Somewhere along my healing journey I ran into a woman who offered this advice to her clients: free your hips, and your mind will follow. This statement stuck with me as what she said felt true. However, I didn’t fully grasp the concept until I did some research which led me to better understand the nature of the mysterious psoas (so-as) muscle. The psoas is the core muscle of the body, maintaining fluid motion while walking. It is a bilateral muscle that primarily flexes the hip and the spinal column. At about 16 inches long, it is one of the largest and thickest muscles of the body (in animals it’s known as the tenderloin).
“The Psoas is the tenderloin (filet mignon) of the human body. Juicy, supple, and dynamic, the Psoas is the primal messenger of the central nervous system. Your Psoas is much more than simply a muscle, it can be perceived as the guardian or spokesperson of Dan Tien, Hara, or what is commonly referred to as your gut intuition. In some spiritual philosophies, the Psoas is referred to as the muscle of the soul.” – Liz Koch
The psoas flexes the trunk towards the legs (as in squatting), supports the abdominal organs and acts as a pump driving fluids such as lymph and blood in and out of body cells. It’s also related to breathing as its origins are interwoven with the muscle fibres of the diaphragm. Therefore, tension in the psoas can affect everything from how we walk to how we breathe.
The psoas muscle in directly linked to the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain controls life functions such as the autonomic brain, breathing, heart rate and the fight or flight mechanism. It is also responsible for emotions of love, hate, fear, lust, and contentment. When a human is faced with some form of danger in it’s external environment, the reptilian brain activates giving rise to what we call fight of flight; heart rate and breathing increases, muscles tighten, and eyes dilate to pull in as much information as possible in order to assess whether to run away from the situation, or put up a fight.
In some cases we can’t run or fight so the energy builds up and get’s stuck that way. When the energy get’s stuck, that’s what is known as trauma. So when my friend says free your hips and your mind will follow, could she be talking about freeing the psoas muscle from everything it’s holding on to? And by doing this, also freeing the reptilian brain from receiving the fight or flight signals, allowing it to restore normal function.
“The psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, that a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.” – unknown
How Does The Psoas Affect The Body And Mind?
Shortening of the psoas leads to a host of unfortunate conditions. Inevitably, other muscle groups become involved in compensating for the loss of structural integrity and pelvic instability. Pelvic instability shows itself as pelvic tilts, forward flexion, twists, dips or torques. Symptoms associated with instability include:
- mid and low back pain
- hip socket tension
- leg length discrepancies
- knee and ankle problems
- TMJ and jaw pain
- difficulty in breathing
- groin pain
- shoulder pain
- difficulty in standing and walking
- excessive muscle tension throughout the body
Even headaches and dizziness may be traced to pelvic instability. A chronically constricted psoas (locked in preparation for the flight/fight or freeze response) restricts movement and pulls on the pelvic bones compromising not only pelvic integrity but organ and sexual functioning, and can even cause someone to lose touch with their inner world.
On the other hand a supple, dynamic psoas reduces stress, enhances digestion and eliminates fatigue. A healthily functioning psoas provides a sensitive suspension bridge between the trunk and the legs. Ideally, the psoas guides the transfer of weight from the trunk into the legs and also acts as a grounding wire guiding the flow of subtle energies. In walking, a healthy psoas moves freely and joins with a released diaphragm to continuously massage the spine as well as the organs, blood vessels, and nerves of the trunk. Working as a hydraulic pump, a freely moving psoas stimulates the flow of fluids throughout the body. And a released, flowing psoas, combined with a stable, weight-bearing pelvis, contributes to the sensations of feeling grounded and centred.
The Psoas And Spirituality
According to Level 3 Reiki Healer Lisa Babiuk, There are energy nadis or meridians that run through muscle tissue. The psoas is like a super highway that transmits energy from our day to day experiences to and from our energy meridians. We have seven main energy centres that run along the spine called chakras. As you can see in the diagram, the psoas connected at the inner thigh bone corresponds with the location of the root chakra which is the red circle. It goes up and then is attached at the spine at the solar plexus chakra which is the yellow circle. The sacral chakra (orange) is in the middle. It has been said that when we experience trauma, our energy moves upward in the body. This makes sense if we take into consideration that a constricted psaos caused by trauma affects the lower three chakras, forcing the energy upward until we have released the trauma below.
These three lower chakras keep us grounded to enjoy our physical human experience. In short they navigate us to feel secure, form healthy boundaries, find our will power, express our creativity and manifest our very best self. The psoas connects our physical, emotional and spiritual well being. When the psoas is tight it restricts the movement of energy throughout the chakras and nadis which takes us out of balance and well being. Because of the well known connection between spiritual science and the psoas muscle, in some spiritual philosophies, the Psoas is seen as the residing place of our gut intuition, also referred to as the muscle of the soul, seat of the soul, and/or Guardian of the Soul.