Do you struggle with low back pain? One study says that 85% of people in the USA will suffer from some form of low back pain in their lives. For most people, unless there is an injurious incident, this starts off as mild and occasional, and often becomes more persistent and uncomfortable as we get older. Many people will agree that there is often a pattern of the pain and stiffness being more pronounced during times of stress or exhaustion.
Heating pads, hot baths, and ice packs can be very useful. Relaxing massage that soothes the nervous system, and deep tissue masage that seeks to release chronic tension can also be a life saver.
People talk about how yoga is a good complementary treatment for low back pain – but this is often expressed in a vague and general way. So, let’s get a little more specific! I hope these tips are useful.
First, let me acknowledge that I will try to keep this simple and accessible. I will also avoid excessive technical language – those of you who more want in-depth anatomy and mind/body philosophy, are invited to the Awakened heart, Embodied Mind Teacher Training!
Generally, to help support a stable and flexible low back, we need to stretch the muscles of the thighs, hips and the low back itself and strengthen our abdominals. But there is a muscle that sometimes gets overlooked because it is deep in the abdomen and less familiar to most yoga students: the psoas.
Where Is It?
Your psoas connects your thigh bone to your lumbar spine. It has fibers that attach not only to the vertebrae but also to the discs – some even interdigitate with the diaphragm.Its the large “A” shaped pair of muscles you see in this image – you have one on the right and left.
The psoas muscle engages involuntarily when we are startled – a response we can see in infants when their torsos shorten and pull back. We first learn to use the muscle when crawling. Developmentally this makes it a fascinating muscle in terms of trauma and attachment/intimacy/trust.
The psoas has major nerves around it and passing through it and is significant not only in back pain but in sexual response and orgasm. When it is in chronic contraction the psoas compresses the low back and pulls the the top of the pelvis forward, tipping the tailbone back and up and pressing the contents of the abdomen forward. This common “sway-back” posture can be addressed by stretching the psoas and strengthening the core.
We will explore the psoas, low back pain and the mind/body connection of the legs, hips, belly and low back in the Awakened Heart Embodied Mind teacher training. Low-Back and Your Psoas, Part 2: Emotional Energy available now!
Here is a short video for you to work with in the meantime at home.