Updated: Aug 10
Maintaining a Healthy Psoas
For many years I have generally known the psoas muscle plays many roles as a significant postural muscle and a mover and stabilizer of the hip joint and the lumbar spine. And I had a vague awareness of its role in regulating balance, and affecting nerve and subtle energies as well.
Then I was gifted a tight, weak and perhaps "frozen" psoas on the right side of my body as a result of too much hard labour maintaining my extensive gardens.
This muscle is complicated and vast. As I focused on "fixing" it, I found that freeing the psoas is crucial before strengthening it. And that to free the psoas also means releasing the emotion or trauma this vital muscle holds as well.
Once it finds release of the burdens that it carries, then the psoas can find stability with strengthening exercises.
Anatomy and Actions of the Iliopsoas Muscle Group
The psoas (pronounced (so-az) is the most important skeletal muscle in the body, as it is the only muscle that connects the spine to the legs. It is considered our deepest core muscle that acts as a keystone, supporting the body much like an arch does in building structures.
The psoas is part of a larger muscle group called the iliopsoas, which includes the iliacus. The iliacus attaches from the femur to the iliac bone of the pelvis, while the psoas major attaches from the femur and attaches to the transverse processes of the 1st through 5th lumbar vertebra.
These muscles have a huge responsibility which includes:
Flexing the hip joint- think about the action of bending one knee toward the chest; think about the action that occurs at the front of the hip when riding a bike, or walking up stairs.
Flexing the torso- think, bending forward to pick something up off the ground.
Stabilizing our spine- think sitting with good posture or standing upright.
The Muscle of the Soul
The psoas muscles embody our survival instincts and primal urges and could well be called the fight or flight muscles of the human anatomy.
During traumatic experiences, as the nervous system receives the threatening information that the body is being attacked, the body goes into high-alert and the psoas muscles tighten and contract as a means of defense and protection.
In our society it is commonly thought that we should “get over it,” or “move on,” and in effect, ignore the trauma that we have experienced- push it down deep and return to life as usual. This leaves the psoas in a stressed state. The trauma or emotion associated with it is still there subconsciously and cellularly. Through the science of somatics it is understood that people can hold embedded memories of traumatic events in the body as well as the brain.
You may have heard that “hip openers” in yoga unlock our emotions. And after recognizing that the psoas stores trauma in this way, it’s not hard to see why.
The psoas is also spiritually connected to our 1st three chakras.. another blog in the works.
Deep Peace Psoas Release
A tense, restricted, tight, or neglected psoas can’t do its job and other muscles like the back and shoulders work overtime to compensate. This leads to low back pain, shoulder and upper back pain, pelvic pain, and overactive quadriceps muscles. The psoas also have a role in our breathing, as they attach to the diaphragm via connective tissue.
Being the only muscle that connects the upper and lower body and a key core muscle the psoas works hard all the time and needs encouragement to trust it can let go.
Here I offer a way to physically free the psoas and any trauma or emotion that arises while doing so.
Constructive Rest Position
This position will allow the femur to rest gently into the hip socket, releasing the "grip" of the hip flexors and freeing the psoas.
Gather a strap or scarf and a cushion or find a surface that you can rest you lower legs on.
Lye on your back with your feet hip width apart. Tighten a strap or tie a scarf around the thighs to support them in this position. Place your lower legs on your chosen support. Adjust your shoulder blades down to help create proper alignment of the lower back. It should not be flat but curved off the floor naturally. You can place support here to if needed. Let the arms be comfortable.
Now just breathe and let the weight of the body sink into the support beneath it with each exhale. Then focus on the pelvis as you belly breath and invite the front of the hips and sacrum to sink downward with each exhale. This area can hold tremendous amounts of tension and emotion. Breathe into it and imagine it draining away into the Earth to be transformed for as longs as it takes.
Give yourself at least 5 min, 10 is ideal, of constructive rest and your back, hips, mind, nervous system and emotions will soften and reset.
The psoas action is synergistic with many other muscles and I have found this exercise to be the most effective. After only practicing it once a day for 3 days the chronic pain and holding finally shifted.
When the pelvis is stable, the psoas can about it's "business."
Please note that emotion or memory can also arise while strengthening the psoas.
The basic rule is that energy needs a place to go. Intend to breathe it out as butterflies and feel is dissipate. Or breathe out Fire. Or release it into the Earth to be composted/transformed. Which ever one works in the moment.
I will continue explore the psoas and its role in physical, emotional and spiritual well being. I can tell you that pelvis power is worth the time.
No matter your level of fitness or flexibility taking care of the psoas is crucial to creating balance, harmony and freedom on many levels.
You can join me for live yoga classes both online or in person if you are inspired to take better care of you. https://www.nikbalogh.com/yoga
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If you have more questions or found this information helpful I invite you to say so in the comments.