The Yoga of Surrender
Rest the Psoas, Rest the Soul
My body has been drinking sleep. It just can't get enough these days. I let it go over the weekend and allowed dream world to sail me all the way into lunchtime—and I thought that would have been enough.
I set my phone alarm for 7am on Monday morning and woke up at 11am with the alarm turned off and my phone underneath my pillow. On Monday night, I went to bed with my phone fully charged and the alarm set to 7am. On Tuesday morning I woke at 10:30am to a dead phone.
It seemed that something out of my control was in collaboration with the goddess of slumber to keep me in bed. I decided to succumb to this feeling and unyieldingly rest my bones.
I did this, and on Tuesday night had a dream about being in pigeon pose. But it was more like a flashback than a dream. I'd been in this place before when I first started practicing yoga and wanted to cry anytime I worked into the hips. The thing I've always found interesting about this initial discomfort when working into the hips, was that the sensation was not any nameable physical pain. It was more like triggering a geyser release of emotions. Over time I realized that this was not just tightness in my hips, but the release of my psoas muscle.
The psoas muscle, the only muscle attaching the upper body to the leg by connecting the lower lumbar spine with the top of the femur bone, is a muscle associated with our deep seated emotions. Author and teacher, Liz Koch dedicated her career to the psoas muscle, explaining how modern day life wreaks havoc on our psoas by constantly keeping us tuned in to our sympathetic nervous system, or the mode of fight-or-flight. When the body and mind are constantly ON, our fight-or-flight response is lit up. This response is directly correlated to our psoas muscle (think in terms of the mechanics of running or dropping into the fetal position—all psoas triggers). When we work with this muscle, e.g. pigeon pose, it's like releasing past trauma. Koch details how the focused attention on stretching and strengthening this muscle can release suppressed emotions that have collected in this region through fight-or-flight triggers; hence why hip openers can stimulate such intense emotional release.
When I woke up from my pigeon-pose dream, I reflected on this guilt that I felt for needing so much sleep. Perhaps my psoas was reminding me that it's important during these winter months—the months when nature rests and rejuvenates—to be kind to myself. Instead of running around in fight-or-flight mode, putting unnecessary pressure on my psoas, I need to be resting and enjoying the stillness of winter.
It's easy to forget during this time of the year. So, do yourself a favour and rest. Rest the psoas, rest the soul.