Our psoas (so-az) muscles are deep "core" muscles, on either side of the spine, that are often the culprit when someone is having issues with low-back pain. The psoas are the only things connecting our spine to our legs so they are major players in core and spine stability. I've shared a photo that shows this muscle group in red to help you better visualize how relevant the psoas muscles are to a healthy back.
Should you care about this muscle group? Do you sit at a computer? sit much in a car? sit and watch TV? If your answer is a "yes", then one day this information might come in handy. It might save you from pain - and a lot of money visiting doctors or chiropractors :)
I've been researching the psoas because I'm troubleshooting how to manage a badly degenerated disc in my lower back. An 8mm extrusion at L5-S1, to be exact. Not fun stuff! Last year, I battled severe sciatica a few times, likely due to the disc damage compressing nerves and causing nearby muscle spasms. If you've never experienced sciatica, imagine someone using a taser gun on your butt check. Also, not fun! I have a lot of life experience with pain - I was ejected from a car and ended up underneath it, gave birth naturally twice, had ACL knee reconstruction sans post-op narcotics, spent time in ICU with severe pancreatitis caused by allergic reaction to a dye, and have dealt with chronic pain for years from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome - but sciatica is intense stuff. I'd rank it on par with labor contractions... minus the cute baby "reward" at the end ;) I now understand how people can end up addicted to drugs or alcohol trying to manage intense, unrelenting pain.
Obviously, the best plan is to avoid a back injury in the first place. If it's too late for that, the next best thing is to assess your physical condition - even if you are an active person - and maximize core health. If you are a DIYer, YouTube and Google have a wealth of information to dig through and test out. (If that route ends up being overwhelming, seek a professional opinion for help.) Either way, you want to determine what areas of your body are weak and are hampering core and spine stability as well as identifying nearby restrictions that might be preventing healthy movement in neighboring areas of the body. Everything is connected so don't overlook a minor problem in another part of your body because it could be related!
Regarding the psoas, I wanted to share a page demonstrating a nice variety of psoas stretches (www.fix-knee-pain.com/psoas-stretch/) along with some tweaks that enhance the standard recommendations. Funny enough, it's from a site hoping to fix knee pain - see, everything IS connected! Be sure to protect your bottom knee with a cushion and consider add a gentle back and forth rocking movement to create a more dynamic stretch (and it helps me keep track of counting 30 seconds). Near the end of the article, one version explains how you want to internally rotate the back leg for a better stretch. That was new to me. Also, you can add a "fascia line" stretch by incorporating flexed wrists to deepen the effect. What is fascia? It's like a thin clear body stocking surrounding all our various internal bit and pieces. It keeps everything organized and attached to the right spots inside the body. Technically, it is more complicated than that - and its why everything IS connected - so read more at www.drnorthrup.com/muscle-fascia/.
This past week, I've been adding the psoas stretches a few times a day and feel like I'm able to sit and work on the computer for longer periods of time without feeling worse later. Lengthening the psoas releases tension and take some pressure off the lower lumbar discs which also reduces the angle of the sacrum (see the image below). A tight, short psoas pulls the lower lumbar vertebrae forward, which forces the sacrum (tailbone) to "dog-legged". This angle and extra pressure puts you at high risk for a disc bulge, or worse, at that point of stress. No bueno!
I'm excited to see how much I can help my chronic back discomfort with this stretch. I want to focus on dancing and teaching, not pain. If you are experiencing similar back complaints, you might want to investigate psoas stretches and see if that could help you, too !
Every restaurant performance is a learning experience for us dancers- usually it's good self-improvement stuff but sometimes you get more than you bargained for.
This past weekend I had a show at one of my favorite venues. I love dancing there because the owner is a great guy, the atmosphere is very upbeat, and most patrons are really happy about the bellydance shows. It's a very family-friendly setting so I've never really had a negative experience while performing.
The first show went great! One group had some super-excited little kids who wanted to pictures, etc. One preschool girl even climbed up into my arms and didn't want me to set her down! HAHA! Bellydancer for the win, right? After all, who can resist a sparkly mass of chiffon and rhinestones?
Weeelllll......I was about to find out because another "fan" of bellydancers - an older gentleman - made his presence known shortly thereafter. This fellow sauntered out and gave me several up and down glances. Nice, right? THAT kind of guy. Now, we bellydancer's often employ little "trick" moves, partly for crowd fun but also for testing certain people. For example, if a fellow tries to tip, sometimes we will shimmy away a few inches or slide our hip back and forth. This game of "keep away" makes 99% of people laugh - the tipper and their friends. He didn't find my tricks amusing, so that was a red flag.
He tipped nicely but then he went around behind me and lingered to the side. Sigh. I continued my drum solo but kept tabs on him. He still had cash in hand so I thought perhaps he was going to do a money shower which is actually a very common, polite way to tip a belly dancer in other non-American cultures. Also, I was trying to give him only minimal attention because I didn't want to impact the audience's experience too much. When he tipped again, it was by firmly grabbing the back of my costume belt. Crossing the line now... I turned towards him and that's when he tried to shove the remainder of his tips into the front of my costume top. Uh, NO! At that point I had to resort to my ninja skills (yes, I'm a bellydance ninja!) and arm block his hands a few times before he angrily growled at me and stormed off! Yes, this guy acted this way -in front of an restaurant audience! It was totally unacceptable but there are always those people out there in the world.
So, to reference my title, DON'T BE THAT GUY! We love audience members who cheer, clap, hoot, hollar, and even get up and dance with us! But be respectful.
Tip a bellydancer in these places: her hand, her arm band or at the side hip. When in doubt, ask! Just don't tip her neck strap or back (it'll fall out later) and please don't tip down the front of her costume belt or in her cleavage. My only exception? Grandmas...for some reason, little old ladies are very enthusiastic about shoving their tips down in your cleavage. Not sure why but I figure they've earned the privilege :)
What do you think about the act of tipping a bellydancer? Most bellydancer's work hard to provide a family-friendly cultural dance but I think the problem is that some folks (of all cultures) equate it more with exotic dancing than an dance art form, like ballet, salsa, and ballroom.
What other foods fuel THIS belly dancer?
Powdered peanut butter! I usually use PB2 but have tried some others and all seem good, including an organic brand Honeyville (from Costco).
I should really own stock in the stuff at this point! Or get a free case? Especially since I've sent them a few new followers over the years!
Right now, I have both regular peanut and chocolate peanut - because I was so excited about a Groupon that I first ordered a 6pk of chocolate accidentally 8>/ Oops! At least, I'm now very well stocked.
This stuff works quite well in protein shakes, sprinkled on frozen yogurt, and mixed into baked goods. I also mix it with a little water to make a whipped peanut butter spread for toast or dip for apples. It's not exactly like real peanut butter but it's quite close. Bonus? Since its not so thick, it doesn't "glue" your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
Due to my compromised pancreas, I can't digest fats well at all so PB2 is another personal lifesaver (besides my shakes). Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to enjoy the nut butters I loved so much at all and I already miss out on a lot of fave foods due to my 20g fat per day max.
If you haven't tried it but want a lower fat/calorie peanut butter option, try a small jar from your local grocer, nutrition, or health store.
Follow my Dallas dance schedule on FB and my RaenaRaks on Instagram!
Dancers like trophies, right?! Lol
I've been fortunate to compete at bellydance events with my performance troupe, Sisters of Arani, and win a few times :)
But this prize is a little different - I just received this little "trophy" in the mail. It's a golden Beach Body Scoop honoring my long standing use of Shakeology®, a high quality protein shake made the Beach Body company. I don't actively sell it to others (I cringe about selling things!) but I do use it myself every day.
Yes, it's kind of cheesy AND it reminds me I've spent a small fortune on protein powder haha! But, at the same time, I realize the product has been a cornerstone in my healthy lifestyle. Everywhere I go, people are always asking me what I "do" to maintain a high level of energy and fitness as a performer and I really do think my use of Shakeology plays a big role in my dance success.
First, I have chronic joint and connective tissue problems so I have to manage pain and cope with injuries all the time. Quitting dance isn't an option - it's almost all I think about most days! Second, I survived a serious medical accident (plus numerous complications) a few years ago and was very, very lucky to survive the damage to my pancreas, according to the experts. The first six months I could hardly eat foods BUT I could drink my shakes a few times a day and managed to thrive despite all the residual damage.
Who knows? Maybe I really have some magical healing abilities that helped me? But, I really believe that my daily chocolate Shakeology is a big part of my maintaining my health so that I can physically express my love of middle eastern music and dance to my heart's content.