It’s no mystery that I, a massage therapist and yoga teacher, think that the best gift you can give during a time of unparalleled stress and unpleasant surprises is a gift certificate for massage or yoga classes. But even if I wasn’t in the business of helping people calm down and recenter, I would still encourage everyone I know to find ways to get away from lining their homes with more things (or toilet paper) they don’t need in the name of the holiday spirit. I intentionally saved this last yama, or yogic moral tenet for how to treat ourselves with respect, for last because I wanted to talk about it during peak consumption season- the holidays.
Your yoga teacher or your yogi friends have probably said the words “let it go” hundreds of times. We let go of expectations, let go of spare possessions, let go of our kids (or maybe hold on progressively more loosely) as they become adults in charge of their own lives.
The psoas muscle is truly at the very center of the body, running down through the center of the torso behind the gut and in front of the spine, and connects the lumbar spine to the tops of our legs. Sedentary lifestyles are just as bad for this unique muscle as stress, and for many, an already sedentary lifestyle was compounded by being cooped up for quarantine last year. This kind of tension- the tension that comes from our primal instinct muscle, tends to have distinct downstream effects in that if our psoas is very tight, the rest of us tends to be too.
In a standard yoga class, whether it’s a traditional Ashtanga Primary or your favorite hot power hour, there is a formula to how the class is structured. There is a little warm-up with breathwork and stretching, some sun salutations to get your blood moving, and then the big hard stuff like the strength-building power poses, arm balances-you know, all the stuff of Instagram model fame. Other strength training modalities often use weights and movement to build muscle, but in yoga, we just use all of our muscles to stand still while we fight gravity. It’s a unique concept, that strength is in the stillness, that you can sweat and want to cry while simply stretching your hamstrings.