Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Diaphragm-Psoas Connection

The focus of this blog post is to illustrate the subtle, yet powerful myofascial connections between the diaphragm and iliopsoas muscle all the way down to the feet in Triangle pose. Understanding and visualizing these connections in Trikonasana will enable you to do the same in other poses.


Figure 1: Myofascial connections between the diaphragm, psoas and lower extremity.

The diaphragm, as we all know, is the central muscle of breathing. It operates mostly unconsciously, though we can consciously influence its rate and depth of contraction.  As the central muscle of breathing the diaphragm is inextricably linked to our life force and thus, our emotions and energetic body. Practicing yoga asanas influences the diaphragm in subtle ways, particularly through its connection to the psoas muscle. In fact, every pose has a slightly different effect on the diaphragm, and thus on its energetic connections. 


Figure 2: Myofascial connections between the diaphragm, psoas and lower extremity in Trikonasana.

Visualization is a powerful tool you can use to access these connections. So, before we go on to the details of anatomy and biomechanics, spend a few relaxed moments looking at figures 1 and 2, which illustrate these myofascial connections. Look at the images and then picture the connections within your body . Repeat this exercise two or three times, devoting five or ten seconds to each visualization. Note how you can feel the connections within yourself. Please complete this process before proceeding with the details of anatomy and biomechanics.
And, here’s the anatomy…
The thoracic diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities. The contractile part  of this muscle is located peripherally, inserting onto a central tendon (that is not connected to a bone). The origins of the muscle are divided into costal and lumbar portions. The “costal” portion originates from the inner surface of ribs seven through twelve. The “lumbar” portion has both medial (closer to the midline) and lateral (further from the midline) aspects. The medial aspects of the diaphragm arise from front of the first three lumbar vertebrae (L1-L3). The lateral aspects arise from three tendinous arches. The first tendinous arch is associated with the abdominal aorta, and the second and third with the psoas major and quadratus lumborum muscles respectively. Figure 3 illustrates these structures.
Figure 3: The diaphragm-psoas connection.
1) diaphragm 2) diaphragm tendon 3) aortic aperture 4) psoas arcade 5) vena caval aperture 6) esophageal aperture

Engaging the diaphragm with the glottis open expands the ribcage and produces a pressure gradient by lowering intrathoracic pressure. The negative inspiratory pressure causes air to be drawn into the lungs, thus equalizing the gradient. These fluctuating pressure gradients also facilitate blood flow, particularly venous return to the heart.

Conversely, contracting the diaphragm after exhalation with the glottis closed also produces a pressure gradient. In this case the negative inspiratory pressure draws the abdominal contents upwards (and the abdomen in). Engaging the diaphragm on exhalation with the glottis closed is a form of eccentric contraction, whereby a muscle is engaged in its lengthened state.
Engaging the abdominals during exhalation passively stretches the diaphragm by raising the intra-abdominal pressure and lifting the abdominal organs upward against the muscle. Note that engaging the abdominals on exhalation also tensions the thoraco-lumbar fascia, which serves to stabilize the lumbar spine and sacroiliac joint. Click here for more information on this particular connection.
The psoas major muscle originates from the vertebral bodies of T12 and L1 through L4. It combines with the iliacus muscle, which originates from the inside of the ilium (the iliac fossa) to form the iliopsoas muscle. The iliopsoas then runs over the brim of the pelvis to insert onto the lesser trochanter, a knob-like structure on the upper, inside of the femur (thigh bone). The iliopsoas crosses multiple joints and is thus considered a polyarticular muscle. When contracting on one side it can act to flex and externally rotate the femur and/or laterally flex the trunk or tilt one side of the pelvis forward. When the iliopsoas contracts on both sides it can flex both femurs and the trunk. Bilaterally contracting this muscle lifts the trunk from supine position (lying on the back). Figure 4 illustrates the iliopsoas muscle.
Figure 4: The psoas.
1) psoas major 2) psoas minor 3) iliac us 4) iliopsoas (at tendon attachment to the lesser trochanter
Now, return to the images illustrating myofascial connection between the diaphragm, the psoas and the lower extremities (figures 1 and 2). Spend a few moments in relaxed visualization of these key structures. Note how your body awareness has deepened in the brief period between now and when you first looked at them. Integrate this process into your daily practice.

Benefits of Massage for Salsa Dancers

Benefits of Massage for Salsa Dancers:   Massage is a wonderful option for dancers who do not have time to rest properly.  Massage is a safe and effective way of speeding up the recovery process.


Benefits of Massage for Dancers:

  • speed up the body’s natural recovery process
  • injury prevention
  • enhances performance
  • releases muscular tension and allows our bodies to move with fluidity
  • helps the natural process in healing minor soft tissue injuries

As a Massage Therapist & Bodyworker , I can have found that massage is an imperative element that should be added to dancers training regiment.  Getting regular bodywork helps  stay healthy and injury free for  active lifestyle.  I recommend massage to disciplined dance training schedule to offer a longevity on the dance floor.

Overuse injuries occur in dancers because muscles are worked hard during rehearsal, intense training, and performance.  When muscles are are not rested fully and you are already for the next class, rehearsal or show injury can occur because  the muscles are not fully recovered from the last session. It is as important to maintain a  recovery period to maintain muscle health while enhancing your true potential as a dancer. Overuse is one of the most common causes of muscular injury and imbalance in the dance community.  when these injuries are not properly addressed they can impair performance and have the potential to become chronic injures.

Our bodies are so incredible that it instinctively knows how to heal itself.  Recovery from physical activity happens through circulation of the blood flushing out waste products  that build up in the muscles from the  intense dance rehearsal and physical activity our bodies endure. Instinctively the body provides nutrients and repairs any tissue damage.  Unfortunately, this process takes time and only works when we take the necessary time to rest the body and allow it to take on the repair process.  Professional Dancer, I know first hand that busy rehearsal schedules  makes this necessary rest period almost impossible to achieve.

Visit me at

for more information or to schedule a massage or to set personal goals in injury prevention as a dancer.

Karen PROFILE2013v2

Arthritis at a glance


The ABCs of arthritis

In general, arthritis is a disease of the joints and cartilages. To have an understanding of arthritis, you must understand cartilages and joints.

What are joints?
A joint is a place in the body where two or more bones meet such as the shoulder or knee.

What are cartilages?
Cartilage is a slippery tissue that layers the bones in the body and a cushion in the joint that protects the joint from the pressure and the shock of movement making the movement painless.

What is arthritis?
Arthritis is termed as “inflammation of the joints”. Symptoms include swelling, stiffness and pain.

What causes arthritis?
When the cartilage is broken down or the joints in the body are inflamed, arthritis occurs. When the cartilage is worn or breaks down, the bones begin to hit one another, rubbing together without the protective cartilage resulting in stiffness, swelling and pain.

Two most common types of arthritis
1- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis among adults living with arthritis. It is a form of arthritis that is often a result of wear and tear of the joints that begin to wear out as a person ages. The disease may also be a result of an injury. The most common places on the body for osteoarthritis to strike are in the hands, hips and knees. The condition causes the joints to thicken and ache. The joint tissues may become strained and cause more pain.
2- Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is a result of a poor immune system. The immune system is responsible for helping to protect the body against infection. The immune system begins to attack the body’s healthy tissues, causing an inflammation and pain in the joint. The disease can also affect other body parts such as the eyes, nerves, blood vessels and heart. .

Signs and symptoms of arthritis
Although there are over 100 types of arthritis, there are symptoms that are common in all forms such as:
• Redness and warmth in a joint
• Difficulty when moving or using a joint normally
• Recurring or constant pain and/or tenderness in a joint
• Redness and warmth of the skin surrounding the joint
• Limited use of a joint
• Stiffness around the joints that lasts for at least an hour in the early morning
• Joint swells or enlarges
• Joint feels like it will not support the weight of the body or is not stable
With rheumatoid arthritis other signs may occur as well. If you are experiencing pain or concern it is important to visit your doctor. However, prior to you visit, ask yourself the below questions:
• What medicine/s are you taking?
• Does your family have a history of any type arthritis or other rheumatic disease?
• Have you had any accidents or illnesses that may account for the pain you are experiencing?
• Does activity make the better or worse?
• What were you doing when you first became aware of the pain?
• How long does the pain last?
• When does the pain occur?
• Is the pain in one or more joints?
By answering the above questions you will help your doctor to better diagnose your condition.

How is arthritis diagnosed?
Diagnosis will be made by your doctor who will take a medical history, perform a physical exam and may take x-rays and blood tests.

How is arthritis treated?
Treating the disease will depend on various factors such as:
• The type of arthritis
• The cause
• Your work or activity
• Your age
• How the arthritis affects your daily activities
• Severity of pain
• Which joints are painful
Surgery and medical drug therapy can also be a treatment to help the condition. Because the dangers involved with medical drugs pose additional risks to the persons health many patients are turning to herbal supplements.

Lifestyle changes
Persons living with arthritis may be required to incorporate the following changes into their daily routine and lifestyle:

• Not staying in a position for an excessive amount of time
• Avoid movements or positions that put extra stress on painful joints
• Use cold or hot treatments to help to control swelling and pain
• Exercise to strengthen the muscles and improve joint strength and movement. Strength training, dancing, bicycling, swimming and walking are all good choices in exercise.


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