The Mind and the Muscle

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I feel the connection between mind and body deeply when my mental pathologies are in high gear. When I am depressed, my bones hurt, I feel burnt from the inside, my metabolism slows down. When I am in the throes of a mixed episode with heightened anxiety I have a flight or flight reflex that is catlike. My adrenals dump into my bloodstream and my nervous system zaps away. I have horrible agitation and all of the wonderful self-care tools like meditation, Reiki, breathing and even exercise are futile. It’s obvious to me that these illnesses aren’t just in my head, they’re in my body too.

I’ve recently developed an ongoing left lower lumbar spasm. It just won’t heal. It causes radiating pain and weakness and is in general a pain my ass. I’ve had unpleasant dealings with doctors who don’t want to treat patients who are in pain. They prescribed a short course of a muscle relaxer and recommended ice and heat. It wasn’t cutting it. They had no further answers for me and no concept of how all of my symptoms connected.

So I went to the chiropractor who I visited when my lumbar went into spasm last year before the ACA kicked in and before I had insurance. I needed to talk to someone who would listen to me, someone who actually understands the body. Doctors are good for the prevention and curing of diseases but when it comes to anatomy, many seem to have skipped that class. My chiropractor, after doing a series of strength and range of motion tests directed my attention to the psoas, the muscle at the root of a lot of lower back and hip pain (some people think it’s the root to almost all chronic pain).

When I first learned about the psoas muscle in massage therapy school, something about it stood out to me. It is the deepest muscle in both the back and the abdomen, it holds you up, it creates a shelf for all of your organs as well as massaging them and the spinal fluid. It is the core that supports health and longevity–not the abs or obliques but the psoas. But it seems nobody really talks about it that way. People talk about core strengthening in terms of abs but nobody mentions the humble psoas that takes the biggest beating from not only physical activities but mental and emotional stressors.

Since it is also deeply linked to the sympathetic nervous system holding up and massaging the body’s organs its job, among other things, is to protect them from the hailstorm of stress. When trapped in a state of flight or fright–when a person is pathologically scared, filled with anxiety, panic, terror and is hypervigalent–the psoas constricts to protect the precious organs and spinal fluid but it can cause crippling conditions wearing away joints and harming spinal disks. This wearing away doesn’t kill us but it can make us a lot weaker.

So, according to the philosophy of the body set forth in Yoga, as well as the understanding of human anatomy and psychology, it turns out this relationship works both ways. The releasing of my psoas, encouraging it to work correctly will theoretically help reduce my nervous symptoms as well as the physical ones. My new favorite body blogger¬†Brook over at Fascia Freedom Fighters¬†shared this. It’s called constructive rest. I love the idea of intentionally incorporating rest into the day. Apparently some people fight it wanting to multi-task but I say no way, my body needs a break from the perpetuality of doing.

We’ll see how that works. Anybody have any experience working with the psoas? This is a part of the body that I am definitely going to explore further because as I mentioned, when I am in a state of flight/fright and my adrenals are pumping for no good reason, the mind-oriented self-care techniques I’ve accumulated do not work.

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