The psoas (so-az) muscle is the deepest muscle in the body, connecting the spine to the leg and stretching from solar plexus to upper thigh. It is a crucial element of core strength. However, it is not a muscle that does best when strengthened, stretched, or massaged. Instead, to best work toward core health and psoas health, we need to approach it from an understanding of how it relates to the whole body, not just its mechanical function.
The first thing to understand about the psoas is that it is about motion. It is the only muscle that connects the trunk of the body to the legs, and it is what allows you to lift your leg with each step. It is a suspension bridge to the spine, stabilizing it the same way ropes stabilize a tent. It also supports organ health, helping to hold the organs in place and massaging them as the body moves. This improves fluid and nutrient flow, which helps keep them functioning well.
When the psoas has dysfunction, it is usually due to exhaustion. Many factors can contribute to this, including structural imbalances, injuries, and restrictive clothing, shoes, and chairs that keep us from moving naturally most of the time. Because the psoas is about providing stability while in motion, it will work harder to compensate for a lack of stability, and so grow thick and short. This in turn pulls the pelvis out of alignment and transfers stress to the knees and low back. It also becomes less effective at supporting organ health.
The psoas is also tied directly into the flight or fight response, as it is the muscle that helps curl us into a protective ball or allows us to run and jump our way out of danger. A chronically exhausted psoas, then, sends a constant signal of stress and danger to the body. This has emotional and physical consequences and can exhaust the adrenals and deplete the immune system.
Working with the psoas to restore health and vitality to the whole system means bringing awareness and ease to the core. Moving from a tight, thick psoas to a juicy, supple one can relieve a wide range of symptoms, including water retention, sleep issues, foot rotations, and deep-seated fears. It may take practice to build awareness of the psoas, but when it becomes juicy, we are able to move with more ease and vitality.