Ever watch an intense scene in a movie and feel your gut tensing up and wrenching due to the stress? This happens to me in most action and horror flicks. That feeling is most likely your psoas muscle contracting. The psoas is the harborer of fear and is what propels you in the fight or flight stress response syndrome. The psoas is a cool muscle as far as muscles go… It starts on the outer edge of the last thoracic vertebrae (the vertebrae of your 12th floating rib); it also attaches to each of the five lumbar vertebrae in your low back. Then it winds down in front of your pelvis and attaches to the inside of your femur or thigh bone. It is responsible for flexion of the hip, meaning every step you take (lifting your knee to move it forward), every time you bend over to pick something up, and even when you sit down in a chair. If doing any of those things hurts your low back, guess what? You have a weak psoas and abs.
The average person’s psoas is 16 inches long. However, now that I’ve explained where it is in your body, think about how the average American spends most of their time – sitting at a computer, in front of a TV, etc. Do you think most people psoas would be tight (shorter) or longer?
Lying on the floor, knees bent with feet wider than your hips and inner knees touching. Let your whole body sink into the floor as you breathe. Hint: the exhale is where it’s at – allow your feet, hips, shoulder blades, and head to melt with each exhale.
From the release position above, keep your feet wide and drop both knees to one side. The stretch you feel just inside the hip bone is your psoas. Stay on one side for a breath or two, then exhale back to center (feel your belly work as you bring your knees back up). Switch sides. After a couple of times on each side, you can extend the arm opposite of the side your knees are on (knees left, right arm) and lengthen from your fingers to your knee and get and even deeper stretch.
Again, the psoas is linked in with fear and anxiety, so as you focus on your psoas, notice if it takes a while to release and if you experience any other emotions as your stretch it. You never know what you’ve been holding onto since childhood that might just get released!