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.
Click here to review the details of this important muscle on our Blog.
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.
I use the technique of isometric contraction to isolate and awaken a dormant muscle. This technique requires an understanding of the action of the various muscles. For example, the psoas acts to flex the hip, i.e., contracting the psoas either bends the trunk forward or draws the knee up. If you are contracting your psoas on one side, it laterally flexes your trunk. It is also synergizes external rotation of the hip.
Isolate your psoas (and its synergist muscles) by attempting to flex the trunk or by trying to lift the leg. Accentuate this by resisting the action. Check out figure 1 below for how to do this with Trikonasana. You can then transport the technique to other poses.
Finally, experience “Body Clairvoyance.” This refers to the awakened body’s ability to anticipate an action and use the most efficient muscles to accomplish it—without thinking about it. The Psoas Awakening Series sequentially activates different parts of the psoas—incrementally and synergistically. When the brain sees a conscious combination of actions like this, it will then automatically use the psoas in unrelated actions. This is analogous to running up a flight of stairs. The first steps are taken consciously, but once we get going we ascend unconsciously (and rhythmically). The act of typing on a keyboard is another example of this.
Put another way, once we’ve awakened the dormant psoas muscle, we begin to use it unconsciously in new tasks.
I demonstrate this phenomenon in my workshops by finishing the Psoas Awakening Series with an inversion such as Full Arm Balance. Students regularly report a sensation of rock solid stability in their pose. This comes from the unconscious brain automatically activating the newly awakened psoas and stabilizing the pelvis. Experience this for yourself by practicing an unrelated asana at the end of the series.
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.
You can apply this same technique of muscle awakening to your accessory muscles of breathing and dramatically expand your chest during your poses and pranayama. Click here for more information.
Ray and Chris