The Psoas muscle is the deepest muscle of the human body affecting our structural balance, muscular integrity, flexibility, strength, range of motion, joint mobility, and organ functioning.
„If we constantly contract the psoas to due to stress or tension , the muscle eventually begins to shorten leading to a host of painful conditions including low back pain, sacroiliac pain, sciatica, disc problems, spondylolysis, scoliosis, hip degeneration, knee pain, menstruation pain, infertility, and digestive problems.”
Where the psoas located and what is its function?
Growing out of both sides of the spine, the psoas spans laterally from the 12th thoracic vertebrae (T12) to each of the 5 lumbar vertebrae. From there it flows down through the abdominal core, the pelvis, to attach to the top of the femur (thigh) bone. The Psoas is the only ‘muscle’ to connect the spine to the legs. It is responsible for holding us upright, and allows us to lift our legs in order to walk. A healthily functioning psoas stabilizes the spine and provides support through the trunk, forming a shelf for the vital organs of the abdominal core.
The psoas is connected to the diaphragm through connective tissue or fascia which affects both our breath and fear reflex. This is because the psoas is directly linked to the reptilian brain, the most ancient interior part of the brain stem and spinal cord.
Muscle of the soul
As many people in the Western world have a lifestyle or work life that gets quite stressful and involves a lot of sitting, this muscle is getting to be a major player in our physical, mental and emotional well being.
The psoas is the main muscle of the “fight or fight” response of the body. When you are startled, your psoas contracts, when you have mental or emotional stress, the psoas will respond by tightening. A tight psoas not only creates structural problems, it constricts the organs, puts pressure on nerves, interferes with the movement of fluids, and impairs diaphragmatic breathing.
In fact, “The psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, that a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.”
The benefits of having a “happy” psoas, is that you will quite literally feel more grounded and relaxed. Physically, you have a bigger range of movement.
„Either emotional trauma or an ongoing lack of emotional support can also lead to a chronically contracted psoas, and thus to a loss of core awareness. If your fight/flight syndrome is triggered into constant arousal, eventually you lose contact with your inner world.”
How yoga can help to have a healthy psoas
First and foremost we have to reestablish the connection with our psoas. Next step to revitalize it with standing, and forward bending asanas. After we energize it and with it the whole body with back bendings of different level, closing the sequence with hip openers to lenghten and relax the muscle.
Getting in touch with this deeply buried muscle can be humbling at first. You may discover that you’ve been doing many poses by contracting your core, instead of relying on your skeleton for support and allowing your more peripheral muscles to organize around a toned but flowing and spacious center. But if you persevere, psoas work can add new insight, openness, and stability to your practice. Though your psoas may not be as easy to sense as your biceps or hamstrings, improving your awareness of this crucial muscle can greatly enhance your physical and emotional health.
“ As gravitational flows transfer weight through bones, tissue, and muscle, into the earth, the earth rebounds, flowing back up the legs and spine, energizing, coordinating and animating posture, movement and expression. It is an uninterrupted conversation between self, earth, and cosmos.”
Asanas which brings the tights and abdomen closer to each other activate the psoas. You can start your practice with standing poses as Parvottanasana, Prasarita Padottasana, followed by Navasana and hand balances of different kind.
For example in Navasana the psoas helps to bring the abdomen closer to the things, as well as lift the lower back with this taking the weight down from the discs.
Lenghtening and relaxing
Backbends not only energize but also lenghten the psoas. However real reliaf comes in poses such as
As an adult, learning to consciously release your psoas can rekindle vital energies by re-establishing your connection to your body’s internal signalsyour instinctual somatic wisdom. Releasing your psoas encourages this process by allowing you to trust your skeletal stability instead of holding yourself up by muscular effort. Sensing your bones supporting weight translates into a physical and emotional feeling of “standing on your own two feet.” With a properly functioning psoas, the bones bear weight, the muscles move the bones, and the joints connect the subtle energies of the body. Energy flows through the joints, offering a sense of continuity, like the string flowing through a pearl necklace that transforms it into something more than the sum of its parts. The psoas, by conducting energy, grounds us to the earth, just as a grounding wire prevents shocks and eliminates static on a radio. Freed and grounded, the spine can awaken.