The Secret of the Ankles
Jul 26, 2021
I recently had a chance to speak with Liz Koch on the OS BodCast. I’ll release that BodCast soon and double back to link it here when it’s ready. BodCast - you know you love that name, a podcast devoted to the ways and design of the human body. Anyway, Liz is the author of The Psoas Book and Stalking Wild Psoas. She is probably THE leading expert in the world about the ways of the psoas.
If you don’t know, your psoas is the muscle that connects the lumbar spine to the legs. But the psoas is more than a muscle, according to Liz, it’s a messenger of health, safety, and fear in the body. Many people are familiar with the messages of their psoas, but they are not aware that the messages are coming from their psoas.
Low back pain, for example, can often be the message from the psoas that something is not quite right in the body. When this happens the psoas usually gets blamed for the pain rather than listened to for the message. As a result, the psoas is often stretched, poked, prodded, and “released” in an attempt to relieve the back pain. Incidentally, Liz warns against all of these methods as they are more of a “shoot the messenger” type approach and they can often result in much greater consequences.
In fact, Liz says one of the keys to keeping a healthy psoas, or an “I am safe” messaging psoas is to keep healthy, mobile ankles - ankles that glide.
Hmmm? Who would think that the key to keeping the most central muscle in the body healthy, the muscle that pretty much affects everything about you along with the diaphragm, is to have ankles that move well?
It makes sense, right?
If your base of support is properly functioning, if your “walking platforms” are moving well, then most likely every joint and every muscle up the kinetic chain of the body will also be functioning optimally. Or, in the case of the psoas, these particular muscles will be sending the message, “All is well. We are safe.”
How often do you think people consider their ankles may be the issue when their back hurts? Sure, shoes often get suspected, high heals at least, but those would be altering the ankle ultimately.
Anyway, that’s one of the secrets of the ankle - Healthy ankles make for happy, healthy psoai (there are two psoas muscles on both sides of the spine).
After Liz told me this, she asked how I keep glide in the ankles, or how to I keep ankles moving as they should. I told her that I just let my body keep my ankles and joints healthy through rocking. Rocking in different foot positions is a great way to mobilize the feet and ankles in all the ways they are designed to move. Sitting back on them, or rocking back over them, keeps the open and allows them to glide as the weight of the body shifts back and forth over them. Best of all, rocking also mobilizes the other major moving joints up the kinetic chain, completely integrating the movements of the ankles with the movements of the knees, hips, spine and shoulder.
So then it hit me, “How about that? Rocking can help the psoas.” Maybe that’s one of the reasons many people’s low backs feel better when they spend time rocking. Hmmm. Who knew?!
The point to all of this is that you have an amazing design for health through movement, or simply, you are amazingly designed to move. Everything about you dances together, in sync or out of sync, depending on how you move. If you are moving well and everything is in sync, you probably have a soft, supple, quiet psoas. If your movements are compromised or compensating for something, you may likely receive messages of fear or pain from your psoas.
If you are getting those messages, in your body, or even in your thoughts, spend some time rocking. It’s a movement that does so much more than the eye can see. It can quiet fears in the body and also in the mind. It can soothe emotions, and it can mobilize ankles. It connects you, it integrates you, and it can help give you a sense of wholeness.
Check out Liz Koch’s work on the psoas. It’s simply fascinating.
Listen to the BodCast - it may inspire, educate, and enliven your hope muscle.
And lastly, rock on.