Do you spend much time sitting in front of a computer, on a plane, in a car? If so your hips may be locked up which effects your ability to dance, but worse than that it may be causing you undue stress and fear. The Psoas Muscle, is a long muscle located on the side of the lumbar region of the vertebral column and brim of the pelvis, that is also known as the “muscle of the soul”.
It is one of the largest muscles in the body and it is a place where we often store stress or trauma that can literally influence our mood and our outlook on life. We recently explored in depth just how much fear can inhibit our ability to think clearly thus creating an unhealthy perspective that can harm us and those around us. Now let’s look at where that fear might be stored in our body, and a few ways to release it.
In humans, the extremes of the two polarities might appropriately be described as LOVE (+) and FEAR (- ). Love fuels growth. In contrast, fear stunts growth. – Bruce Lipton, Ph.D.
How built up stress makes us easy to manipulate
Being in a state of fear allows us to be easily manipulated. Advertisers and politicians have learned to capitalize on this biological aspect of humans also known as the lizard brain. Unfortunately our fast-paced lifestyles (mentally), combined with our relatively stagnate physical activity (driving, working at computer, etc.) causes our bodies to be ineffective at releasing built up stress which manifests in our thoughts as fear or anxiety.
Lizard brain refers to the oldest part of the brain, the brain stem, responsible for primitive survival instincts such as aggression and fear (flight or fight) – Joseph Troncale M.D., Psychology Today
Where is a majority of the stress stored?
It is often stored in one of the largest muscles in our body, the psoas. This muscle stretches from our lower trunk through our hips into the top of our thighs, it is used for core stability and the fight-flight reflex. Every time we see something that startles us (real or perceived threat) like an animal crossing the road while we drive, or a violent scene in a movie, our brain sends signals our body to respond by releasing epinephrine (adrenaline).
The muscle that is most central to our fight/flight response is the psoas. When we don’t respond, these stress hormones go unspent and become stored in the body. This can bring many health problems including insomnia, lowered immune system, anxiety, eating disorders, depression, and living in a constant state of fear or alert.
Because the psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system. As you learn to approach the world without this chronic tension, psoas awareness can open the door to a more sensitive attunement to your body’s inner signals about safety and danger, and to a greater sense of inner peace. – Liz Koch, Author of The Psoas Book
Since stress accumulates on an unconscious level, healing our bodies is a process that must happen consciously. There is no single way to do this, it requires gradual lifestyle changes and a daily practice. Craniosacral Therapy is powerful because it helps teach our body how to relax into a parasympathetic state which relaxes the nervous system. This gentle and non-invasive approach helps us bring awareness to and melt away the stress stored within us.
To work with the psoas is not to try to control the muscle, but to cultivate the awareness necessary for sensing its messages. This involves making a conscious choice to become somatically aware. – Liz Koch, Author of The Psoas Book
Yoga and Personal Practice
The best doctor is already within you. There is no replacement for cultivating a practice that heals, replenishes, and relaxes you from the in-side, out. There are numerous yoga poses that can help you on your journey of releasing this stress, anxiety, and fear stored within your psoas. Yoga calls this “the muscle of the soul” so any focus here is sure to give great results to your overall well-being. Yoga International seems to have a comprehensive list of photos and descriptions of poses that can start you on your journey.
If you spend as much time stretching your psoas muscle every day as you just did reading this article, you will notice some big changes in your life. First you may begin catching a lot of attention on the dance floor, but more importantly you will loosen your mind from the grips of fear and anxiety. It comes down to a conscious choice to live in trust and love instead of fear and anxiety, and that choice has to be followed by real-world action. It all starts within!
Thank you for sharing this!
This is why my legs have stopped functioning. They have stored a huge amount of stress that the tissues and bones have been destroyed. Now they have collapsed in a way that I can no longer walk.
And the doctors tried so hard to introduce this fancy word in my life, Ankylosing Spondylitis without being empathetic even a bit; such a waste of degrees and stethoscopes!
However thanks UPLIFT for sharing this awesome content with us!
~ Om SHANTI! ~
My way of stretching my back healed me from serious health problems in a matter of week. I would like to illustrate it and attach my name to this exercise so no commercial ‘healers’ would use it and charge money for sessions. I want it to be illustrated in 3D just like the image above.
I came up with a very practical and trippy way to release stress from my back. And it would be easy to describe if I could illustrate or animate it.
For those looking to work on their psoas, also look up Dr David Berceli’s Tension/Trauma Release Exercise (TRE), the Egoscue Supine Groin Progressive stretch and Fitzmaurice Voiceworks tremoring videos on YouTube.
Very interesting article. Some scientific references would have been helpful for those who like to dig deeper.
“Since stress accumulates on an unconscious level, healing our bodies is a process that must happen consciously.” – This is wrong! There is a method from our body called neurogenic tremors which, when allowed, shakes off all the old patterns of stress, fear and anxiety. It start’s directly from the psoas and can be easily learnd by everyone. Check TRE (tension and trauma releasing exercises) for more infos. Great stuff and propably the best method to heal trauma on a large scale..
Taking into consideration any gender bias in photos and our culturally formed minds, Despite the known market value of scantily clad women, I think a positive aspect of this issue has to do with empowerment of women into the world of movement not based on force. I LOVE seeing men in yoga photos and films. To witness fluid quiet force done by a man re-instates my hopes and belief that men can find and exercise kindness and warmth,
It is a funny thing. When you see pictures from India of Yoga it’s usually all men. In the States it’s mostly women who, for whatever reason outnumber the men by about 5 to 1. Women are just more beautiful and nicer to look at than men which is opposite of almost everything else in nature ( birds, beasts etc.) where the male of the species is actually the pretty one. The Yoga “show-offs” calendars usually do have a couple of men but of course they have thin well-muscled bodies. So it’s a bit unfair to us guys but I’d rather see the women anyways and at least I don’t have to kill my lunch or eat bugs for supper!
geesh mac, exercise stresses you? do it slower, do it milder. Take up Tai Chi, one of the oldest systems on earth. And you seem to be stuck in a cartesian duality the way you refer to relaxation. It is not a passive state, it is the result of actions! Why stretching? well, if yopu would be so patient to read about “modern Meridian Theory” you would find out how stretching relates to things like lymphatic flow. You understand the significance of the lymph? tight has no flow in the literal meaning as well as the psychological & choreographic senses.
Mahalo! This is a great “flow” and a good reminder to me about the importance of those crescent stretches
This article is missing a huge part of releasing and healing- The John Barnes’ Myofascial Release Approach was not mentioned! http://www.myofascialrelease.com
Great article! Although what isn’t included here is that the psoas is connected to the kidney meridian and the adrenals sit on top of the kidneys.
The adrenals are part of the HPA axis – hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenals – which governs your stress response. The adrenals also produce the stress hormone, cortisol.
An over abundance of cortisol in your body leaves you feeling jittery and stressed and can lead to adrenal fatigue. One of the common reasons for adrenal issues in my kinesiology clinic is unhealed trauma.
Yoga, meditation and kinesiology are all brilliant ways to clear out excess cortisol and return your body to homeostasis.
There is one major tool missing in this article when it comes to releasing tension out of the psoas. Have a look at TRE – it’s the most wonderful and great technique to heal trauma and stress the way our body wants to release it naturally.
The consciousness of our body and how we relate to all its parts is really key to integral well being and to truly release stress as much as toxins. Dance does help to gain and maintain that consciousness. I’ve learned something new and pretty cool here about “the muscle of the soul”. Thanks!
This is possibly the most garbage health article I’ve read on the internet, and I’ve read my fair share. The author clearly has no idea of how the nervous and hormonal systems actually work. To think that stress hormones are stored in muscles, let alone one in particular, is ridiculous. Hormones will have an effect on the nervous system and muscles but they are not stored there.
Stress, depression, anxiety etc certainly effect the nervous, hormonal and muscular systems and potentially result in muscular tension (not just psoas). Stating that this works in reverse and that stretching psoas will cure fear and anxiety is just plain wrong.
Geez, I needed this. Thanks. Also, it’s nice to see an expert bobble and “oops”, keeping it real. It makes the attempt at posture not so intimidating. ; )
well what about Rodney Yee? come on now.
I am describing my problem. Before 10 year I slipped from my home wet marble staircase and it heart me my back hip at that nothing happened I was fine but after ten year I am feeling pain on my hip I can not seat on my hip also I can not sleep on my back side when I try seat it start pain but when i stand up it become normal similar is sleeping position I do not know what to do?Can you someone guide me?my email [email protected]
I thought it was an ok article, but the video was good. Thanks!
We have been so blinded by crap teaching and teachers that the only solution to everything musculo-skeletal is to stretch and strengthen. How much time do the fastest and fittest non-humans spend doing either? Not a lot, yet we persist. Doesn’t that make anyone think? Clearly not.
i need a yogi who can work from my MRI…
Why is it that most articles on yoga in the west and on the internet, have pictures of women doing the yoga poses!!!??? How about showing some men doing Yoga,,,there are some of us out there you know! And there are alot of men out there (still hung up a little on the macho self image thing) who need this kind of stuff, but they aren’t participating because they feel that yoga is a women thing! C’mon,,,your being unfair to men!
That’s really interesting, I will focus on this muscle more now, thanks
Such great information. Movement is life.