P is for Psoas…(?)

I was in Flow class the other day when just as we were moving into half-pigeon our teacher uttered the words, ”…working into the Psoas”.  My eyebrows shot up.

The wha -?

While I’ve become more familiar with terms like Mula Bandha (Root Lock) and Uddiyana Bandha (Upward Abdominal Lock), for instance (though I’m still not sure I’m always applying either when I’m supposed to be or doing so correctly…), the ‘Psoas’ was a completely new one on me. So, after class I took the opportunity to ask our teacher what is the Psoas (sounds like ‘so-as’) and where is it?   The answer I got was really helpful but I don’t feel sufficiently able to do it justice here.   This Yoga Journal article explains it far better and in much greater depth than I ever could. Suffice to say, it’s a deeply buried muscle that is more important to our asanas than I realised.   It’s quite difficult to get to and I have a feeling I may not have found mine yet…

I had another anatomy-lightbulb moment last week in Pulse Yoga class when Allie on touched hip rotation, explaining to us about the knees not being able to go where the hips won’t let them.  When she said that it clicked as to why I was less open on my irksome left side.

I’ve been becoming increasingly curious about anatomy in relation to yoga, not least because of how having a regular practice has affected by body.  I no longer suffer from the back pain that made most days a misery and it’s seriously alleviated on ongoing sciatic issue.

Thanks to a recommendation from my yoga home I have seen a fantastic osteopath about my sciatic pain.  My worry had been that she would tell me not to practice yoga but in fact the opposite was the case – she simply advised me to do as I have been – listen to my body and don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right.  Having osteopathy treatment has been a revelation because now my leg is fine most of the time, but every day is different and there are still times when it flares up and, frustratingly, really impairs my mobility in class.

Anyhow, all of this has made me want to try and gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on with my body in the yoga postures.  My osteopath has kindly and patiently answered my questions when I have quizzed her on the spine, the pelvis, parasympathetic nervous system, the foot…. I have taken in bits of information but there have also been a lot of moments where her mouth was moving and what I was hearing may have been easier for me to understand if she was speaking in an obscure Guatemalan dialect. And I am pretty sure she was giving me the idiot’s guide.

Yet still, I do want to try and learn. But where to begin?  After a bit of impromptu headstand practice after class the other day with Zara (thanks Zara!), I asked her advice.  Why hadn’t I done the most obvious thing of asking my teachers in the first place?!

I’m really touched that Zara has so kindly lent me her Yoga Anatomy book to help me get started. And very luckily for me, it doesn’t appear to be written in an obscure Guatemalan language. 

I just might start to get my head round a little of this anatomy stuff after all.

Pulse Yoga

I’ve done weights before, but not like this!

Yesterday evening I tried Pulse Yoga for the first time at my yoga home.

As someone with several lapsed gym memberships to my name it’s fair to say that though I’ve done weights before, I have never loved the gym.  Yoga, I love.  Yet, I understand the benefits of resistance work with weights so for a while I’ve had this feeling that it might be a good thing for my body to try and find a way of incorporating weights into my routine in a way that didn’t bore me rigid.  So, when I first heard about Pulse Yoga the idea of combining free weights with yoga was instantly intriguing and appealing.

Before we began, Allie explained to us that this style of yoga originated in Colorado created by yoga instructor, Argie Tang after she was told by her doctor that she had developed osteopenia (almost osteoporosis but not quite).  As this Evening Standard article adds:

Tang, who was in her fifties at the time was shocked to hear that, despite practising yoga for so long, she needed to build bone density with weight training.  Not keen to reduce the little time she had for yoga, or to join a gym, Tang decided to create a new type of yoga that suited her needs.

Then the music came on and off we went.  It was amazing what a difference it made trying to do certain postures with weights thrown into the mix.  For some postures I thought, “Yep, this is cool – I can do this”, but others I found really challenged my balance at times.  It’s easy to see how this can help with your core stability as well as strength.  We didn’t use weights for all the postures though – for some of our more familiar poses we would hold our position and pulse.  For instance, in downward dog, pulsing our legs alternately meant we were using our muscles in a different way (really felt that one in the glutes!)

I have to admit, my very childish side did have a chuckle when we started pulsing our hips in bridge posture and doing some of the pelvic tilts with bicep curls – for a few brief moments that Eric Prydz video came to mind.  Allie mentioned to us that during a recent Pulse Yoga tutorial in the park they drew some attention from passers-by – I can see how that might happen!  

For me, it was great moving bits of my body in a different way from the usual classes I go to.  And we had a laugh too.  I think I might have finally found a fun way of doing weights – I’ve already booked my next class.  If you fancy something new I’d recommend giving Pulse Yoga a try.  It feels good to mix things up a little!