Deep in your body lies the psoas. This is the muscle group that connects your upper and lower body. The psoas muscle runs from the inside of your thighs, through your pelvis, down your lower back where the muscle attaches to the diaphragm. Together with the jaw muscles, it is one of the strongest muscles in our body. The psoas is linked to your body's autonomic response to stress and has been referred to as the "muscle of the soul." Holistic therapist Suze Retera tells you all about the connection between your emotions and the psoas muscle below. She explains how psoas complaints arise and how you can alleviate them.
Especially in yoga classes and sometimes also in bodywork, the psoas is also called 'the muscle of the soul'. Because the degree of tension in the psoas and complaints in the area of the pelvis and lower back can say a lot about how someone is doing, the link may have been made to the soul. The entire body actually shows what is going on in our soul. It tells, often more honestly than our behavior or what we consciously share with others, a story about our life experiences so far, and how we approach life. However, some parts of our body, such as the psoas muscle, communicate this more clearly than others. It is perhaps more accurate to call the psoas the muscle of sensation, since it responds to our emotional and therefore our neurological state.
What does this muscle have to do with emotions?
In addition to being able to consciously engage and relax our muscles, our muscles also respond to signals from the autonomic nervous system. The name of this nervous system says it all: it controls itself; we have only a limited influence on this with our consciousness. The autonomic nervous system responds particularly to stimuli that tell us whether we are safe or in danger and is therefore strongly related to our emotions. What we rationally perceive as dangerous or actually dangerous may not correspond to what makes us feel insecure. Our feeling is very subjectively colored by our previous experiences.
Respond to danger
The moment your nervous system registers that you are no longer completely safe, it quickly activates a number of processes in the body that ensure that you can take action quickly. Your heart rate and blood pressure go up, muscle tension rises and your pupils dilate. One of the most primitive flight responses is to curl up into the fetal position or at least pull your knees toward your chest. This response is aimed at protecting your vital organs. You make yourself small and thus protect your vulnerable belly and chest. It's your psoas muscle that carries out this powerful reflex response at lightning speed. So fast that we sometimes feel a little embarrassed afterwards when the reaction turned out to be exaggerated and there was no danger at all. Another reaction in which the psoas plays an important role is running away.
While we've all been shocked or even assaulted at times, that's not the kind of stress most people deal with on a daily basis. It is the stress we experience due to work pressure, relationship problems, but also unprocessed trauma and negative emotions, that often causes psoas complaints. This chronic, low-grade stress also activates the autonomic nervous system and creates a chronic state of alertness in the body. The psoas is then constantly alert, so that you can run away or make yourself small at any moment. This creates a building tension in the muscle. This tension often fails to release because the ultimate action for which the muscle is alert never takes place. This lack of release reinforces the vicious cycle of chronic stress and physical discomfort.
How do you feel when this muscle is tense and when it is relaxed?
A tense psoas can cause various complaints. Pain in the groin is a common complaint, which is often made worse by sitting for a long time because it keeps the psoas in a short and tense state for a long time. Because the psoas moves along the lower back and attaches to the diaphragm, tension in the psoas often causes lower back complaints. The connection to the diaphragm ensures that the psoas also influences breathing and vice versa. Breathing high into the chest and tension in the diaphragm often go hand in hand with tension in the psoas. In addition, chronic tension in the psoas can cause complaints around the pelvis and hips. These are complex structures where many joints, tendons and muscles come together. An imbalance in a strong muscle like the psoas affects the whole area and the balance between these different structures.
How can you take good care of your psoas?
There are several exercises you can do that help stretch and relax the psoas. You can think of various yoga exercises where you stretch the front of the body, especially the groin. A lunge, low or high, where you don't hang in your hips but keep your core tense and keep your chest above your hips gives a good stretch. More important than specific exercises, however, is that you see that tension in the psoas is not a problem that arises in isolation, but is a reflection of the degree of stress that you consciously or unconsciously experience. My advice is therefore to make adjustments in your lifestyle that, in addition to the symptoms, also address the cause. The following tips will take you a long way! 5 tips
Don't sit too long. Interrupt working days behind the laptop with a few minutes of walking every hour. In addition, regularly take a longer walk where you consciously tense your core slightly and also use your glutes while walking.
Be aware of your breathing. Tension in the psoas can cause tension in the diaphragm and make breathing more shallow. Deep diaphragmatic breathing helps relax the psoas.
Express your emotions. Don't turn your heart into a murder pit. Express yourself not only verbally, but also through your body. Turning up the music and dancing like no one is watching (or at least ;)) can clear up a lot of built-up tension and relax your psoas.
Go to a yoga class just a little more often. Preferably a lesson that is not too passive, but also helps you strengthen the structures around your psoas and not just stretch. Combining your yoga class with some strength training is therefore a good idea.
If you notice that you have chronic stress complaints and your psoas remains tense, it is advisable to make an appointment with a physiotherapist or a TRE® provider. TRE® is aimed at releasing tension through the body, which often starts in the area around the psoas. Because this discharge occurs from the nervous system, the effect is often deeper and more structural than the discharge at muscle level.