For years now, I have seen different articles, books, and advertisements stating that the psoas is the muscle of our souls.
Claims are being made that the psoas is the source of all back and hip pain, and releasing it will cure your disc issue and heal your sciatica.
To some of these writers, it is also the main storehouse for your emotional issues, and since it is where your fear, anxiety, and depression reside, all you have to do is lengthen your psoas and distress will magically disappear from the depths of your being.
If you are having trouble with your spouse, it’s because you have a tight psoas. If you’re not making enough money, just stretch your psoas, and your bank account will grow. And if you have gout, just stretch your psoas, and you will be healed!
I cannot tell you how many times in my practice someone has come to me with back pain who was previously told to stretch their psoas. They had been doing it for weeks with no gains whatsoever.
As a NeuroKinetic Therapy practitioner, it is my job to assess the movement functionality of everyone who comes into my office. When someone comes in with back pain, the psoas is one of the five main muscle groups I check every time. More than half of these people present weak or neurologically inhibited psoai, and the key to their health is not stretching it, but strengthening it.
The psoas runs from the T12-L5 transverse processes (the sides of the spine in your lower back) and inserts into a little bony protuberance on your upper, inner thigh called the lesser trochanter.
First and foremost, due to all its attachments, the psoas is a spinal stabilizer. Should it become weak, other muscles around the spine must grip to stabilize. For some of them, this is their job, and for others, they are simply picking up the slack. This is the foundation of what we call compensation.
Its second action is that of being a strong hip flexor. It is involved in walking, running, propulsion, and being able to lift your leg in the air and get your knee to your chest.
For someone who has tight hamstrings and stretches them all the time with only marginal results, the psoas may be part of the answer. But, it may not be what you think.
As you’ve seen from what I wrote above, the psoas is actually quite prone to weakness and inhibition. If you want to do a basic check for yourself, lie on your back and hold your leg in the air (if you cannot bring your leg near 90 degrees, keep the knee slightly bent and bring it as high as you can). You should be able to hold it up there for a minute or longer without strain. If you find that this is very difficult, there is a chance you don’t need to stretch your psoas, but you may need to strengthen it!
Most recently, I had a woman who hurt her back doing a lunge in a yoga class. She has had nerve pain down her leg ever since and her physical therapist had her stretching her psoas to find relief. It wasn’t working. Of course not! A lunge actually stretches the psoas, and that’s how she got hurt!
She had compressed a nerve in her back doing the lunge, over-stretched her psoas, and was having trouble finding stability. It took one session to fix. I released the compression, got the non-functional psoas to work, and brought stability back to her spine. At the end of the session, she was crying, had no nerve pain down her leg, and called me a week later in gratitude as the pain never came back! Imagine if she had kept stretching her psoas and that she was even told that her pain was emotional.
Our minds and our bodies are connected. There are few people out there who will refute that. When we bring our intelligence to an area that the consciousness previously did not penetrate, we increase the quality of our lives, both in terms of mobility and mental health.
To state, however, that one muscle, particularly the psoas, is the kingpin of our emotional distress and physical suffering is simply untrue. And then to say that stretching it is the eternal gateway to making it healthy and functional is simply uneducated.
All of our muscles are the muscles of our soul. When awareness awakens, we awaken.
Author: Jory Serota
Editor: Travis May