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What is the Psoas and why is it important?

When we are walking, running, climbing stairs and doing sit-ups we are using our psoas . It helps make up the group of muscles most commonly known as the hip flexors. In an animal it would be known as the loin and is probably one of the least understood muscles of the body. Because it works in consortium of other hip flexors it can be prone to tightness from ill use or overwork. It can affect how we walk or exercise and very often the reason there is back pain.

If you have been fortunate enough to be doing yoga for the last 20 years or so you may have noticed a difference in what has been taught in most classes. 15 or 20 years ago yoga students most likely did not know what a psoas was. Today, a growing number of yoga teachers as well as an even number of Body Workers have introduced clients to one of the main muscles in the body, and one that which can be the cause and source of so much pain and frustration.

To be technical, as you can see from the diagram, the psoas major has an insertion point from the thoracic vertebrae (see drawing) T12 to L5 and inserts in the lesser trochanter of the femur (the notch at the top of your femur on the inside of your leg).

Because of the insertion points at the vertebrae and the upper leg this may help you understand what might be causing lower back pain associated with your psoas. Having a deeper understanding of this deep muscle may help you work out more carefully or maximize your performance as well as the way you use your body.

Being overweight or dumping our torso can cause the psoas to become shortened or condensed. And if you have a habit of turning or flaring your feet out you could be stretching and stressing out your psoas by pulling it at the trochanter; this action would pull at the vertebral insertions and pull out your hip causing the appearance of having a beer belly and flat butt. The same effect will happen when we sit in bad posture and dump i.e. couch potato style.

Because the upper insertion points of the psoas are so close to your diaphragm it may have a profound affect on your lungs and breathing capacity. Why is walking so good for you and your cardiovascular system? Its because the lower insertion point is at the trochanter of the femur (top of the leg). When we walk, climb stairs, do sit ups, or even bend over, we are flexing the psoas and pulling helping the pump action of the diaphragm and even lungs. It is also the muscle associated with the orgasm making our hips contract.

Because the psoas is located in our midsection it connects the upper and lower parts of our body. It is also a muscle that is closely related to our flight or fight responses. If we are in a constant situation of fear or strain the psoas could be overly activated creating a constant state of stress to our psyche. When our bodies become weak or defeated we may assume a fetal position, one that shortens and strains this muscle and making us want to curl up into a ball. A tight psoas could pull our torso and shoulders down or compress or condense our torso.

If you are a subscriber to the workings of the chakra system you will note that the psoas runs through the first and second chakras and can sometimes have an effect on our feelings of self worth or identity.

By introducing my clients to their psoas through Structural bodywork I can help them become familiar with this incredibly strong muscle and slowly and carefully stretch and release tightness to release stress and trauma.

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