Being inspired by our class’s intense anatomical studies, I decided to have a closer look at the psoas – the deepest muscle in our body.
Growing out of both sides of the spine, the psoas goes down from the 12th thoracic vertebrae (T12) to each of the 5 lumbar vertebrae. From there it goes down through the abdominal core, the pelvis, to attach to the top of the femur bone.
The psoas is the only muscle that connects the spine to the legs. It is responsible for holding us upright, and allows us to lift our legs in order to walk. The muscle is sensitive to emotional states, which means that stress may cause its chronic tightness.
Our fast, modern lifestyle tightens the psoas. If we constantly contract the psoas to due to stress or tension, the muscle begins to shorten leading to painful conditions including, but not limited to, low back pain, sciatica, disc problems, and hip degeneration. A tight psoas constricts the organs, puts pressure on nerves, interferes with the movement of fluids, and impairs diaphragmatic breathing.
We should also be aware that many problems in stability and alignment in asanas are directly related to tension in the psoas.
So what should we do to keep our psoas happy? First we shouldn’t forget to include hip opening poses with the specific intention of releasing tension in the psoas. In many instances it doesn’t mean we have to change much in our routine – we just need be more aware about benefits of poses, or practice a pose with slight modification.
What are the poses to keep our psoas happy? In fact many do. The most popular, and almost always practiced ones are the following:
- Savasanna (Corpse pose) – with modification: use a blanket or a bolster under the knees to support the thighs and release the spine; or bend the knees, place the feet on the floor to the outside of the pelvis, and rest the knees against each other; hold 10 to 15 minutes
- Pawan Mutkasana (Wind-Relieving Pose) – one leg variation; hold 2-3 minutes each side
- Anjaneyasana (Lunge Pose) – there are many variations of this pose: low and high lunge, with your knee off and on the matt, in all variations one leg is fixed to stabilize the pelvis, and the other is leg stretched to lengthen the psoas; repeat 2-3 times each side.
Beata, 200 Hrs YTT, November 2015