The Tight Psoas Muscle and How Your Emotions Affect it

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Tight Psoas Muscle

This major muscle holds upper spine to lower spine, it's what connets us. 

My Story

A number of years ago my son dated a girl who was a yoga instructor, it was she who got me involved in yoga, for this, I will always be grateful to her. I started going to a few classes and I purchased some very good descriptive books that gave alternative poses for the ones you couldn't quite get into. There were a lot of those for me because my body was extremely tight and opening it up would not be easy. Little by little I had small gains and I became more and more excited about yoga.

These are the books I used and there is one for every part of the body. Very good reference books for alternative poses too.

This is an amazing DVD that teaches long hold poses or Yin Yoga. Great for working at opening up your body.

One day I was doing my practice and I decided to press up into the wheel pose. I am very inflexible in my back and my quads and psoas are extremely tight. As soon as I went up into the pose I felt a sort of release. At first, I was afraid I pulled something, but what followed let me know that was not the case. A sudden burst of emotion shot through me that stunned me. I dropped down out of the pose and rolled over on my mat and preceded to sob like a baby for what seemed like minutes. It wasn't a normal cry, it was an outburst that left my lower lip folded down and quivering like a small child. It was a sort of recognition or re-remembering of what it was like to cry that way when I was a child. I would learn later that the reason it felt that way is it was in a sense a child crying, my inner child. In fact, many of the emotional releases are linked to childhood and that is why we cry the way we do when we have them. 

It isn't important in yoga to remember the wounding and go over it, what is important is to feel the emotion as it washes through you and then release it. It is one of the best feelings in the world, a real inner cleansing. 

I continued on with my home practice of yoga and experienced many more releases and they were all similar in experience. I was quick to learn that you can't demand one or bring one on, like all spiritual experiences they are involuntary and come when you are least expecting them. I try not to look for a reason for them and have found it is best to let it be what it is. 

I think most of us think that our bodies are tight because of sports, old injuries, or just plain aging. I thought that too until I began to gain a lot more amount of flexibility after the emotional releases. There was no mistaking that old stored painful memories were making my body tight and rigid and releasing them was making it flexible.

The Psoas

You can see here what a massive muscle the psoas is.

You can see here what a massive muscle the psoas is.

Have you ever heard anyone say, "I've had a belly full of that?" That would be their psoas talking, it's the one place that is a real dumping ground for emotions.

The tightening of your gut, the pulling in of your shoulders, and the sinking of your heart are all triggered by the stressful events in your life. An argument, a close call on the drive to work, and ongoing stress all affect the psoas. 

The psoas runs from the thigh bone through the whole length of the belly and is the major flexor of the hip, it is the psoas that lifts the leg. It is where your upper spine meets your lower spine. It originates on the lowest thoracic vertebra and each of the five lumbar vertebrae of the lower back and extends down through the pelvis to attach on the inside of the upper femur. It passes through three major joints, hip socket, sacrum, and pelvis. If the psoas isn't healthy you can see why this could cause some major problems in your body. 

When you are under constant stress or you are engaged in a repetitive activity, the range of motion in the hip sockets is limited. If your psoas is asymmetrical, that is, one side is more contracted than the other, the result is a tilted pelvis and one leg being shorter than the other. Once this imbalance occurs walking is no longer carried easily through the bones and the psoas now is spending its time trying to stabilize the pelvis rather than moving freely in its hip-flexing function. When the psoas is healthy the weight is borne through the bones, and walking comes from the solar plexus instead of the knee or hip joint.

If your psoas is your problem you will begin having trouble through its attachments to other important muscles. the diaphragm, the trapezius, and the quadratus lumborum, which also attach on this vertebra.

Many people think that the best thing to do is embark on a rigorous exercise program to strengthen the psoas when in fact, what it really needs is some rest. Systematic rest and relaxation practice are what the psoas will respond best to. 

Systematic Relaxation in Corpse Pose

Use a pillow to keep your back flat and relaxed.

Use a pillow to keep your back flat and relaxed.

Allow the knees to fall together.

Allow the knees to fall together.

Regular corpse pose will tug at your hip flexors so placing a rolled towel or use of a foam roller behind your knees is the best way to take the pressure off the psoas. Another option is to bend your knees and let them fall against each other with your feet placed on the floor. This position will relax you and allow the breath to flow effortlessly, smoothly, and evenly.  Now you can begin to understand that psoas is an emotional barometer that is tightened by stress and released by relaxation. 

Wind Relieving Pose

Again, make sure your back remains firmly on the ground.

Again, make sure your back remains firmly on the ground.

Next, while lying on your back draw one knee toward your pelvis. Make sure you do not allow your lower back to arch up from the floor. Stabilize the pelvis and extend the leg to loosen the psoas. If you allow your pelvis to tilt, the psoas doesn't lengthen or release. but pulls the lumbar spine forward arching the lower back. To keep the pelvis aligned, draw the knee of the bent leg toward your abdomen. Stay in this pose for 2-3 minutes and focus on your breath as you notice your body relaxing and releasing tension. 

Lunge Poses

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Start on your hands and knees. Step your foot up and go between your hands so your knee is directly over your ankle, and the thigh and shin are at right angles. You can leave the extended leg back with the top of the foot facing down. Breath into your pelvic floor between the tailbone and pubic bone. 

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Come up onto your knee placing your hands folded behind your back. Stretch the other knee back as far as you can with the top of the foot facing the floor. Relax the psoas and engage the abdominal muscles to stack the torso over the pelvis, press your hands down onto your thighs as you draw the shoulders down and away from your ears. Hold this pose for 2-3 minutes and then reposition your arms up in the air for the second variation of the pose and hold this for another 2-3 minutes. 

Childs Pose

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Finally, go into the child's pose, breathing into your belly and hip joints for 2-3 minutes. Then repeat the whole sequence on the other side. 

Whenever you sit in your yoga poses be sure your hips are always slightly higher than your knee joint. Otherwise, the psoas will be working too hard to keep you upright. The use of a small prop under your behind and accomplish this.

Hips and Stored Emotions

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Our hips have long been known as a junk drawer for our emotional storage. Whenever we are in a state of stress our body recognizes our tight hip flexors and suppressed emotions, to be our natural state of being. This pose can be really affective at clearing out stored emotional baggage.

A tight psoas can cause shortness of breath and chest breathing which further adds to our stress. It has long attributed to low back and pelvic pain. By nature our psoas pulls our body together when we are under stress to protect itself by forming a fetal position, creating a sense of safety and protection of all our vulnerable parts. 

Emotional Trauma Adds to the Imbalance

After traumatic experiences have occurred just telling our bodies to relax isn't enough, some of the strongest muscles in our bodies are located in this region.

Long hold yoga poses that access the psoas is very effective at removing traumas that have been stored there in this life and past lives. Many people have experienced emotional releases during these types of long-held yoga poses. Persistent practice will bring releases and relief to tight areas of your body. This is the beauty of an at home practice. We are each different and unique where we hold our emotions so an at home practice lets you tailor your yoga practice to your own personal needs. In other words, why spend time in poses that you don't need when there are so many others you do need.

Trauma Release Exercise

Science is now gaining respect and understanding of forms of art like Yoga, Trauma Release Exercise (TRE), Fascia Unwinding, Hands on Healing, Meditation, Visualization techniques, are all being used as a means for releasing emotions held in the body. These practices have been used to improve the mental and physical health of patients. 

Practices such as rocking back and forth, constructive rest position, and flexing and pointing the feet, shaking and rotating the legs, etc. 

It is not uncommon in poses that are opening the hips bring on bursts of emotions. Don't be surprised if you find yourself sobbing for no apparent reason. 

By activating the psoas you can actually release the trauma by stimulating the tissue/cell memories that are stored there. 

Benefits of Working on Your Psoas

By working on your tight psoas you can benefit by freeing up your hips and releasing emotions that are held there. Things like relief in back pain, unstable posture, support for sitting for longer times, stronger core muscles, relaxed breathing, stress-free life, healthy kidneys, good sexual life, etc. 

Check out this video below.

Here are some stretches you can do to loosen up your hips and get at your psoas muscle.