Just to “announce” it again, the psoas is my favourite muscle! I wrote about it on the blog end of August last year (in the article “Psoas work works”). Still not done with this muscle, probably never will.
The psoas is perhaps a muscle you have never heard of, but it is such an important one! It is a long muscle that originates on your spine from T12 (just above your waist), attaches down alongside the spine, then goes in front of your hips before attaching to your inner groins. It works as a unifying structure in the body. Its main function? To stabilise your spine. For a moment, just take in what that means… a muscle on each side of your spine helping you to stay upright… It sounds like a really important muscle, doesn’t it?
In addition to being a long muscle, the psoas is also a potentially large one. Apparently it can be almost as big as the owner of the body’s wrist! Maybe the reason why so many haven’t heard of it is because it doesn’t really show on the body. It is located behind the abdominals. A cool thing to know is that whenever you are consciously working on your psoas, your abdominals are working too.
Due to my history of lower back challenges, I do exercises most days targeting this deep inner core muscle. Can’t help myself, I include the same exercises at the start of all my yoga classes! Coming to all fours, swinging hips from one side to the other, allowing the head to go in the same direction as the hips, and then following up with a few other movements to deepen the lateral flexion of the spine and doing some work on the hip flexors, it feels so good. Moving the spine into lateral flexion is also the way my very first yoga teacher started her lessons after 40 years of teaching. So when it was showed to me again a year ago by yoga teacher Donna Farhi, it felt like I was back to “my” kind of yoga.
Any of you have or have had some kind of problems around the lower back or hip region? Then maybe do like me: allow your spine to come into lateral flexion and warm up hip flexors at the beginning of your practice. This always helps me connect with my lower back, prepare it in a caring a considerate way. And it makes me feel safe and ready to move into the yoga postures that follow.
I highly recommend the following: Care for your psoas, big time!! If you are sitting a lot during your day, if you are doing sports that involves flexion in the hip region, or if you have any kind of lower back issues, work on your psoas. Lengthening and strengthening the psoas will help your body be in more natural alignment, and in addition help release tightness that does not need to be present in your body. Also, as many of our deep-seated emotions easily get stuck in this region of the body (the psoas is quick to contract when your nervous system is in fight flight mode – also know as stress), working on your psoas will help release emotional tension and make you feel happier. That’s at least what happened to me 🙂
I remember the first time I went to a yoga class where the aim of the class was to open the hips. As I walked to collect my daughter from nursery a few hours later (yes, this happened a long time ago!), I was suddenly hit by this flashback of being six years old again, walking, simply placing one foot in front of the other, with no feeling of attachment between pelvis and legs. Total freedom of movement. It felt GREAT.