Of all the muscles in the human body (let’s face it, there are so many…..approximately 640), the psoas muscle has to be one of my favourite. When we think about our muscles, generally we think of them contracting and relaxing and helping us move. After all muscles help us walk, sit and stand, and whilst I’m typing this blog post, I’m using several.
One muscle that has so much more to offer is our psoas muscle (a.k.a muscle of the soul). It is perceived as your gut intention (Koch, L). This muscle I believe, is like no other. It is vital for our structural wellbeing; without the psoas, we wouldn’t maintain correct posture and our legs wouldn’t move for us to walk. It is also vital for psychological health which makes it that bit more special (in my eyes). It expresses our innate sense of safety (playing a big role in the fight and flight response) and connects to our breath via the diaphragm. If we were being chased by a sabretooth tiger it is this muscle that would propel us into a full run, or help us kick our legs in defence or curl us into a ball.
- Attaches from the 12th thoracic vertebrae to your 5th lumbar vertebrae, through the pelvis and attaches onto the lesser trochanter of the femur.
- It is the only muscle to connect the spine to the legs.
- It is an important postural muscle and is crucial for proper body movement.
- Deepest muscle of the human body
- Massages the spine and organs, nerves of the trunk and blood vessels. A free moving psoas stimulates the flow of fluids throughout the body.
Affects the following:
- Skeletal balance
- Muscle integrity
- Range of movement
- Joint mobility
- Organ functioning (supports your internal organs)
- Breathing and circulation
- Adrenal health
- Nerve functioning
- Emotional stability
- Helps give birth naturally.
- Bend your hips and legs towards your chest
- Helps you walk upstairs
- Move legs forward when walking or running
- Flexes your trunk
- Stabilizes the trunk and spine during movement and sitting
How does the psoas muscle connect to our breath?
The psoas muscle is linked to the diaphragm through fascia. The connection between these two muscles allow us to walk and breath, and effects our stress response. It is an essential aspect of the flight fight stress response so when we are stressed, anxious, fearful or startled not only does our psoas contract but we can also become quite short in breath.
Constantly contracting the psoas (making it shorter) whether it’s sitting for long periods of time, excessive running and walking or sit-ups, possibly even the shoes you wear can increase stress and tension in the muscle which may cause:
- Low back, hip, groin pain or sciatica
- Postural problems
- Knee, neck and ankle tension
- Menstrual problems i.e. cramping
- Digestive issues i.e. constipation
- Bladder disturbances
- Chest problems i.e. Shortness of breath which therefore requires engagement of the neck muscles which could lead to neck issues.
- Exhaustion: our kidneys and adrenals rest on the psoas muscle. When we diaphragmatically breathe our psoas gently massages these organs, and the abdominal organs, stimulating blood circulation. Imbalanced psoas causes an imbalance in our kidneys and adrenal glands making us feel physically and emotionally exhausted.
- Anxiety (a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body you’re in danger, in turn causing the adrenals to feel exhausted hence our immune system depletes).
How can my treatments help with your psoas?
The other day, I had a client present with low back pain (after been hit in the back) a couple weeks prior. On further discussion she mentioned she was feeling anxious but didn’t have a reason to be, and her jaw was quite tight. I instantly thought of the psoas muscle (low back pain, fight and flight response leading to anxiety). Upon looking up the fascial pathway there was also a link between the psoas and the jaw via the deep front line.
As a Bowen Therapist we have many procedures that can assist with low back pain, hip pain and anxiety, but the psoas procedure is such a beautiful one to use. We not only work on the lower back, but also the upper back (which helps relax the CNS), kidneys, diaphragm (both affected if we have a problem with our psoas) and the psoas. I have used this procedure many times in clinic (for other problems too), and have had great success.
- Liz Koch – The Psoas Book
- Christina Northup – Why your psoas muscle is the most vital muscle in your body
- Higher Perspective – The “Muscle of the Soul”
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