Psoas, Breath and Grounding

Most people starting off with anatomy get a little overwhelmed because they think they’re supposed to memorize the names, actions and attachments of every muscle. In my opinion this is what reference books are for. Sure, it’s important to know the names of the muscles we’re working with when doing yoga or when touching a client. However, it’s important to not lose perspective of the big picture.

Anatomy becomes applicable and even more fascinating when you begin to look into the relationships between the different parts of the body; relationships put things into perspective bestowing a deeper appreciation for the how the body works. Most of all, relationships give meaning and context to your somatic explorations which in return helps you to better remember the names of the structures you’re studying.

So don’t get frustrated if you cannot remember by heart all those names! Keep going back to your reference books and explore them again and again. Diversify your sources, so as to get a more comprehensive understanding, and don’t try to cram too much into your head all at once. Take your time! Let the information settle and integrate. The study of the human body is endless and you have all the time in the world.

The Psoas

This week in the anatomy study group we looked at a coveted muscle: the psoas. this muscle is fascinatingly complex because it has a lot of interesting relationships to it’s surrounding muscles, organs and bones. But first let’s give a general description.

The Psoas is a deep muscle of the trunk that connects the anterior portion of the spine to the upper leg. It is located behind the abdominal caviy and is divided into left and right psoas muscles which run vertically along the anterior-lateral edges of the spine from T12 all the way down to the lesser trochanter of the femur.

The psoas stabilizes the lumbar spine, flexes the hip and externally rotates the femur. Because it connects the legs to the spine it also responsible for our sense of grounding our connection into our feet and determines how we feel in our hips and lower back when we stand and walk.

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Psoas, Breath and Grounding

Another interesting detail about the psoas is that it is intimately related to the diaphragm. Its superior fibers interdigitate with the inferior portion of the posterior diaphragm called the crura. Their proximity implies a link between breath and grounding.

You may have felt this in your own body: when you are under stress your breath becomes shallow and irregular, you may even stop breathing from time to time. This is because the diaphragm becomes constricted and ceases to expand relaxedly in all directions as you breathe. The tension in the diaphragm extends to the neighboring  psoas muscle which contracts flexing the hip and disconnecting you from your feet, the earth and your sense of security.

Because of their proximity and inter-relatedness, exercises aimed at one muscle will also have beneficial effects on the other. For example: relaxing the breath will not only have a positive impact on the diaphragm, but will also release tension stored in the psoas. This, in turn, will enhance a sense of grounding and ease throughout the whole body. By the same rule, when you release the psoas, relax the groin and integrate the legs into the trunk, the diaphragm returns to a natural relaxed breathing pattern.

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Interesting Reads 

If you want to know more about the psoas I highly recommend The Psoas Book by Liz Koch. It’s a gem! it is short and sweet with great information and easy to follow exercises.

Another interesting read about the psoas is this interview by fellow Rolfer, Brooke Thomas, with Jonathan Fitzgordon. Enjoy!

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Next week’s post will conclude the anatomy highlights mini-series which will resume again in October.

If you have questions, comments, ideas or suggestions for future posts comment on Facebook or send me an email, I’d love to hear from you!

Awesome Anatomy Resources and Links

026 FOTOS CLASSES JULY 2014Back in the day..

When I first trained as a Structural Integration practitioner at the Guild for Structural Integration I was very lucky to have an engaging anatomy teacher who brought a lot of real human bones to class! This may sounds strange, but when you’re studying human anatomy it’s a real treat.

We were encouraged touch and take in the details of each bone; we were even allowed to borrow them overnight to assist us with our homework assignments, but most of all to keep us fascinated with the human body. It worked!

During the anatomy course we even went to visit a cadaver lab where the different bodies were specifically dissected for massage therapists. For example, they showed us how the fascia on the bottom of the foot is connected to the fascia on the top of the head in one long strip!  I also remember my surprise when they showed us the piriformis muscle, it’s so small compared to the images in my books! How can this little muscle be such a big pain in the butt?

I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have this experience untill later. Back at home I had to rely strictly on books to study anatomy. I used a number of them and compared the images of one to another and then to another to try and grasp what the different muscles looked like, where they were located and how they were layered over one another.


It was quite a feat! The Trail Guide to the Body has really good and copious illustrations and nowadays even includes a DVD (which is awesome!!) that teaches you to palpate soft tissues and bony landmarks, I can’t recommend it enough. Blandine’s book explains really well how the body moves, but the images are a bit too confusing for a newbee so to get a clearer picture I would read it along side Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy which is beautifully detailed. It illustrates the body in a way that inspires awe both for the for body’s complexity as well as for Netter’s artistic abilities.  In my quest to understand anatomy better, I also used art catalogues such as this one from the reinassance wax sculpture collection of La Specola’s Museun of Natual History in Florence (photographed above).


Today you can navigate the body in 3 dimensions from your laptop with 3D humna anatomy apps!!

These apps are great for home-study as well as for creating keynote presentations. You can explore the body from all angles, isolate muscles, bones and internal organs, layer them and save screenshots of the angles you like most.  What  a  great addition to your collection of resources.

In the applied anatomy study group we’re currently exploring these  two programs: Visible Body’s Muscle Premium and 3D4Medical’s Essential Anatomy 3. The cool thing is that they both offer a free trial version! Links to those are here and here.

Muscle Premium vs. Essential Anatomy 3

When it comes to the payed versions of the muscular system,  I favor Essential Anatomy 3

Here’s why:

  • it looks good: the design is appealing, simple and nice on the eyes.
  • it’s easy to use, you don’t have to look at tutorials to figure it out!
  • it also includes other body systems: nervous, respiratory, digestive, cardiovascular, lymphatic and connective tissue 🙂 which is a definite plus, as don’t have to buy them separately.
  • my favorite feature is “isolate” where you click on a body part and then view it from all angles. Super cool!
  • It also lets you “dress” the skeleton, so to speak, by adding layers of muscles onto the skeleton.
  • It has a bookmarks menu to which you can add your own slides (though I still haven’t figured out how to delete the slides you’ve created without deleting all of them!)
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Essential Anatomy 3 screenshot of the “isolate” feature.

Cons: the main “con” (that makes me crazy!!) is that when you click on something you want to view it will automatically zoom in. I find this rather annoying, still, the pros outweigh the cons.

Muscle Premium is more detailed when it comes to the images but it’s not as easy to navigate or as user-friendly. It also doesn’t include the vascular, digestive, linfatic or respiratory systems which you have to purchase separately. It’s most interesting features include 3D movement animations which are cool and help you understand movements like inversion / eversion of the foot, if you get those confused.  It also has a detailed catalogue with views of the different regions of the body which I find useful, though it doesn’t offer a whole body view in any of these sections.

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Muscle Premium: Nice detail on the muscles and nervous sytem.

I hope you find this article  useful.  Please repost it and share your thoughts and comments on Facebook!!

Want more?

Applied Anatomy Study Group Update


Every Thursday a cheerful gathering takes place in my apartment: it’s the lively group currently enrolled in the Applied Anatomy Study Group. I love the excitement, the smiles and chatter as we greet one another and get settled in. The atmosphere is friendly and fun; it is gathering of awesome women who share a passion for learning.


A good understanding of basic anatomy and kinesiology comes in handy if you are a massage therapist or a yoga teacher. In fact, it is a necessary job-requirement. Anatomy, however, can be a dry and complicated subject depending on how it is presented. Often it is hard to draw a connection between the muscles depicted in the medical atlases and the actual people in your yoga classroom or on your massage table.

That’s why my mission is to provide information that is interesting, exiting and useful.

So far the course participants are pleased, and so am I. The size of the group (5 participants) makes it easy for everyone to have a voice, ask questions and share pertinent information without feeling shy or embarrassed.

Furthermore, spending time with likeminded people is always nourishing and inspiring. We quickly discovered we’ve got lots in common as far as interests and sensibilities goes. Go figure!


Learning involves understanding not only by means of the rational mind but also through the felt-senses. That’s why we love the 8 week format. It allows the opportunity to layer information and assimilate it.

Wether you are leaning this material for the first time, or are coming to review and refresh your knowledge, having this time to yourself is both a luxury and a necessity.


I’m so jazzed with all the cool stuff that is happening in our study group that I’ve decided to post weekly Course Highlights for the rest of the month. The “Highlights” will feature:

  • News about topics that we really enjoyed
  • Useful links to online resources
  • Exercises and asana suggestions


How to Invite Positive Change into Your Life


cristal castle view

This photo is from a day trip to Crystal Castle with my friend Kerry. Kerry is an amazing woman who captivated me from the start with her smile. She is sincere, joyful, unpretentious and 100% genuine. How does she doit? How can a 60-something-year-old woman have the glowing smile of a young girl? How is it that life hasn’t succeded in dulling her spirit?

We met in ByronBay. Kerry came to stay at our house because she needed a rest. After years of selfless giving as a mother (of five!), wife and midwife, she needed a break. She requested an extended leave from work and “headed north.”

I interpreted her appearance in our house as an auspicious omen announcing new beginnings. I was approaching the end of the intensive 3 month yoga training and Kerry came at the right time to show me how to step into my old life with a new perspective.Spending time with Kerry taught me a lot about how to welcome positive change with a smile.

What’s Your Calling?

Kerry had a secret, she wanted to find her calling. She knew there was something she’s “meant to do,” but she didn’t know what it was. I found this shocking. I thought one’s calling is a fixed and unchanging thing that you stick to. It didn’t occur to me that every stage of life offers it’s own calling. Kerry faced her search with the excitement of a child on Christmas eve. She would ask herself “What wonderful gifts would this new thing bring?”
Trust Your Heart

“That’s all mind stuff, isn’t it? Come back to the center, back to the heart” She told me patting her chest with her hand. Kerry taught me to trust my center, my own heart. What feels good? What gives me energy? What sparks excitement and aticipation? What action does my heart require?

Appreciate Life’s Miracles

When you relate to life from the heart, you develop an appreciation for its magnificence, I learned that from Kerry too. She expreses a deep appreciation for life in very simple gestures, like in the way she speaks from the heart with sincerity, excitement and humor; or in the care she takes when preparing delicious wholesome foods and in her tidyness. She appreciates and cares for the small everyday miracles, the details that make each moment unique. Everything she touches glows. It’s the palpable result of her wholehearted intereaction with life.

Celebrate Your Accomplishments

Another thing I learned from Kerry is to celebrate my accomplishments. Some accomplishments seem small and I’ll often forget to recognize and honor what is big for me. It’s important to give ourselves credit for our accomplishments, no matter how small they seem from the outside. As they say in Oz: “Good on ‘ya!”

Back to You

What new things are you stepping into?
What are their gifts and challenges?


The Mirror of Yoga

silouette of a woman holding tree pose in an indian temple

These days I feel like Alice “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll, here in Oz everything is upside down! Fall is starting with it’s rains, cooler days and longer nights. The looking-glass metaphor also serves to describe my experience in my yoga practice.

The simple act of repeating day after day the same sequence of poses has brought me to a place in which the practice becomes a mirror. Breath after breath, I am alone with my thoughts, feelings and memories. Sometimes it is a pleasant experience and my thoughts come and go lightly, with little consequence. Other times, I am harangued by the same nagging discourse or assaulted by worry and fear.

Wether I’m entertained or bothered by the thoughts that present themselves during practice, I am simultaneously aware of a growing sense of ease. It’s a subtle sensation that tells me “Everything is ok.”

Maybe you too have a practice that helps you cultivate peace in your life. What is? What are it’s gifts?

I Love Where I Am

Painted hippy camper van in byron bay australia

It’s been just over 4 weeks since I arrived in Australia and today we just concluded week 4 of the ashtanga yoga Committed Practitioner Intensive with Dena Kingsberg. I am SO happy I came! A part from the BEAUTIFUL surroundings, this course is really a gift: I have the time and energy to focus only on yoga and for a long time, nine more weeks! This experience is just as I had hoped.

At first, I found the whole environment very unfamiliar and awe inspiring. Nature is spectacular in it’s extravagance: aside from the beautiful beaches, there are amazing creatures, such as lizards the size of iguanas, enormous spiders, birds I’ve never seen, exotic melodies and a fierce, unforgiving sun.

As soon as I arrived in Byron Bay, I had some problems with my accommodation and I quickly had to find something else. It was a bit stressful at the time but it really served a purpose: the momentary chaos snapped me out of my pre-planned agenda and really put me here, now. When the course started, I was really there, awake and ready.

Now I’m in a good home with nice people right next to the beach. I can hear the ocean from my bed at night. Every day, I wake up at 5 am and make my way to the Shala on my bicycle. The path is beautiful, I go thought the woods along the beach and cross a wooden bridge over a creek. The yoga practice along with the study time and the beautiful surroundings all contribute to a feeling of deep fulfilment and satisfaction. I feel happy, awake, curious and focused on this  journey that is the path of yoga.

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