Graceful Warrior: Psoas Your Are, Psoas You Shall Be

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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?

The psoas contracts or shortens when we sit, so typically most people have very tight psoas, but also a weak psoas. Here are a couple of yoga postures to help release and stretch your psoas:


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!

About Gina Shelton

We live in a dualistic world, or really a multi-istic one. As a woman, you are expected to be smart, caring, creative, and dedicated at your job, with your significant other and your family, plus you are supposed to make time for yourself in order to stay healthy and sane. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you start thinking of all the aspects of your life that you are constantly juggling.

For me, this is where yoga comes in. In the West, we mostly view yoga as a physical practice and that is definitely how I got into it. But what I’ve realized in my 10+ years of practicing yoga, is that it has become more than just something I do to stay in shape, it has changed the way I view myself and the world and consequently how I interact with others.

Over the years, yoga has helped me meal my crumbling marriage, my low back and hip pain deemed chronic by my insurance company, and is now supporting me through my next ventures: trying to start a business and a family.

My love of yoga (I knew it was for me in my very first class), led me to begin training to teach after a year. I took my time learning all I could and finally became a YOGA ALLIANCE registered teacher in 2005. Since then, I have become a certified yoga therapist through Loyola Marymount University’s Yoga Therapy program and will soon have my Yoga Alliance 500-hour teacher certification.

This blog will cover topics related to yoga poses and breath awareness that will help you to find the graceful warrior hidden inside you: Strength to manage the everyday stresses in your life as you gracefully create new habits and patterns that allow you to find comfort, health and hope in all areas of your life.

Gina Shelton is a Yoga Alliance registered teacher and Loyola Marymount University certified yoga therapist. She lives in Venice, CA with her husband and weimeraner puppy Fleur. You can read more about creating a healthy lifestyle on her blog

  • Patty Devon

    Took me time to read the whole article, the article is great and the comments bring more brainstorm ideas, thanks.