What is this thing called the “psoas”

The psoas, pronounced “so-az” affects us both structurally and emotionally. 

Structurally, your psoas muscles are the deepest muscles in your core. 

They start at the 12th thoracic vertebrae on each side of your spine, attach to the next 5 lumbar vertebrae on the way down, then travel through your pelvis and attach to your femurs (leg bones). They are rather important as they’re the ONLY muscle in the human body that connect the upper torso to the lower limbs. 

The psoas act like a pendulum, with the help of deep core muscles, they help the legs to swing forward from the spine when you’re walking. The pelvis remains centered as the central “hub” while the psoas connects you to movement. In terms of movement, this is what the psoas does for you:

  • helps you bend your hips and legs toward your chest, like when you’re going up the stairs

  • Hinge forward in flexion at the hip joints so you can bend and pick something up on the floor

  • They stabilize your torso and spine in movement and when sitting.

  • They support your internal organs working like hydraulic pumps for blood to travel through your cells.

Emotionally, the psoas is directly linked with past trauma from the body as well as from the brain. 

We store stress in our bodies and the psoas, being centralized holds the memory of physical events, lifestyle habits, age, injuries or accidents, but also due to mental stress and unhealed traumas.  There’s also a connection with the psoas and the diaphragm (your breathing muscle) due to the upper attachment.  When you are startled, excited or stressed, your psoas contracts, in other words, your psoas has a direct correlation to your flight or fight response.

Because your psoas is often overused, a tight or overstretched psoas could be the cause of your aches and pains, including pelvic pain, hip pain and low back pain.  Having “tight” hips doesn’t mean you have a short psoas, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you should be stretching it. 

In fact, depending on your situation, stretching your psoas may actually do more harm than good! The key is to know whether your psoas is short and tight and thus in need of stretching, or if it’s weak and overstretched and in need of strengthening. When the psoas is healthy, your digestion is improved, your back feels great, your hips move well and you can actually fire your glute muscles effectively when in movement.

See a movement professional to talk about your psoas and see if it’s the cause of some of your discomfort and pain.

Visit us at www.thecornerstonepilates.com or hello@thecornerstonepilates.com for more information and help.