The end of the year signifies something. I'll give you that, but every single year, I am told to "Let it Go." What if I don't want to let it go? What if I've had a great year, and I want to hang on to it? Or, more realistically, maybe I'm ok with letting go to some degree. But, maybe I don't like anyone telling me what to do with my 2016 or how I should feel about it. There was a lot of value to my 2016 that I want to keep, even if some of it wasn't awesome.
I think you know what I mean. Every year is a mixed bag. And, really, if we just keep "letting go" of every year come each December 31st, what does that say about the value we put on our life? If we consistently "Let it Go," then we are eventually left with a void.
Cue the music. You know what song I'm talking about. (I prefer the Demi Lovato version myself. Now, there's a girl who's had her share of life experiences and growth, to be sure. She gets it.) Anyway, I'm letting myself get distracted here.
I am going to encourage us all to put a little shift on the popular mindset of letting go. Let's try to use the word "Release" instead. Maybe it's just semantics, but to me "Release" feels more mindful, more gentle, and more purposeful. In releasing, I've acknowledged the value of the previous year, and I'm working on letting some parts of 2016 mellow with age in my memory. I'm allowing them to sift out from heaviness into lightness ....... to soften from pain into poignancy. I'm highlighting the happiness that has entered my life. If I let my experiences of 2016 go, then how can I learn from them or value the richness of relationships that have been the result of them? Well, it wouldn't be possible. However, if I release.......then it's like a sigh.
And after the exhale of a sigh comes an inhale.
The inhale is a new breath of life with endless possibilities. With no mistakes or hurt feelings or pain or sadness or stress and anxiety or things you wish you wouldn't have said or things you wish you would have said or .......... Well, you get the idea. The release leaves you with a clean slate like a blanket of new snow, but with the benefit of the previous year's sage advice firmly in place.
I can't completely let go of last year. It's brought me to the latest version of myself. And that goes for you too. Whatever 2016 dealt you, you are better for it in some way. But only if you choose to see it in that light. Damn it all. You can't displace the blame onto the old year! It's all up to you. Last year doesn't get to decide you. Although you might not get to choose the experiences you experience, you do get to choose what they do to you.
Here's the physical manifestation of Release. There's a pretty large muscle group that can play havoc with our comfort, both physical and emotional. It's the iliopsoas. I'm going to simplify this a lot, because that's my level of understanding, but I can tell you that this is an interesting muscle. This group of muscles connects our legs to our core body. It is responsible for holding us together and for our abilities to physically propel ourselves forward and to center ourselves. It's a remarkable part of our bodies. The diagram below from spine-health.com is possibly more than you bargained for in a yoga blog, but I couldn't help it. I mean, look at that! The lliacus, psoas minor, and especially that psoas major are key players in our everyday movements as well as in our aches and pains.
When tight, the iliopsoas can make our low back hurt, give us hip issues, cause knee pain, and even effect our feet and ankles. Even more interestingly, the psoas might be the culprit of much of our emotional distress. Think about it. When we are anxious or startled or stressed out, we tense. We sit rigidly and stand differently, and we tighten up. That psoas takes the brunt of it all, triggering fear and anxiety and other unhelpful feelings. Therefore, a key factor in feeling more relaxed in body and mind is to give your iliopsoas some love and attention.
If you'd like to practice releasing your iliopsoas for physical relief and as a nod to Releasing What No Longer Serves You in Your Life for the New Year, then try this little flow I've put together. It's something I try to do every morning (and sometimes in the evening too) while doing my best to clear my mind of everything except the inhales and the exhales. So go ahead, slip into something more comfortable, and give it a try. I hope you like it.
-Throughout the flow, inhale and exhale evenly. Exhale into twists and inhale out of them. Take your time. Be mindful of what your body is telling you before, during, and after this psoas-releasing sequence.
-Forward Fold to Monkey Pose Flow to gently stretch the psoas. During the Monkey Poses (halfway lift), draw your thigh bones back. During the Forward Folds, bring your belly toward your thighs, and bend your knees as much as necessary.
- Mountain Pose - Find your foundation first. Knees over ankles (with kneecaps lifted but not locked), Pelvis over Knees (with pelvis not tipped), Shoulders over Pelvis (with shoulders down and shoulder blades down along your back). Chin level with the ground. Feel your body's alignment in this pose.
-Standing Psoas Stretch - Lead with your hips, and then let your upper body slowly fall back, and then your neck and head - as much or as little as feels good for you. Take care not to clench around the tailbone. Picture the low back broadening. Come out of the pose slowly.
- Downward Facing Dog - In this sequence, the purpose is to pedal it out to gently stretch your hip flexors.
- Low Lunge Sequence with Twists - Exhale your hips gently forward in the low lunge. Then find length in the spine before each twist, and take care to keep the knees in line with the ankles. In other words, don't drift. Twist at the navel.
-Switch Sides and Repeat
*If you are a woman in that in-between stage of life before menopause, the psoas might be even more relevant. There are lots of good articles about heightened anxiety at this stage of life and the correlation to the psoas. Do an online search or ask me to forward you some readings if you are interested. (I'm here to help a sister out.)
I wish for all of you a happy and peaceful 2017 that provides opportunities to accept joy and for personal growth.
-Psoas info courtesy of Liz Koch's The Psoas Book and Craig Williamson's information on Muscular Retraining at somaticintegration.com. "Flowers in Your Hair" by the Lumineers.
Please take a look at the calendar for new yoga opportunities. (For example, I'm finally fulfilling my promise to offer Free Yoga for Caregivers twice a month due to the generosity of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in their offering of a wonderful space.) I'm also adding another yoga class to the itinerary for 2017. Thank you for your continued support!