The first time I lied down on a Coregeous ball was nine months ago at the Hips Immersion. I hated it. This purple ball of fire made sick, it made me cry and it pissed me off. In fact, throughout the day, these visceral sensations became so overwhelming I left the training early. I went back to my hotel room, straight to bed with a fever and slept like a log for 12 hours. I can’t even remember the last time I slept that long (I have a four-year old!). The next day, I was fine beyond my massive apprehension about sticking the ball in my abdomen once more, however, this time it felt much better, albeit uncomfortable.
But let me rewind…
I fell out of a bus when I was 16. I wish I had a sexier story to tell as to why I had my first spine surgery, but that’s it. Post-discectomy on the right side of L4/L5 and I simply went on with my life, as teenagers do. I stored away the nagging feeling that kept resurging here and there that maybe that surgery wasn’t necessary, maybe there were other ways – you don’t know what you don’t know… Fast-forward to my 30th birthday, with a dropped foot in tow, I underwent my second spine surgery, also on L4/L5 but on the left side this time. I like to think I evened things out!
Living with chronic back pain – and I imagine chronic pain period – is like living with another person. It makes you, and the people around you, miserable. It governs your life and stops you in your tracks, literally. You’re ready to do anything to make it stop – you could have told me to stand on my head and I would have done it if I thought it would get me out of pain!
Post-surgery number two, I was so afraid to move that I began finding other ways to get things done. I could impress you with the dexterity of my feet picking up the smallest of objects, but moving my hips? No way! Not a great idea if you want to keep compensation patterns from arising. By chance, I found a wonderful Pilates teacher who changed my life. Yoga followed and a few years ago Yoga Tune Up®. YTU Therapy Balls helped me find suppleness around the incision site, breaking up old scar tissue and infusing the region with better blood flow and oxygenation.
But I’d never used the Coregeous ball. It’s called Coregeous for a reason as it talks to your core, and at the center of your core, to your psoas. As Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones, Author of “The Vital Psoas Muscle” says, “It is now understood that people can hold embedded memories of traumatic events in the body as well as the brain… The memory of traumatic stress can be held in the psoas major as an organ of perception.”
The psoas is fascinating and is truly a one-of-a kind structure. In fact, it is the only muscle of your being that connects the upper and lower body and the spine to the legs. It is located deep within the abdominal cavity, behind your organs, and runs from the 12th rib, through the transverse processes of the five lumbar vertebrae, en route to its final destination – the lesser trochanter on the inner leg. Dubbed the “Fight or Flight” muscle, the psoas ignites when you’re stressed out, anxious or simply need to run for it!
Your psoas is your main hip flexor and when inhibited it can pull on your spine, causing both rotation and an anterior tilt of the pelvis. Interestingly, the psoas also shares a fascial connection with your diaphragm. So, any tension in your psoas will affect the depth of excursion of your breathing apparatus, thus impacting the quality and breadth of your breath.
Because the psoas is linked to the spine and crosses the pelvis, the muscles of this area, including your transverse abdominus, obliques, multifidi, rotatores, QLs and gluteus maximus also play a vital role in its health. If these tissues aren’t strong and supple enough, the psoas will bear more of the weight of your structure and ultimately pay the price. Add to that the demands of daily life – too much sitting, high stress levels and too much energetic input generally, and there you have it – the perfect recipe for psoas disaster, aka back pain (and a host of other ailments but that’s another post for another time…).
But back to the Coregeous ball. It’s a powerful ally against back pain. On a physical level, it helps to release the psoas and the layers of abdominal muscles that overlie it. It’s indirect massage of the diaphragm makes it a fantastic tool in combatting back spasms, neuropathic symptoms and the perception of pain. Just a few minutes on it can free up the highway of the spine, creating space where there was once restriction and bring about a deep sense of relaxation.
It’s taken me a long time to realize there are some scars that take longer to heal than the ones that are skin deep. I’d never wanted to face that possibility. Instead, I preferred to hold on tight; I gripped and I clenched, which left my psoas was exhausted and weak. Coregeous represents the opposite of that. Beyond the release of adhered tissues, it requires letting go. And when you’re carrying around emotional baggage – whatever that may be – it is difficult, even painful, to consciously decide to release and unburden yourself.
Since my last surgery I am mostly pain-free, but every once in a while, when I’m not diligent about my self-care routine, my spine reminds me why I do this work in the first place. These days, you’ll find me on my Coregeous ball several times a week. I use it when I feel stiff, but also when I find myself going through the day holding on, clenching my jaw and contracting my psoas.
Here’s my Coregeous routine (and in the video below): I lie down on the ball and take several deep breaths, followed by contract/relax. Then I move the ball every which way I can; I pin, spin and mobilize. I then repeat the entire sequence lying down on my side, placing the ball at the intersection of my QL and obliques. If I have more time, I will also work the upper back and serratus. When I’m done, there are no more spasms, no more neuropathic sensations, no more fear. Only the bliss of basking in the gift of the breath, the ability to move and to feel everything else but pain.
Come back Friday for my go-to exercises for a healthy psoas!