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This simple series of postures will help you access and engage your deeper core muscles will enrich your practice and your day-to-day activities.
The Psoas Awakening Series synergistically combines the standing poses to awaken the psoas muscle. We accomplish this by first contracting the psoas in poses that face forward, then in poses that face the side. We complete the series with twisting postures.Remembering that this muscle is usually “hidden” in the unconscious part of the brain, we must first isolate the psoas in each pose, bringing it back to consciousness. Put another way, once we’ve awakened the dormant psoas muscle, we begin to use it unconsciously in new tasks.
Alternate the right and left sides with each pose in the series. Return to Tadasana between each pose and each side. This helps to prevent fatigue and soreness in the psoas.
Tadasana, the Mountain Pose. Return to this pose between doing the alternate sides of the body in the Psoas Awakening Series.
Trikonasana: Begin with the front knee slightly bent. This releases the hamstrings at their origin on the ischial tuberosity, allowing the psoas to contract freely. Now, place the elbow on the front thigh and press down with the torso, attempting to flex it. This action isometrically contracts the psoas.
Virabhadrasana II: Again place the elbow on the knee and isometrically contract the psoas by attempting to flex the trunk or lift the leg.
Parsvottanasana: Begin by bending the front knee, as with Trikonasana. Now, squeeze the torso against the thigh. This activates the psoas in the side plane.
Virabhadrasana I: Attempt to lift the front leg in this pose—but don’t actually lift it. You should feel the pelvis lower with this action, again through contracting the psoas (also in the side plane).
Parivrtta Trikonasana: This pose works the psoas in the turning plane. As with Parsvottanasana, bend the front knee to release the hamstrings. Then squeeze the torso against the thigh. Hold the torso in this position and straighten the knee.
Prasarita Padottanasana: Here we return to the frontal plane. Bend the knees to release the hamstrings as you bend forward. Contract the psoas to flex the hips. You should find that you can
consciously access the psoas at this point in the series. Holding the torso flexed, engage the quadriceps to straighten the knees.
Counter stretch: Finish the series by stretching the psoas in a lunge. This stretches the back-leg psoas by extending the hip. Contracting the back-leg buttocks accentuates this stretch. Hold this for several breaths.
Now try an unrelated posture that you have experience with. Note how the psoas automatically engages now that it is awakened, stabilizing the pose.
Savasana: Relax in Savasana.
1) Always build contraction of a muscle gently and slowly. This aids to minimize the risk of injury and soreness.
2) Only contract the psoas to approximately 20% of its maximum force.
3) Awakening a muscle is accomplished by contracting it. Balance engaging a muscle by stretching it at the end of your practice.
4) Allow ample time for recovery between practice sessions.
5) Always practice under the guidance of an experienced teacher.
6) Always, in your particular case, consult your health care provider before doing yoga or any exercise program.
If you are new to integrating anatomy into your practice, remember that it is not necessary to memorize this technique on your first pass. Begin by enjoying the beautiful images of the body in yoga. This alone will awaken your brain’s awareness of the anatomy during your practice. Return at a later date for a closer look, and then gently go through the motions illustrated above as you do the pose. Then leave it. Your unconscious mind will create new circuitry while you rest. Enjoy this process, and when you return to the mat, you will be surprised at how easily you access this technique.
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