”

WHY? According to Liz Koch, author of Core Awareness, this action helps to release the psoas. This makes perfect sense. Take a look at the picture of the Psoas muscle in my Favorite Finds this week and visualize the muscle softening and lengthening as you swing it. She also says “it is common to feel that the swinging leg is longer and more aligned than the opposite leg. This is a result of the psoas releasing.”

By tapping into what you are feeling and being truly present with the sensations that you’re feeling, you are practicing what is called somatic awareness. Liz says, “At the very core of every well-executed movement is somatic awareness, which ultimately leads to inner freedom. Cultivating your core awareness will enrich your sense of flexibility, suppleness, strength, and stability so that with fluid motion your vital life force becomes increasingly tangible.”

Week 2

Lie on your back with both knees bent (like you’re coming into bridge pose) and your feet on the floor. Lift your hips and place your low back/sacrum on a block or a foam roller. Keep right knee bent with your foot on the floor and extend left leg out so that your foot rests on the ground. Extend left arm overhead and begin to arc your body to the right like you’re making the letter C. Spiral your gaze up towards the lengthened/left side and consciously let your psoas relax. 

Note: If you feel discomfort in your back, try adjusting the block a little lower down on your back or higher up until you find a comfortable position. You can also play with gently anchoring your sacrum into the block. This helped me quite a bit. You still want to keep the psoas soft and relaxed. You can always do this psoas release lying flat on your back. 

Why? By lengthening your leg outwards and creating the “C” shape, you are moving the origin and insertion of the psoas muscle away from each other, allowing the muscle to stretch. By spiraling the gaze up toward the extended arm, you are helping to release the connective tissue around the upper psoas. Liz Koch, the author of the book I’ll be referring to all month, says that “feeling the connective tissue opening around the upper psoas is the cue for knowing you are in the correct position. When correctly sensing, the full expression of lengthening moves both down toward the pelvis and up through the chest into the throat.”

I can’t believe what a difference spiraling the gaze up makes! If you missed the picture from week one of the psoas, take a look. It is helpful to see the upper part of the psoas so you can consciously soften it. 

Week 3

This is a cue to help stretch the LOWER part of the psoas (the part that crosses the hip joint) in a low lunge/anjanyasana. To enter into the pose, kneel on the ground and find a neutral pelvis. Try not to arch or round the low back- stay as neutral as comfortably possible. Step your right foot forward without disturbing the alignment of your pelvis.  

Once in the lunge, stay supple and relaxed in the left psoas (front of the hip) as you gently press your right foot down. Keep your hands on your hips for 5 breaths and direct the stretch into the lower part of the psoas as you practice being somatically aware (truly sensing what you’re feeling) in the stretch. 

Why? Keeping the hands on the hips for stability in this variation is key. Your pelvis is at the base of your spine and the point at which weight is transferred and distributed to the legs. It’s believed that when our pelvis isn’t balanced, other muscles and ligaments end up working in ways they aren’t meant to. Liz Koch, author of Core Awareness, says that “by providing a foundation for the lumbar vertebrae, the balanced, functional pelvis helps to prevent compression and misuse of all the spinal vertebrae.”

So, by having your hands on your hips and feeling a neutral pelvis, you help to direct the stretch lower down in the psoas and align the spine.

Note: By going into a deeper backbend in a low lunge, you may miss out on stretching the lower part of the psoas. Work on staying neutral in the spine for a lower psoas release.

Week 4

Upright pigeon pose. From tabletop pose draw your right knee behind your right wrist and find pigeon pose with your hands under your shoulders and your spine upright.

Cue: Create a gentle letter C with your spine as you consciously soften and release in the psoas (front of hip and deep in the belly). Liz guides us to keep the pelvis square so that the stretch stays in the psoas of the extended leg.

Note: Even if your bent leg hip touches the floor, I like to still use a rolled towel or some form of support. I have good reason to do so, which I will address when pigeon is our theme. 

Why? I think so often we stretch the hip flexors without truly being aware of what we’re feeling (this is where our somatic awareness – refer to week one’s email), and tend to go for the same stretch each time we enter the pose. When it comes to the psoas, we want to eventually become aware enough to release both the lower and upper psoas.

Liz says, “A supple spine is dependent on a fully released iliopsoas. A fully lengthened iliopsoas flows with no tension or visual break through the spine. Like the letter C, both the front and back of the body are released and lengthen simultaneously and harmoniously”  Excerpt From Core Awareness, Revised Edition Liz Koch. BTW, the pictures she shows in her book of the letter C shaped spine are very subtle.

***The cues I find and post are by well respected body experts and Doctors who teach yoga and other body nerds like myself.

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