Maybe you’ve heard of the mysterious psoas before. Something about a hip flexor, right? But did you know it is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle for your overall health? Check it out:
It’s More Than Your “Core”
The psoas muscles cover quite a bit of territory. They effectively link our legs to our spine, connecting the head of the femur, spreading over the ball and socket of the hip joint, and attaching to every vertebrae of the lumbar spine (all the way to the lowest rib). Think about that for a second. Maybe even run your hands along its route. It’s inextricably linked to the muscles we so often think of as the “core”: the transverse abdominals, obliques, and pelvic floor (1, 3).
Because of its position, the psoas is responsible for our deepest level of hip function (4). It is rooted in our reflexive motor patterns, which in turn lead to walking and running. Curious to experience it? Have someone tickle the bottom of your foot. That recoil is powerful psoas action.
Your Alignment Depends On It
Think back to the path of the psoas in the body. You better believe it has a huge influence on spinal alignment. Short and stiff psoas muscles lead to unequal distribution of tensile forces, pulling the lumbar vertebrae forward (1). As if that weren’t bad enough, a cranky psoas can wreak havoc on the hips and knees through this same strain.
By pulling on all of these joints the psoas can cause unnatural wear when not released and lengthened to its neutral state. Save your joints. Maintain your alignment. Release your psoas.
We know the psoas is interwoven with a huge number of muscles, but did you know that it’s also enmeshed with a major neurological center? The lumbar plexus is a huge neural hotspot that serves the back, abdomen, legs, and groin (you know, where you keep the goodies). This branching of nerves can be influenced by psoas strain just as the muscles can.
The psoas is also deeply linked to the fear response in the body, exemplified by a process called the Moro Reflex (2). A key characteristic of this reflex is the fetal curl, an unconscious way to protect the vitals. The danger comes when our fear reflex is continuously engaged without ample opportunity to release, and it doesn’t take a tiger jumping at you to activate it. Anxiety, stresses from the commute, and abuse can all trigger this reflex and accumulate over time (4, 5). We are rarely given opportunity to release this built up emotional tension, which stores itself in our physical structure. Only by releasing and reintegrating a healthy psoas can we reach our peak emotional health.
What You Can Do
The psoas is crucial to whole-human health and movement. Now that you know how it takes care of you, it’s time to take care of it. Start here for a super simple method to release and lengthen.
- Bowman, Katy. Move Your DNA. Propriometrics Press, 2014. Print.
- Cohen, Bonnie Bainbridge. Sensing, Feeling, and Action. Contact Editions, 2008. Print.
- Earls, James. Born to Walk. Lotus Publishing, 2014. Print.
- Hackney, Peggy. Making Connections. Routledge, 2002. Print.
- Kock, Liz. The Psoas Book. Guinea Pig Publications, 2012. Print.