purple psoas

by Julian Walker

In an earlier article, we talked a bit about the psoas muscle and it’s huge significance with regard to the health of your low back.

This important muscle, deep in the core of your body, connects the lumbar spine to your thigh bone and passes through the pelvis to do so. When stuck in chronic contraction it compresses the low back, tilts the front of the pelvis forward and pushes out the belly.

Poses that help restore length and healthy pliability to the psoas include lunges, seated sidebends (my favorite) and standings poses like triangle, reverse warrior, and extended angle pose.

One way to think about the imbalance that can be at play with a contracted psoas is that it is sometimes compensating for weak or under-activated abdominal muscles.

As the abdominals get stronger and function in a more articulated way, the psoas can more sustainably return to (or discover) it’s fluid, versatile aliveness —thus reframing the relationships between pelvis, low back and thighs.

But there is another fascinating layer to this topic:  The psoas is often deeply associated with our emotional being, especially with unresolved trauma, and painful experiences of betrayal of trust or violation.

In my bodywork practice and yoga classes I have found that in a significant percentage of people, working to process through those feelings and heal from their associated trauma plays a huge role in retraining the psoas.

As a corollary to this, bringing awareness to the psoas via stretching, massage, and mindful exploration, will often evoke and reveal an underling emotional process that can have profound physical expression.

The big, strong psoas muscle and the many significant nerves that surround and pass through it can be a kind of energetic powerhouse. Under the right circumstances, the unwinding of deeply held tension can express itself in not only emotions and bodily memories being expressed, but also in the whole body spontaneously swaying, rocking, pulsating, jerking or undulating as the system rebalances.psoas lunge

The many times I have held space for these kinds of experiences have shown me the beautiful and powerful healing opportunity that they represent, and the practical implications for greater embodiment, self-awareness, emotional balance and low back health they make available.

Stay curious about this key muscle and your experience of it in your yoga practice —it has many gifts  to share! (Click here if you missed Part 1..)

Here is a video from one of my Open Sky Bodywork/Yoga Mat Massage workshops that gives a glimpse: