The Psoas - The Muscle of the Soul.

The Psoas lye deep in our body, at the very core of who we are physically. In fact, its functions are related to posture, movement, balance, breath and energy. 

The essential is invisible to the eye (quoted by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in “The Little Prince). It is appropriate to say this when we talk about the psoas. The Psoas is one of our deepest muscles: it joins the upper part of the femur (inside the leg) with the first four lumbar vertebrae and the last thoracic. Another section, the ileum-psoas, instead connects the same point of the femur with the iliac crests. It is not a visible muscle of the body, but its implications on our physical, mental and emotional efficiency are profound, so much so that, in some oriental cultures, it has even been called the muscle of the soul.

Images from: “Functional Anatomy of YOGA” by David Keil.

How does the Psoas works

The psoas is the muscle that allows us to raise the leg to walk, adduces it and the extra-wheel, allows the torso to twist with respect to the legs, helps maintain balance and gives support to our bone structure.

It is part of the torso flexors which are also the muscles that allow us to defend ourselves from the world and react or repair ourselves (think of when we curl up in a fetal position).

One of the effects of stress response is precisely the contraction of the flexor muscles of the torso, those that make us harden the belly, hunch the shoulders and tighten the heart. Our usual responses to stress cause us slight tensions which, however, intensify and become chronic over time, becoming “normal”.

Among the muscles that accumulate tension, the psoas is one of the most sensitive to the emotional state and, due to our sedentary lifestyle, it is rarely stretched and activated, therefore it is easily subject to stiffness.

According to many authors, this muscle embodies our deepest desire for survival. Finding its good functioning would help us to overcome anxieties and fears. Surely his excessive contracture could lead us to have back and hip problems and make us react less easily to the stresses of life. Furthermore, according to neurologist Paul McLean, the brain is made up of three distinct parts, developed in later stages of evolution.

The psoas is directly related to the impulses of the reptilian brain, which is itself responsible for our primary instincts and the regulation of our vital functions, such as breathing and heart rhythm. The psoas is over-excited by a hectic life because the adrenaline loads it making it ready to shoot. This defense mechanism in the long run makes it stiff and short and leads to its thinning.


What does a tense Psoas entail?

A stiffening of the Psoas can cause a series of disorders to the entire musculoskeletal system: back pain, hip pain, sciatica, knee pain, shoulder and neck tension, forced to take action to correct the alignment defects that do not allow to correctly unload the weight on the ground. The vital and healthy psoas, on the other hand, gives a sense of lightness and connection, allowing walking to be activated from the solar plexus and not from the hip or worse, from the knee.

A contracted psoas can also put pressure on the organs causing digestive problems or painful menstruation, it can interfere with the regular movement of fluids and prevent complete diaphragmatic breathing. In fact, the vertebrae to which it binds are the same ones to which the diaphragm, the trapezius and the square of the loins connect.

The effects also involve our psychophysical state: “it is so intimately involved in these basic physical and emotional reactions, that a chronically contracted psoas continually signals to your body that you are in danger, depleting the adrenal glands and weakening the immune system” (Liz Koch).
His state therefore has an influence on energy levels, health, emotional state and interpersonal relationships. A contracted psoas makes us ready to run and fight or escape, a relaxed psoas is ready to open up and dance and predisposes us to play and creative expressionP

Eka pada raja rajakapotasana - Mermaid

How to have a healthy Psoas

How then can its health and vigor be preserved? Yoga does this in different ways and alternates toning asanas, such as navasana, with other stretching asanas. The latter are the most important for restoring healthy functionality.

Among the most effective: Dhanurasana, Natarajasana, Virabhadrasana, Kapotanasana and, above all, Anjaneyasana.

Relaxing the Psoas, as mentioned, helps to feel a progressive psychophysical relaxation. It is the mechanism that neuroscience calls bottom-up, or the possibility of modulating one’s mental and emotional state by acting on the neuro-vegetative system.

But the opposite is also true: meditation and relaxation techniques are useful to relax the Psoas: by acting on thoughts and learning to manage mental activity, it is possible to obtain a cascade effect (top-down) on the autonomic and autonomic system. consequence on the tensions of the musculoskeletal system.

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