The Most Vital Muscle You Never Heard Of

Meet the Psoas Muscles

We may be moving to some new locations, but we will still be releasing, stretching and acknowledging that crazy important muscle called the psoas (pronounced SO-az).  For anyone who has taken my classes you know, first hand, that I spend quite a bit of time talking about this muscle. 

The psoas major is a deep core muscle that runs from the bottom of thoracic spine, through the pelvic bowl, crosses on top of the hip joint and attaches at the top of the femur bone (thigh bone).  You have two. One on each side of your torso. It is the only muscle that connects the spine and the torso to the legs, a bridge between your upper and lower body.  It is not a muscle we can easily identify – like our glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps or biceps.

The Functions of the Psoas Muscles

This vitally important muscle influences our posture and stabilizes our spine.  Your psoas muscles allow you to bend your hips and legs towards your chest, for example when you are going up stairs.  They also help to move your leg forward when you walk or run.

Your psoas muscles are the muscles that flex your trunk forward when bend over to pick up something from the floor. They also stabilize your trunk and spine during movement and sitting. The psoas muscles support your internal organs and work like hydraulic pumps allowing blood and lymph to be pushed in and out of your cells.

And when the psoas contracts…

When the lower psoas is tight we can feel an imbalance and a tightness in the front of the hip and when the upper psoas is tight we can feel tension in our solar plexis, a compression of the diaphram that limits breath or constricted movement in the belly.  A tight psoas can also be a signal that there is a imbalance in the spine, the SI joint or the hip.

The psoas muscles contracts when we are stress, when we sit for long periods of time, if we do lots of running or lots of sit ups and if we sleep in a fetal position.

So considering it’s influence in our bodies and the amount of time that most have the psoas muscles in a contracted position, working in our yoga classes to lengthen, stretch and strengthen the psoas is vitally important.  We also want to keep an eye out for a psoas muscle that may be over-stretched.  The emphasis is on learning to feel and access this deep muscle and balance contraction and lengthening.

Working with the Psoas in Yoga

Here are some of the postures we use to work with the psoas in a variety of ways: (See Blog image)

  • Constructive Rest Pose to release and relax the psoas
  • Wind Removing Pose to release and lengthen the psoas
  • Low Lunge to lengthen and stretch the psoas
  • Warrior I to strengthen the psoas of the front leg and help to stretch and lengthen the psoas in the back leg.
  • Boat Pose to strengthen the psoas

I look forward to seeing on the mat soon and supporting you and your psoas muscles to relax, release and breathe.