One day while student teaching I was so angry and frustrated that my back tingled with prickles. I was walking down the hall, and my back pricked more than a stickleback fish. Never before had I been angry enough to have a physical response like that. Based on that experience, I thought that the body only responded to massive amounts of emotion.
Before I began practicing yoga, I was familiar with the phrases, “butterflies in my stomach,” or “gut feeling.” These are phrases we use to describe feeling nervous or instinctual about something. Our bodies often reflect how we feel—but I think the connection goes deeper.
Half a dozen years ago, I felt like I had a piece of glass shrapnel stuck inside my left shoulder, just above my heart. I could feel it if I breathed. I mean, I could sort of feel it. I knew it wasn’t physical—I knew it wasn’t really there.
At the time, I thought I was imagining the wound. Thinking like a yogi, now, I recognize that the wound was probably a real, spiritual and emotional wound.
When I worked through the causes for my depression, the glass shrapnel slowly dissipated. As I began to see how God saw me—which did not include my failures—I began to be able to breathe. God wanted me to be whole, not fragmented into little pieces divided by glass.
What I thought of as glass shrapnel was really my body telling me that something was wrong with my heart, with my soul. It was the subtle body inside me carrying a wound that I could almost physically feel. If my soul could manifest as my physical body, you’d see that I have a scar just above my heart.
Ever since I started practicing yoga, I’ve been noticing more the connection between the body and emotions and soul. One yoga instructor I know believes that women carry much of their emotion in their hips. With hip openers like pigeon, she can make a class full of women cry.
We carry our “stuff”—our soul pain and wounds—around with us, and yoga gives us a technology for finding it, working it through our muscles and minds and souls. When we find this deep “stuff” in our bodies, we can bring it into the light of God. Pretty incredible.
That is why I get excited when I read articles like this one: “The Psoas: The Muscle of the Soul.” Other people see this connection too! There’s so much more for me to learn! In the article, Danielle Prohom Olson discusses research on the psoas, which is a muscle deep, deep in the hip. The psoas connects the spine through the pelvic bowl to the femur—which is a pretty important job. That muscle is how our legs are attached to the flight-or-fight part of the brain.
Citing research by Liz Koch, Olson writes, “Within the Taoist tradition the psoas is spoken of as the seat or muscle of the soul, and surrounds the lower ‘Dan tien’ a major energy center of body.”
The psoas as the seat of the soul. I love finding these connections—even the painful ones.
What does your body say about your soul?