Photos taken at the beautiful Yoga Spirit Studios where I teach on Wednesday evenings, by the talented Vanessa Craggs, check out her ibooks by clicking on the photo..
The psoas and diaphragm. Image from www.Yoga International.com
Its been a busy few months, I've added in a temporary new job in addition to all my teaching, my partner has started new studies, my kids have had big school projects, we've been sick, tired and irritable. I also have a hip injury at the moment- created by a misguided but enthusiastic attempt at a back-flip in capoeria..yes silly, but fun. Sometimes life doesn't go to plan....
And what have I noticed? I'm practicing less. Its gone in the faulty thinking of "i don't have time for this" mentality. Faulty because I know from experience that practice is what gets me through, keeps my immune system strong and my head clear so I can make good decisions.
So, I've decided to give myself a discipline challenge for the month of October...to practice Easy Rest position for 10 minutes every day for the month of October.
And of course I also intend to practice other poses, but I am committing to this pose particularly. Here's why:
The magic of this position is that it releases tight psoas muscles. These are our deep core muscles that wrap around from the spine to the front of the body and over the hip. These are the hip flexors that provide stability for much of our movement. The psoas muscles can become short by too much sitting, leading to lower back pain. The psoas muscles are what pulls us into a ball when we feel under threat, so they also store a lot of emotional tension. By lying in easy rest position we allow gravity to release these muscles, allowing us to also release deeply held tension patterns in the body.
if you come to classes, you are probably familiar with this pose. We often rest here between other supine poses. We are on our backs, knees bent, soles of the feet on the floor, chin tucked in gently so jaw can relax, arms by side of body (not overhead!). The feet are in line with the hips and far enough away from the pelvis so that there is some space under the knees, imagine you are building a house of cards with your upper and lower leg bones. Weight should be centred evenly through the balls and heels of the feet. (This is not the same position we start our bridge poses in, where the legs are much closer in to the buttocks).
Easy rest position, is a variation of shavasana, corpse pose. Liz Koch in her psoas book "Core awareness", calls it constructive rest position, and suggests that as a neutral position it is an ideal being position to release and unravel tension patterns. Focusing your attention on body sensation will assist this letting go through the central nervous system.
This is the real challenge of this pose -to keep it a being pose, not a doing pose. To just be here, without doing anything except noticing the sensations in your own body- the weight of the pelvis on the floor, is it even on left to right, the weight of the feet on the floor- more in the heels or the balls of feet?, noticing the relaxation as it spreads from the jaw to belly, to buttocks...
We can also notice (without participating in) our breathing. Easy Rest is a great position to allow the diaphragm to work fully. Donnah Fahri calls it Effortless Rest position in her wonderful book on breathing, "The breathing book". As we naturally inhale, the diaphragm will move from under the ribs and massage the abdominal organs, so the belly lifts up as we inhale. As the psoas muscles and the diaphragm overlap, tight psoas can also inhibit free breathing, and breathing well also helps release the psaoas. Its a win-win really. The body can feel restored, energized, low back pain can be alleviated and emotional tension released.
I invite you to join me in this October practice challenge. Come into easy rest for 10 minutes a day. It can be practiced at any time of the day, all you need is a firm surface, a yoga mat if you want and a blanket underneath your head perhaps if the chin protrudes up towards the ceiling. Use a timer and notice if you catch yourself "doing" even small movements-such as our arch and flatten- by all means do them after the 10 minutes, as they are fantastic! but the October practice commitment is to keep our body passive for at least 10 minutes to allow the psoas to release.
I'd love to know what happens, so if you join me feel free to share your experiences..