Day 8 of the Yoga Toe Challenge and there is some tiny improvement. My brain is beginning to remember that I have a little toe that can move – if I “speak” to it on a regular basis.
“Speaking” to areas of the body that may have disengaged from the “conversation” due to unintentional neglect, is still possible and the “conversation” does not have to be complex.
A student kindly shared a simple leg swing movement that helps to release a tight psoas. The psoas major connects the spine to the legs. This muscle not only helps to flex the hip, but also changes the shape of the lumbar spine. When tight, the lordotic curve becomes more pronounced and the back can ache. It has a pivotal role in walking, posture, balance and flexibility. This simple exercise also highlights the connection between the psoas and the feet:
Psoas Release Leg Swing:
Stand by a wall, put one hand on the wall, take weight through the leg nearest the wall and swing the other leg. Beautifully simple movement – swinging the leg in the hip socket but beware compensation patterns creeping in:
- Over arching in the low back (the psoas directly affects the shape of the lumbar spine)
- Bending the swinging leg due to tightness in the hip joint – this recruits the hamstring unecessarily and closes the ankle (more in next blog)
- Excessive swaying in the upper body – psoas is not fulfilling it’s stabilising function.
Such compensations are due to imbalances and compensation can lead to injury. Susi Hately, a kineseologist, names the psoas muscle as “The Queen of Compensation” See her demonstration the leg swing:
Susi is balancing on a block in order to clear the swinging foot from the ground. This demands strong and stable recruitment of the supporting foot to ensure a balanced pelvis but not everyone is confident to do this. My student demonstrated the leg swing wearing trainers and standing beside a wall using a hand for support. Noticing whether the knee bends as she does this is a useful tip.
Practising the leg swing barefoot, requires us to find the support of the bones of the standing leg. To slowly transfer weight a little; a little more and a little more until the pelvis and trunk are truly carried by the standing leg and foot. If we get this right, and with a bit of luck, the musculature through the foot, ankle and up the leg will activate sequentially; this “spreads the load” and protects the joints from compression (tension). The opposing muscles psoas and gluts should work together and the abdominal muscles will kick in – the exhale can help us to sense this (collar bones drop). We often use this technique for tree pose – stacking the leg bones, balancing the pelvis and swinging , circling , gently rotating the free leg before placing the foot on the supporting foot or by the supporting leg (not on the knee joint).
This clip by Heart and Bones Yoga, demonstrates another way of finding support through stacked leg bones – this emphasizes muscle rather than bone but may help some:
My student’s osteopath provided a helpful tip. A balanced weight bearing pelvis allows for efficient transfer of “load” from the upper body to the lower body. A clip illustrating how the psoas connects the spine to the legs may help you to visualize this. The blog Iliopsoas – the powerhouse provides more indepth information.