Hello, my friends!
Today we are going to look at the deepest muscle inside our body. It is hidden out of sight, yet it is very important.
The iliopsoas affects the functioning of several vital organs, including the liver, the kidneys, the gut, the stomach and the gallbladder.
In Eastern practices, they call the it «the muscle of the soul,» and we will look at how it is connected to our state of mind.
We will also learn some exercises to strengthen and stretch the psoas.
They can help relieve backpain and regulate the functioning of internal organs.
THE ROLE OF THE PSOAS IN THE BODY and its ANATOMY
On both sides of the body, the psoas originates from the spine: it is connected to the 12th thoracic vertebra and each of the five lumbar vertebrae.
From the spine it runs down across the abdomen and the pelvis and connects to the upper thigh bone.
The psoas is the only muscle in our body that connects the moving part of the spine to the legs.
It helps us remain vertical and takes part in the raising of the legs when we walk.
When it functions well, the psoas stabilizes the spine and supports the torso. It also provides a platform for the vital organs located in the abdomen.
Via fascia, the psoas is connected to the diaphragm, so it can affect breathing and the ‘fear reflex.’
EFFECTS OF THE PSOAS MUSCLE SPASM
Chronic tension in the psoas is associated with the ‘psoas syndrome’—a medical condition that in its turn can cause other health problems.
Because the psoas is attached to every lumbar vertebra, excessive tension in the muscle can have a negative effect on the lumbar region of the spine.
The spasm of the upper fibers of the muscle can lead to a flattening of the spinal curve, or the flat back syndrome.
Tension in the lower part of the muscle can cause hyperlordosis, or excessive curvature of the spine, which can lead to disc protrusions and hernias.
As the psoas muscles are attached to the spine on both sides, a spasm of the muscle on one side can lead to a sideways curve in the spine, or scoliosis.
The lower part of the muscle in case of a spasm can put excessive pressure on the hip joints, causing them to lose mobility, sometimes to the point where coxarthrosis might develop.
The psoas also helps hold internal organs in place. In particular, it forms a muscular shelf for kidneys to rest on. Any disfunction of the muscle can lead to a displacement of internal organs and disruptions to blood flow and the innervation of organs.
Because of its size and location, the psoas spasm can manifest itself as a disfunction of almost any organ, including the gut, the pancreas and the kidneys. This will cause not only pain in the organ, but also an autonomic nervous system response, such as the loss of appetite, indigestion, heaviness in the stomach etc.
As the psoas is connected to the thoracolumbar transition area in the spine, its spasm can have a negative effect on the nerves attached to this area of the spine and the function of the liver, the gallbladder, the stomach, the pancreas and the duodenum.
This leads to organ malfunctions that cannot be fixed until the psoas is relaxed.
Tension in the psoas can be one of the causes of menstrual cramps and infertility, as the muscle creates extra pressure on the reproductive organs.
These are only a few of the ways in which the psoas can affect the rest of the body. When noticed at an early stage, a dysfunction of the psoas can be corrected, which will allow to avoid many health issues. If left untreated, the psoas spasm can lead to chronic lower back pain, as well as to problems with the spine, joints and internal organs.
EMOTIONS and THE PSOAS
Chronic spasm in the psoas does not only affect our body, but also our emotions, relationships and general wellbeing.
Chronic tension in the psoas is known to be connected to fear and anxiety. Relieving it can help overcome fear and negative emotions.
In Yoga, the psoas is sometimes referred to as the soul of the physical body. Indeed, it does not only have to do with the tension in the lower back, but also with our state of mind.
The stronger and more flexible the psoas, the more life energy circulates freely around the muscles, bones, ligaments and organs. This is why we need to take care of the psoas for our own emotional health.
WHAT CAUSES THE PROBLEM
The psoas syndrome can be caused by very different factors, from a sedentary lifestyle, to regular lifting of heavy weights at work or in sports.
Today’s fast paced and adrenaline-fueled life causes chronic tension in the psoas, which is always ready for a fight-or-flight response.
The psoas allows us to jump into action or assume the protective fetal position.
As it is involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, when the psoas is chronically in spasm, it constantly tells your body that you are in danger, wearing out the adrenal glands and destroying the immune system.
Returning health to the psoas we can restore our life energy and learn to become one with the life force of the universe.
As you learn to feel and relax your psoas, you will learn to better understand what your body is telling you and restore inner peace.
You will be able to dig up the fears that have been locked in the body in the form of unconscious tension and work through them.
HOW TO WORK WITH THE PSOAS
It is important to understand that just strengthening or just relaxing the psoas will not make it healthy. The muscle needs both strengthening and stretching, and the proportion between them should reflect the unique needs of your body and musculoskeletal system.
If the exercises are limited to the strengthening of the muscle (squats, strength workouts) they will not help you restore the health of your back. In fact, the level of stress will only increase.
Long bike rides and skiing can also contribute to the development of the psoas syndrome and increase tension in the lower back and the abdomen.
No matter which type of physical activity you choose, make sure to include stretching and relaxation into your routine.
In this video I will show you several exercises to relax and strengthen the psoas. If you find them too difficult, check out another video on this channel called YOGA FOR LOWER BACK PAIN. It’s a set of exercises accessible to anyone.
Also, see YOGA FOR DEPRESSION. In that class I show a number of exercises for stretching the spine, which can help you relax your muscles and feel much better.
Under the video you will find the link that says, ‘Get ten best video classes.’ Click it to get an email with 10 best videos on self-massage and yoga. The two videos I have mentioned will also be included.
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Yoga is the best way to relax your psoas. No massage can reach as deep inside the body. Exercises combined with correct breathing are the simplest and most pleasant way to stretch the psoas.
Not only are we all overly stressed today, but we also stay in all the time. With all this stress and lack of exercise, our health can’t be great. We need to take care of ourselves!
If you have disc protrusions or hernias, make sure you are very careful and always comfortable during the exercises. Do not let the natural curvature of your spine increase as you exercise.
Let us go through several exercises that are good for the functioning of your psoas: they will help you relax it and strengthen it at the same time.
Like any yoga, these exercises do not only engage the psoas, but the entire body. But the main focus will be on the psoas.
Here is the first asana. Lie down and have a stretch, simple as that. Walk your heels one way and your shoulders the other way, to elongate the spine.
You can find more exercises for elongating the spine in the video ON DEPRESSION. In that video I show various kinds of stretches that we should do as often as possible.
When you have stretched like that, put your hands on the floor by your pelvis. We are going to do Ekapada Uttanasana, a variation.
Inhale and lift your right leg to 30 to 40 degrees. Exhale, put the leg down.
Inhale, lift your left leg. Exhale, put it back down. Relax your abdomen completely.
Inhale, lift your right leg up. Exhale, put it down and completely relax your abdomen.
Inhale, lift the left leg. Exhale, put it back down. Relax all of your muscles completely.
Now stretch your arms above your head. Inhale and lift the leg up. Exhale and return it to the floor, relax.
Inhale, lift it up. Exhale, put it down. If you feel too much tension in the abdomen, have a longer break between lifting legs: lift it up, put it down and relax for 20 or 30 seconds.
Depending on how tense you feel, you can spend more time relaxing on strengthening your muscles.
Let me show you an exercise that will help you stretch the psoas and relax.
You will need a table, or a tall bed. I do it on a window sill. Take a look.
Lie down, bend one leg in the knee and let the other one hang down, so that it can gently stretch under its own weight. Do it for half a minute or a minute, and then repeat on the other side.
One leg is bent, and the other one is hanging down. The muscle is relaxing under the weight of the leg.
If you don’t have a tall bed, a massage table or a wide window sill, you can do the following exercise on your yoga mat. It’s called the lizard pose.
Your right leg is in front of you and your left leg is behind you. Your left knee is on the floor—move it further back to feel the stretch in the hip. Bend forward and regulate your stretch: you need to feel it, but it shouldn’t hurt. You should feel comfortable.
Stretch like that for half-a-minute or a minute. If you don’t feel the stretch in this position, you can add to it. Pick up the back foot and pull it towards you. Here you will definitely feel the stretch. Stretch your leg gently.
Do the first or the second variation for half-a-minute to a minute. This will help you stretch the thigh muscles as well as the psoas.
Great. After you’ve stretched for a minute switch sides.
Now your left leg is in front and the right leg is behind. Again, move your torso forward to feel the stretch in the right thigh. If it’s not enough, bend the leg, pick up the foot and pull it towards you.
Do it with pleasure and gently. Breathe deeply and keep you face relaxed.
Stay in this asana for half-a-minute or a minute.
Now we will do two standing exercises. They will also help you strengthen and stretch the psoas. They are good for the spine in general. Let’s stand up!
Two great asanas standing. One will allow us to strengthen the psoas and other muscles, and the other to stretch the sides, and the psoas too.
For the first asana we are going to need a block.
Place the block under your hand either this way or like this.
Bend towards your right leg, place your hand under your shoulder and raise your left leg.
If it’s too easy, you can try doing it without the block. Simply place your hand on the mat and stretch the other arm up.
Your leg is parallel to the floor. Push your heel back, away from your body.
Stretch the entire body to all sides.
The leg on the floor can be bent to begin with. Gradually you can straighten it.
Really stretch your arms the opposite ways, the same for your head and leg.
Stretch your back and the exercise will work better!
Stretch like that for half-a-minute or a minute—as long as you can.
Another variation: stretch your arm over your head and stretch the upper side even more.
Have a good stretch and release, relax.
Same on the other side: first, bend forward.
I will show it without the block this time but if you need the block then use it.
Align the arm with the leg. If you are finding it difficult to balance, place the hand a bit to the side.
Your hand is on the mat—raise the other arm up and raise the leg. Slowly straighten the lower leg.
Stand like that, stretching well, making sure that the back and the legs all stretch.
Enjoy this pose, don’t look around. Focus on one point to find balance.
Stay here for half-a-minute or a minute and stretch your arm over your head to stretch the top side even better. Stretch the side well and return to standing.
After this asana you can stretch in a standing fold, if you feel like it.
Now let us do a standing stretch. Put your hands on your hips and stretch your back. Look, you place your hands like this and first you raise your shoulders.
Then, gradually, you lower your shoulders and gently lengthen the spine.
Avoid any abrupt movements and the exercise will be very safe.
Stretch gently. Again, you will find all kinds of stretches in the video ON DEPRESSION.
Right, return to standing. Inhale slowly and exhale. Relax completely.
After every asana, observe the sensations in your body. The point is not to just do one asana and then the next one but to observe what happens in the body.
Now place your feet about a meter apart. Let us enjoy a stretch in the triangle pose.
Turn your feet to the right—but not your torso. Stretch your arms left to right, turn your palms up and down and bend to the right.
Correct the position of your pelvis here. Stretch the arm up.
If you have never done triangle before, then it’s important to remember to not fall forward like this. Neither should you fall back.
Stand straight, as if you are standing with your back to the wall and you are pressing into the wall with your back.
If it’s hard, you can place your hand higher. And stretch.
The main thing is to feel the stretch in the upper side of the body and stretch your spine really well. Stand for half-a-minute to a minute.
And in the end stretch your arm over your head and look at the palm of your hand for a better stretch in the upper side.
Return to the center.
Stand up straight. Turn the feet the other way, stretch your arms left to right, and turn your palms up and down. Bend to the left.
Same on this side: correct the pelvis, stretch your right arm up and place the left hand wherever it’s comfortable.
You can place it on the floor if you can reach it.
Stay like that for half-a-minute or a minute.
No tension—breath naturally, keep you face relaxed. Enjoy this asana.
Stretching the top side.
And in the end stretch your arm over your head and stretch your side even more. Look at your hand. If you lose balance, you can look at the floor.
And return to the centre. Bend forward for a bit and then return to standing.
You can also add some exercises from the video FOR LOWER BACK PAIN or maybe some other exercises that you like.
But these exercises we did just now will help you specifically work on the psoas and generally stretch your body.
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This was NATIONAL HEALTH.
See you soon!