The Psoas Connection
The communication within our body is key to our life experience. We might spend much time hiding in our minds or attempting to meditate to a spiritual solution, but the answer to this life's experience is in the body. To know your body and it's experience of this life is to meet the psoas. This double-joint muscle crosses two joints and connects our lower body to our upper body, our core to our periphery, and our lower energy centres to our upper energy centres.
Health Issues Relating to Psoas Muscle
Sciatica, low back pain, tight IT Band pain into knee problems, anxiety and breathing issues will relate to an unhealthy psoas muscle. Long periods of sitting means that the psoas is always shortened. This is not from strength work so there is an imbalance in the pelvic girdle stability and up into our low backs.
I became super interested in the psoas muscle in 2010 when still a lawyer. As I ran my daily 4 miles across the City of London my right hip kept 'clicking' out of place. Eventually, this led to my entire right hip joint seizing up so that when I stood up it took 6 steps or so for me to straighten up until my hip had relaxed. I looked like an old lady trying to walk about the office. This was my psoas. When sitting the psoas seized in this shortened state and could not lengthen. It generated sciatica and low back pain for me.
At the same time, I developed anxiety issues. Shortly after this injury, I began to get panic attacks - the out of control breathing type where you feel like you could die of a heart attack. I was addicted to boxercise classes (aerobics meets boxing) where I could imagine punching the lights out of all that frustrated me, so I clearly had some pent-up energy to expand. The need to breathe was obvious, but I did not know how ... my answer was a cigarette (see how I gave up smoking blog post).
Anatomy of the Psoas Muscle
This big muscles runs from the femur (thigh) bone up to the lumbar spine where it meets the diaphragm. It brings the thigh into the chest when shortened and lengthens when we stretch our low back (see left images).
Examples of how this works:
- If your spine is excessively arched with popped front ribs it will pull on the diaphragm, resulting in restricted breath.
- When the spine is rounded too much it compresses in the hip joint and restricts movement in the pelvis causing pulling on the low back - into back pain.
When it is tight or sore to pull the knees into the chest there is a sign of an imbalance. Stretching alone will not correct the hours of sitting. Retraining the entire core for correct muscle firing and tone is required.
Energetics of the Psoas
Energy is the connection of the leg to the core for forward-motion movement. When my psoas seized up it was in a shortened state - it was angry with me. It would not let me continue on this path with my feet. It was a sign of STOP! This is the ROOT CHAKRA saying that my life foundations are out of balance. That my safety and security in my physical life were unstable and not grounded into this world.
Being head strong, I continued with my path. Within 6 months the panic attacks started. My psoas really wanted me to listen. Family relationships were strained and my lawyer job an unhealthy environment for connecting with others. Yet I continued to push through with my current life plan. I saw it as just 'that office' that was the issue and not the larger picture of where I had taken my life. After I left that job, the panic attacks continued. Your SACRAL CHAKRA is your relationships with the external world - loved ones, money, ability to go with the flow. All my relationships went into a horrendous melt down - old, new, home, love, professional, colleagues - there was endless drama every couple of days.
My strategy was to shut all of this down. I cut off relationships, refused to speak to people, changed job and move house. My life was calmer on the surface, but all I had done was put a lid on the issues in my sacral chakra. This continued to be my strategy for 2 years of endless dramas as my career progressed.
Within another 6 months and more panic attacks: my marriage ended. Within a week I was living out of bags on friend's sofas with another job interview for my dream job! With grit and pure determination I made my way through this period of 5 months with the love of alcohol and solid workouts. Push through the pain! My SOLAR PLEXUS CHAKRA was completely over-exerting energetically with this drive. Where was I driven to go? Head first down some stairs it turned out.
This complexity of life reflects how the psoas crosses the three bottom chakras in our body. Our physical experience is a reflection of the balance of our chakras. When we are head strong it allows the ego to lead and this is a solar plexus hyperactivity. A life led by the ego may show apparent external success, but at what cost? Your physical body is showing you if there is anxiety, low back pain, sciatica or other pains originating from this region.
Consciously Connecting to the Psoas
From a Pilates perspective, this is a huge part of the pelvic girdle retraining we do with clients. Many of my sciatica clients required focus on neuromuscular retraining of these muscle patterns: release the psoas, engage transverse abdominis and correct activation of the gluteus medius and maximus to drive the leg forward in a walk or running step. This means that you drive the leg forward from your back body rather than pull your leg forward with your front hip muscle (psoas). This is a long journey of retraining from the beginning - how to stand and walk!
We can take you through this retraining with our bespoke At Home programs.
The physical pressure onto the points shifts the energy in the body and can release blocked or stagnant energy held in these areas of the body.
The hip release into the gluteals and psoas release in stomach massage are often the most tender spots to work on. Different massage styles will approach these with less or more intensity as you must respect what the energy is in your body and how it will respond to move.
Enjoy one of our massages with our At Home, At Work Wellbeing days or On Holiday during our retreats.
The breath is the bridge of the mind and body. What your breath does is the reflection of your mind and/ or body state.
If you struggle with anxiety, low back or shoulder pain, this could be from the tension around your diaphragm. Through different breathing techniques you can begin to release this tension and become more aware about how your breath can transform your physical experience of life.