The Psoas Muscles: A “Hip” Guide to Happier Movement
Lately, the psoas has been getting a lot of attention, and for good reason. Many hip imbalances and structural breakdowns in the body stem from unbalanced hips. Let’s take a deeper look at the psoas, other wise known as our hip flexors. One of our body’s most dominant muscles…
Whether you suffer from a sore back or anxiety, from knee strain or exhaustion, there’s a good chance that a constricted psoas muscle might be contributing to your discomfort or impeded performance.
Starting with a small anatomy lesson, the psoas is roughly triangular in shape, the top of the psoas attaches along the five vertebral bodies starting at the last thoracic vertebrae (T12) and continues to attach L1, L2, L3 and terminating at the next to last Lumbar vertebrae L4, completing one side of the triangle.
From the ends of this side, we create two more sides that slowly come together and attach at that spot on the femur. Because of its triangular shape, it allows for a lot of movement or lack of movement, as well as load distribution. Therefore, its no wonder the unique shape can a different and profound effects on the spine, and therefore the body.
So where does the psaos make an appearance in our yoga practice? In yoga, the psoas plays an important role in every asana and is crucial for balanced alignment, proper joint rotation, and full muscular range of motion, as well as posture and human locomotion.
In backbends, a released psoas allows for extension and lengthened muscles at the hip and supporting proper extension of the front thigh (quadriceps group), which allows the leg to move independently from the pelvis. All yoga poses are enhanced by a released, rather than shortened psoas from back bends. The psoas muscles are commonly used in forward bends as well, which recruits to pull you down and forward. All too often people rely on their arms to pull them forward.
This group of psoas muscles are also used in every standing posture to stabilize the upper and lower half of the body, because of its role to help regulate balance. Our center of gravity is housed at the top of our sacrum and navel area and, what would you know the psoas, just so happens to pass on both sides of this hip bone so it helps regulate balance around our center of gravity which is where movement comes from.
The thighs can’t fully rotate outward unless the psoas releases and thus any posture that requires any rotation needs, psoas extension (warrior series, triangle series and half moon to name a few).
Getting in touch with this deeply buried muscle can be not only a humbling experience, but one of much growth. The psoas, the fascial system and deep diaphragmatic breathing are linked, and along with improving your structural stability, developing awareness of your psoas can bring to light fears and visceral blockages of long locked energy blocks in the body, which results in unconscious physical tension. We know that the psoas runs through the diaphragm, and with improper breathing this can tighten and restrict the psoas muscle, as well as, when deep breathing exercises commence it can release tension and improve blood flow as well as much needed stress release where blocked energy can start to move around and be released, both physically as well as emotionally.
Therefore, the next time you roll out the mat for you practice, give your psoas a little extra TLC and asana time and see how much better your body flows from one posture to the next and much better your hips feel!!