The psoas connects into bone at the bottom of the thoracic spine, all lumbar vertebral bodies, and transverse processes and discs. The iliacus attaches via direct muscle into bone (no tendon) to the entire inner table of the ilium. The psoas fascia connects, directly or indirectly, to the diaphragm and the QL, and many other structures in the living, liquid abdomen. The two muscles meet at the pubic ramus, twist around each other for greater strength, dive over the pubis like a waterfall (if the patient is supine), and attach to the posterior part of the very inner thigh at the top of the femur – essentially, at the inner groin.
This 3-d organ flows diagonally and deeply through the abdomen in from top to bottom, inside to outside (psoas) and outside to inside (iliacus), and front to back. But remember: depending on which body part you have your eye on first, the direction of flow could be opposite! It operates over a long distance and has expansive girth through the liquid abdomen in all three planes.
Its complexity defies full examination, but Liz Koch (pronounced “cook”), who wrote the seminal work The Psoas Book (gee, I wonder what it’s about) and more recently, Stalking Wild Psoas: embodying your core intelligence, has written in the second book a remarkably comprehensive whole-self meditation on the psoas. She presents it as an emblem of a self-as-fluid system – in which self is embedded in larger fluid systems. Her prose dissolves the analytic distinction between mind, body, and spirit – those individual phenomena are eclipsed by a holistic being that’s seamless with all of itself and the environment.
What’s more, Koch views the self as an endlessly unfolding self-creation and creative engagement with the world.
When you read quotations like “play is life”, “movement is the medicine” and “the spine isn’t a column, it’s a living river”, you can see why I relate to her work, and why her work transfixes me and elevates my own writing and teaching.
People have been talking about the unity of body, soul and mind (as a response to western anatomy’s atomistic breakdown of structures) for at least six decades. Many have sought to embody this goal in expressive language, but nobody has done it better than Koch. Stalking Wild Psoas comes as close to non-objectifying prose about the self as I’ve ever seen.
To accomplish this, Koch uses metaphors and research from progressive embryology which views embryological development as coextensive with human development throughout life, which is a game-changer. But she also uses poetry and the experience of a lifetime as a somatic educator, writer, and deep thinker.
Stalking Wild Psoas is the type of book I can open to any page and discover a percept or turn of phrase that matches and transcends concepts of the self I approach in my writing and in my work with students and clients. I recommend that you read it. If you’ve read this far, I’m willing to bet my living room furniture that you’ll have the same reaction I do.
Koch’s book and my series of online courses called The Spirit of Anatomy stand at different places on the same fulcrum of the evolution of thought. The Spirit of Anatomy seeks to integrate multiple ways of seeing the self in treatment and in life, refusing to view western anatomy as “truth”, but including it as a way of seeing the self that’s useful in certain contexts and not in others, and which stands as an equal among many belief systems. For more information on The Spirit of Anatomy classes, Click Here
I’m also teaching an in-person Psoas class on three consecutive Thursdays starting September 16th. The class will feature visual/postural/energetic analysis standing and on the table, low back/hip western anatomy, touch and movement techniques, and the visceral and bio-psycho-spiritual dimensions of a structure that Taoist writers have dubbed “The Muscle Of The Soul”. Click here for more information.
“Th[e] insistence on correctives to mitigate the “dysfunction” as quickly as possible limits the capability of all living beings to innovate in unknown and transformative ways – to thrive rather than simply survive.” – Liz Koch (via her website coreawareness.com)
I wish you all deep pleasure in September: the forgotten summer month. – George Russell