Psoas: “the still point of the turning world"

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.

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 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. 

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 stabilise the spine and provides support through the trunk, forming a shelf for the vital organs of the abdominal core

In addition, the psoas provides a diagonal support through the trunk, forming a shelf for the vital organs of the abdominal core.

Think of your pelvis as the foundation of a balanced skeletal structure. For your pelvis to provide this stable base, it must function as part of the trunk rather than as part of the legs. Many people mistakenly think of their legs as starting at the waist, perhaps because so many major leg muscles attach to the pelvis. But skeletally and structurally, your legs start at your hip sockets. 

Your psoas will then be called upon to help protect the spine by stabilising your skeleton. Since the psoas can contract and release independently at any of its joint attachments, it can compensate for structural imbalances in many ways. But if you constantly contract the psoas to correct for skeletal instability, the muscle eventually begins to shorten and lose flexibility.

Shortening the psoas leads to a host of unfortunate conditions. Inevitably, other muscle groups become involved in compensating for the loss of structural integrity. The pelvic bowl tips forward, shrinking the distance between the pelvic crests and the legs, and the femurs are compressed into the hip sockets. To compensate for this constriction, the thigh muscles become overdeveloped. 

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.

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. 
Along with improving your structural stability, developing awareness of your psoas can bring to light fears long locked in the body as unconscious physical tension. 

Because the psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system. As you learn to approach the world without this chronic tension, psoas awareness can open the door to a more sensitive attunement to your body’s inner signals about safety and danger, and to a greater sense of inner peace. 

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. 

Cultivating a healthy psoas, we can rekindle our body’s vital energies by learning to reconnect with the life force of the universe. Within the Taoist tradition the psoas is spoken of as the seat or muscle of the soul, and surrounds the lower “Dan tien” a major energy centre of body.  

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.” 

When the body can properly support itself, movement is less-restricted and requires less effort, thus leaving you more energetic.

Karla Garaypsoas, pilates, yoga