Sitting shortens the psoas and as Biomechanics expert Katy Bowman says, “when the psoas ain’t happy, the pelvic floor, the hips, and the spine aren’t happy either”1 it is important to help the psoas be happy.
Learn more about the psoas (pronounced “so-az”) in The Vital Psoas Muscle by Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones. The psoas, the only muscle that connects the upper and lower body, are a lumbar spine and hip stabilizer and connector to the lower extremity. She writes that the psoas can “balance the core, stimulate organs and nerves, contract, release, stabilize, neutralize or deteriorate like any other muscle, and create movement and flow to be transmitted throughout the body.”2
A psoas that won’t release can affect baby position in utero. It can prevent the hips from extending and the glutes from building. It can compress the disks in the spinal column. It can keep the hamstrings and the calf muscles short.
Katy Bowman, Alignment Matters
How to have happy Psoas
Straighten the leg before you step down on the ground and have a long stride behind you. According to Katy Bowman, lifting the leg, instead of swinging it forward, uses the psoas, not the muscle to be used every step.3
Sitting shortens the psoas and we sit a lot. Opt for a standing workstation. If you must sit, choose a chair with a flat seat to support the sit bones and stabilize the pelvis, minimizing tension on the psoas and sit with your hips higher than your knees, front of your sit bones, feet on the floor, and loose jaw.4
Proper squats are good for building strength for the pelvis, core, and hips and protecting the psoas.
The psoas, part of the deep core and synergistic with numerous muscles, have many attachments so what to stretch? Chances are the psoas are shortened if you spend a lot of time sitting. Some easy-to-do stretches to try include the half bridge, lunge, spinal stretch, spinal twist, the windmill, and the Cobra. The Pigeon Pose really releases the psoas and it feels oh-so-good. Read how these specific yoga asanas are great for the psoas and give you freedom. Pilates exercises such as The Hundred can also strengthen the psoas.
Stress and trauma are held in the muscles, even for years in the deep muscles such as the psoas. Bodywork, relaxation exercises, meditation, and trauma release are important to incorporate in your routine. Build body awareness by regularly scanning yourself for areas of tension and stress. Savasana or the Corpse Pose is a great asana to surrender and let go physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Yoga postures connect the body to the mind.
Breathing connects the mind and body to the unconscious.
Meditation connects the present to the universe.
The psoas major connects the upper body to the lower body, linking breath to movement, feelings, energy, and healing.
Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones, The Vital Psoas Muscle
1 Alignment Matters. Katy Bowman. Propriometrics Press. 2013. p 159.
2 The Vital Psoas Muscle. Jo Ann Stauggard-Jones. Lotus Publishing. 2012. p18
3 Alignment Matters, p267
4 Sitting At Your Computer by Liz Koch.