Connecting your 12th thoracic vertebrae to your 5th lumbar vertebrae, the psoas muscles run through your pelvis and end at your femurs. The psoas influences a multitude of body movements. Most importantly, they influence posture and their stability directly influences the stability of your spine and body functions. Ultimately, a continuously contracted psoas can lead to a multitude of functional imbalances such as hormone and lymph imbalances in the body due to instability of the spine where the nervous system is housed and protected. It is the nervous system that makes these functions run smoothly.
I’m sure you have heard of the flight or fight response. You may not know that the psoas muscles are the ones responsible for your physical reaction in those situations. They contract quickly when startled, pulling your legs toward your abdomen, allowing you to quickly break into a run if necessary.
As if that wasn’t enough to convince you of their importance, the psoas muscles also affect your diaphragm, thereby influencing how you breathe. A tight psoas can cause you take short, shallow breaths that don’t reach your abdomen. Shallow breathing can cause a multitude of negative effects, not the least of which is the inability to fully relax. These muscles also support your internal organs, allowing blood and lymph to flow freely, and are the only muscles that attach from your spine to your legs.
For muscles that impact so many of our body functions, it is amazing that they’re not more well-known. However, while we may not know what they’re called or where they are, everyone knows when these muscles are out of balance.
Some things you may notice when your psoas muscles are imbalanced: one leg that is longer than the other, sudden and unexplained lower-back or knee pain, excessive menstrual cramps, difficulty having a bowel movement, issues with your posture, and, as mentioned before, the inability to breathe deeply.
You may be wondering, how do I make sure my psoas muscles are balanced and healthy? To keep these muscles in top working condition, you really need to make sure you aren’t sitting for excessively long periods of time. I’m sure you’ve heard that sitting is the silent killer, and there are a myriad of reasons, this being one of them. You also need to be aware of over-exercise. Many people looking to have six-pack abs do sit-ups obsessively. There really can be too much of a good thing, and too many sit-ups can cause tight psoas muscles.
So what can you do to release your psoas muscles? Yoga, broad range of movements where you use your entire body like our ancestors did, not getting into fixed positions, gentle spinal movements, deep breathing exercises and Somatic Progressive Movement are all good for the psoas muscles.
Students of advanced bodywork at the Advanced Therapy Institute of Touch learn techniques that will allow your psoas muscles to return to their natural balanced state. Utilizing pandiculation and movement, coupled with acupressure points, advanced bodyworkers can restore balance, allowing your psoas muscles to operate as they were intended.
Until Next Time,