It is well-documented that yoga has a plethora of health benefits. From stretching to relaxation, yoga is an excellent option for a wide variety of people.
Yoga marries the concept of body movement with spiritual enlightenment and self-autonomy.
While the philosophy behind yoga incorporates all aspects of the human body, newer research is focusing on a very specific muscle in the body – one you may have never heard of.
The psoas is a conjunctive term that refers to two of the deepest muscles in the skeletal wall: the iliacus and the psoas major. Together, these muscles are more commonly referred to as the iliopsoas muscle. They are considered one muscle because they attach at the same spot of the femur and work together to stabilize the muscles in the hip and abdomen. In medical circles, this muscle bundle is called the psoas. In yoga circles, it is referred to as “the muscle of the soul.”
This core-stabilizing muscle located near the hip bone influences mobility, balance, joint function, and flexibility. Much like your heart, it is continually working to keep you upright and moving.
But yogis believe the psoas does so much more. It is a widely held belief in holistic and spiritual communities that this muscle directly connects you to the present moment. When the muscle is stretched out, it releases tension associated with stress, worry, and other mental hang-ups that block you from being connected with your immediate body and surroundings.
This indicates that the psoas is vital to both our physical and psychological well-being. Liz Koch is an international author and teacher who dedicated most of her life to researching the power of the psoas. On her site, she states, “Your psoas is not merely a muscle. It is the primal messenger from the core of your being. This bio-intelligent tissue expresses your integrity on every level and may be perceived as the guardian of the Hara, commonly referred to as the moving center. Located deep within your core, your psoas is a source of inner power.”
According to YogaAnatomy.com, emotional instability associated with stress, depression, anxiety, racing thoughts, and insomnia could be a result of not paying attention to the health of your psoas. This bundle of muscles is connected to the diaphragm, which can influence proper breathing techniques based on its elasticity.
The diaphragm, incidentally, also happens to be the location where many physical symptoms associated with fear and anxiety manifest.
Because this part of your body is continually contracting, preparing the body for movement at any given moment, the psoas is thought to be in a constant state of “fight or flight” due to continual stress. Under such conditions, your brain automatically releases higher levels of cortisone – the chemical attributed to prepping your body for “fight or flight” responses. Exposure to these chemicals over a long period can have negative effects on your organs, hormones, skeletal structure, and overall feelings of happiness and spiritual “presence.”
Ultimately, being conscious of your psoas and doing what you can to maintain its health is vital to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Making sure to stretch and rest this group of muscles often is a good habit to inject into your daily rituals. Here are some yoga stretches that you can do to help maintain your psoas health.