The psoas muscle connects the spine to the leg, starting at the 12th thoracic vertebrae and ending inside the leg. It attaches to all vertebrae and runs deep within the pelvic cavity. The psoas is a major walking muscle, flexing the hip and the thigh.
Problems caused by this muscle range from orthopedic issues like low back pain, sciatica, sacroiliac pain, disk herniation, hip degeneration, knee pain and scoliosis to digestive problems, menstrual pain andmenstrual pain.
The psoas can be affected by lifestyle like sitting too much or by trauma. How we walk, stand or sit can tighten the psoas. Unresolved trauma can keep the psoas short and reactive. The hectic pace of modern life chronically tightness it making it ready to run. Our inner sense of harmony and wholeness depends on a healthy psoas.
This muscle is considered a messenger to the nervous system, sending signals about subtle weight changes, location and safety. Through the psoas the brain knows if we are grounded and centered or troubled and vulnerable. In some cultures it is considered the muscle of the soul, guardian of the Dan Tien or Hara where our sixth sense resides.
“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”.
Two series of nerves activate the psoas; one at the level of the pelvis regulates sexual function and the movement of the pelvis and the leg. The other one communicates with the diaphragm and is linked to emotions like will and courage.
Through the psoas we express our deepest fears, this muscle is connected to the amygdala in the brain where our fight or flight response originates. When we are in danger it’s the psoas that tells us if we should run or stand firm.
Relaxing the psoas. Through certain postures like the Constructive Rest Posture (CRP) we can create neutrality in our core and a somatic perception of internal coherence. Relaxing lying down diminishes the nervous and muscular tension and releases habitual patterns. This posture not only helps relax the psoas but makes us aware of our instinctual responses.
In this position we can also recognize the difference between pelvic instability and emotional issues.
If when we get up from the relaxation the psoas immediately tightness we are in the presence of pelvic instability. If the tension gets worst when we are in CRP it’s possible that we are suffering from an emotional trauma. Both pathologies can present at the same time.
Rest on the floor on a carpet or mat with the legs flexed at 45 degrees and about 16 inches from the buttocks, feet flat on the ground and knees and ankles aligned with the hip joint. The head should be aligned with the spine. The entire spine should be in a neutral position, without pressures or curvatures. Arms should be to the sides, eyes open. Hold this position for 10 to 20 minutes.
Liz Koch, The Psoas Book
Andrea Tufo, OMS IV; Gautam J. Desai, DO; W. Joshua Cox, DO, Psoas Syndrome: A Frequently Missed Diagnosis