The psoas (pronounced so-as) muscle is the deepest and most central of your core muscles. It attaches at the 12th thoracic vertebrae and to each of the 5 lumbar vertebrae, and inserts into the trochanter of your femur. It is a connecting muscle – bridging your upper and lower body. It is the solar plexus, the hara, and is intimately connected with nearly every function of the body.
In 2013 I had the opportunity to learn about this complex muscle from the highly esteemed psoas expert Liz Koch. By attending Liz’s workshop I was hoping to find the elusive key to unlocking chronic back pain and tension in my clients.
A shortened or contracted psoas muscle can cause a wide array of somatic and emotional issues such as back and pelvic pain, digestive disturbances, sexual dysfunction, premenstrual syndrome, difficulties with pregnancy and birth, and fear or anxiety. It is associated with the fight-or-flight response, and, for many people, unresolved trauma prevents the psoas from ever relaxing fully.
As a bodyworker, it is my job to identify restrictions and help clients release the tension and holding patterns that are causing pain and discomfort. The psoas is so often indicated, however, it’s position deep in the core makes it difficult to palpate. It can be traumatic and invasive to dig into it using standard deep tissue massage techniques.
According to Liz Koch, “invasive techniques can exacerbate psoas problems”. If it is trauma that caused the contraction in the first place, it makes sense that it wouldn’t help to poke and prod at it. Rather, gentle noninvasive techniques must be employed. She explained at the workshop that the psoas is the messenger of our midline, informing us if we’re safe. Safety in this context was described as the capacity to thrive. Psoas issues let us know that we are not thriving.
Fortunately, there are simple and pleasurable methods to resolve psoas tension, relieve pain, and thrive.
To start with, the “Constructive Rest Position” will lengthen and relax your psoas muscle. Visit Liz’s website for the easy instructions. As little as 10 minute a day in this simple and pleasant position can lead to the benefits of a more relaxed psoas muscle.
Of course, with over 30 years of research and practice, Liz has extensive tools and exercises to offer. Below are some resources to help you get to know and release your psoas muscle. Enjoy!
“It is from the area of the psoas that wise women and wise men ground themselves. With an integrated, well functioning psoas comes a quiet, safe haven to move from and be within.” -Liz Koch