The poor psoas often gets blamed as a common culprit when it comes to issues in the body. From postural stability and hip function to breath and emotional resiliency, the psoas plays a major role in our performance. And if it ain’t happy, you’re not going to be either.
When people try to address psoas issues, conventional wisdom says one of two things.
- You have a tight psoas. Roll it out and stretch it. You’re a piece of meat, after all.
- You have a weak psoas. Strengthen it. Leg lifts ad nauseum. Because you can outwork dysfunction if you push hard enough…
Let’s bring some sanity to the psoas. To clarify the problem at hand, we should begin by understanding what it is we’re working with.
The Most Complicated Muscle You’ve Never Heard Of
The psoas is a pretty intricate piece of equipment. The psoas major attaches at each vertebrae of the lumbar spine (and the bottom vertebrae of the thoracic), before winding its way down through the abdomen to attach at the lesser trochanter of the femur. Essentially, it’s a bridge between the upper and lower body. It comingles with the connective tissue of the diaphragm and the surrounding lumbar plexus, a major nerve hub. With so much going on, it’s easy to see that when something goes awry, we’re setting ourselves up for trouble.
So what does the psoas do? Depending on the person you ask, you’ll hear 15 different answers. Some folks say it primarily acts as a hip flexor. Others claim its main role is that of spinal stability. Others give it a more esoteric function. I say: yes, yes, and yes, because it does a bit of each.
One of its earliest, most primal functions is coordination of our Moro reflex. The Moro reflex has three distinct parts:
- Global extension, a reaching out
- Global flexion, a pulling in
- Crying (typically)
When we break this down we can see how crucial psoas function is to each step. Organizing the spine, coordinating the hips, facilitating the breath…if we have a sticky psoas, these functions can’t proceed properly.
A Soft Reset for Your Psoas
You might be asking: so what? I’m not a baby. Ain’t nothin’ scares me.
Here’s where it gets interesting. You can think of this as a generalized response to trauma, one that helps us negotiate threats to ourselves. When it’s inhibited, that energy gets bottled up. We get stuck, physically and emotionally. The following daily practice will help you release excess tension psoas, no stretching or strengthening required.
Rather than stretch (adding tension to an overly tense system), a far better approach is to release. We can do this through something called a constructive resting position. Check out the image below:
As you can see, there’s support beneath the back of the head, and the support of the floor along the length of the spine. Any time we want real release, we need to provide the necessary support to release into. The floor is a perfect container for this. As we’ve talked about before, spending more time on the floor has marked benefits, affecting everything from neuromuscular coordination to how much tension you carry. To make the most of this, get in the consistent habit of spending 5-10 minutes a day in this position. You’ll be amazed how powerful an effect this has.
And there we have it. A properly organized psoas is a powerful thing. After each session, tune in to your body and notice what you’re aware of. Can you sense shifts in tension? In alignment? Has your mood changed? Think of this as a soft reset for your body, and make it a daily practice.