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 runs from the 12th rib to the inside of the femur.

The psoas runs from the 12th rib to the inside of the femur.

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!

 

Enjoyed this article? Read Psoas Spiral Your Way To Happier Hips!

Emilie Mikulla

Having contracted a major case of wanderlust, Emilie has traveled the world, working as journalist, and now lives Dubai. After a second surgery on her spine, Emilie followed a lengthy Pilates rehabilitation program and, amazed by the results in her own body, became a comprehensively trained Pilates instructor in 2008. Emilie has taught in Thailand, South Africa, Dubai and in San Francisco. Emilie is an E-RYT and has completed her trainings with YogaWorks and Yoga Tree San Francisco, before earning her Yoga Tune Up® certification from Jill Miller. She has also spent hundreds of hours assisting her mentor Harvey Deutch PT at RedHawk Physical Therapy clinic in San Francisco, in teacher trainings, and on retreats at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. She has also recently participated in a week-long cadaver dissection workshop with Gil Hedley of Integral Anatomy. Emilie is the Lifestyle Editor for Women's Health & Fitness Middle East where she contributes a variety of articles and columns ranging from fitness and wellness, inspirational stories and nutrition. Blending dynamic movement with therapeutic releases, Emilie’s classes will empower you to practice the activities you love with awareness and joy.

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Lucy Beiler

Well I didn’t have the Coregeous ball when I had abdominal surgery 24 years ago but I sure do now! I have cried laying over that ball and breathed sighs of relief both physically and emotionally. After reading your article I will be paying even more attention to my psoas and the related muscles. It’s an aha for me to also want all the related muscles strong and supple so that my psoas doesn’t bear more weight than necessary. Thanks so very much for sharing your story.

Marsela Suteja

Coming from Yoga background, my teachers always say that we stored our emotions in our hips. I, myself, never had any mobility issues with my hips, so, I’ve honestly do not spent much time on it. It’s enlightening to see the science behind it, the psoas muscle that connects lower and upper body as well as it’s fight/ flight reaction. It all makes sense both from yogis’ perspective as well as science.

lauren

thanks for sharing your story! The corgeous ball is pretty amazing(almost as amazing as the human body)!

Bonnie Bloom

There’s a sying, the bigger the front the bigger the back. So releasing the back via the abdomen makes so much sense. And the psoas is such a hanging on muscle that get it to release can only enhance all around relaxation in muscles and the mind.

Erika Mills

Thanks Emilie, you have given me many reasons to start exploring this part of my body with the Coregeous ball. If Jo Ann-Staugaard can write a book on one muscle, there is surely lots to discover in these exercises.

Jeanette Johnsson

It´s tough to be a psoas 2017, thanks for the reminder on how the coregeous ball is such a great instrument to find relief in this often stressed out muscle.

Anik B

Thank you, this make me realize that morning coregeous routine is way more thant I thought.

Nick Shrewsbury

Wow Emilie! That is incredible! Thank you for sharing your story. Inspires me to lean in a little more, go a little deeper with the YTU balls. And helps me to understand the major movers in held trauma. Thanks!

Nick Shrewsbury

Wow Emilie. That is incredible, thanks for sharing your story! Very inspiring to lean in and go a littler deeper with the YTU balls. And helps me to better understand some of the major movers in held trauma. Thanks!!

Katie Rutterer

After taking a Core Immersion, I fell in love with the Coregous ball and recommend it to all my students who come to me with back pain. It’s easy to travel with too – I brought one across the country with me.

I use it in the evenings to help deregulate my nervous system and help me sleep.

Michelle Pitman

I’m realizing after reading this, as well as having just finished a weekend of YTU training, that my psoas isn’t as efficient and healthy as I initially thought and THAT might be why (among other things) abdominal-thoracic breath is not easily accessible to me. Lightbulb moment! Thank you! Time to add some psoas strengthening and ball self care to my routine ?

Eva Jedlovsky

Great article! I recently discovered the pain of an angry psoas and it is not a fun one. I find the link of the muscle to your emotional state fascinating. Looking back in my life it makes a lot of sense…one of the pains doctors just can’t explain. I have love and hate relationship with the ball myself. Hate everytime I lie on it but it is worth it at the end. Will make the coregeous ball part of my routines from now on.

Heather Longoria

Thanks for the reminder of the benefits of using the Corgeous ball. We just watched the “Bust the Fuzz” Gil Hedley video yesterday, and in view of that, it really helps me understand why it is so important to restore the sliding ability of the layers of tissue around the psoas, diaphragm, QL, obliques. The article made me crave my Corgeous ball!

Denise

Can’t wait to get my Coregeous ball!!

Cintia Hongay

The coregeous ball is superb! it has the right “consistency” to massage the belly area. My husband was having abdominal pain ( I guess due to poor digestion) and I am here at YTU-TT-16, so I recommended him to use the coregeous ball I have at home while he was watching the DVD. It works like a charm (much better than pawanmuktasana).

Katy Loomis

Thanks for sharing your Coregeous ball story! I also remember my first time using the Coregeous ball and kept thinking I was doing something wrong because I had never felt such awareness of my abdominal muscles. Watching videos like this one are great resources to have…and a reminder to get on my ball!

Lisa Federico

Having experienced the worst pain in my life in my spine many years ago, and almost finding myself on the operating table….I completely appreciate your article Emilie. Somehow, through gradual movement, I managed to find my way back to activities of daily living and much, much more. I wish I had Coregeous ball then! I agree that it is an amazing tool for addressing/avoiding back pain. Also, I have several clients who greatly appreciated your comments regarding living with chronic pain is like living with another person. They feel validated…and use their Coregeous ball daily. Thank you!

Julia Sims Haas

It’s amazing what can come up when rolling on the super squishy Coregeous ball! I notice much more awareness of and space for the breath.

V. Ceglarek

I completely relate with your description of living with back pain. Nothing changes one’s perspective like that dark shadow.

Your story has inspired me to look to that purple ball as yet another tool, another option for self-care.

Anne Ondrey

Great article including information on how tacked down layers affect breathing and wellbeing of muscles including the psoas and iliacus and showing actions and movements that can help. It can be a hard sell getting people to stay with the discomfort in their abdomen with the Coregeous ball, but it’s well worth it!

Marie

Such an inspiring article! Thank you!

Lynne

Thank-for you article

Keiko Johnson

Thank you for sharing the difficulty you faced in starting with the Corgeous ball. I am in a similar place with my core muscles but haven’t yet succeeded in finding release. The Corgeous ball has made me aware of blind spots, but I have yet to nature my way out of them.

Lisa Pitel-Killah

Great article and I like the part you mentioned about letting go. Many times we blame our bodies for things going on but the emotion side of things always plays a role. I think that if we are always present in our practice of self-care then we cleanse the body and our minds and that is the ultimate goal.

Shari Williams

this post got me thinking, I fractured my spine 10 years ago, shattered L2. Wore a brace as long time, no surgery, but the accident led to 4 hip surgeries 3 on one side. considering the psoas’ origin is lumbar spine and crosses the hip to the femur, i know by feeling the evident discomfort in this area that i have a need to work the ball to release this muscle. i get a big release from placing it at the iliacus area. great to see Jill in action with it, very helpful.

Tracey Arnold

Thanks for sharing your story Emilie and providing all the great info on the psoas.
This is certainly an area we need to tune into and keep tuned for our over all well being.

sarah howard

Great post and thanks for sharing. I am just starting to experiment with the corageous ball and am loving it so far!

Melissa

Wonderfully written. Thank you for sharing. I also hated abdominal massage at first but it really has helped me combat back spasms as well. I’ve been spasm free for over a year!

Stacy Jackson

Thank you Emilie for sharing your journey, and pointing out how the Coregeous ball when used regularly de constructs the tensions known and unknown, emotionally and physically. So true that this magic purple ball is the gateway to learning how to self soothe in order for us to improve our ability to function better inside and out.

Meredith Hutter Chamorro

Wonderful article! As someone who also suffers from chronic pain, I really appreciate your take on it. And I agree, the Coregeous® is a life-changer!

Simran Khalsa

Beautiful article! A great reminder for all of us to continually assess our state of being in our bodies and do what is necessary to keep them healthy and pain free as possible!