By Liz Koch @2003
Every culture and spiritual tradition has a name for the physical core: Hara, Tan Tien, Muladhara, Lower Chakra, Enteric Brain, Gut Feeling …but no matter what it’s called the terrain spanning between solar plexus and upper thigh is acknowledged as the center of individual integrity, sexual power, and wisdom. One major muscle traverses this primal terrain. Both functional and instinctual, the psoas muscle stands guardian protecting inner personal integrity while serving as the gateway to instinctual wisdom. Beginning at the twelfth thoracic vertebrae and crossing over the ball and socket joints, the psoas is a messenger of the midline signaling disruption in the nervous, skeletal, organ and muscle systems. The only muscle to come directly from the core spine to the legs, it synchronizes free swing of the leg for walking.
The psoas also serves as a vertical muscular bridge between upper and lower body. By creating a diagonal shelf through the core, the psoas provides supports for all the abdominal organs, viscera and nerve ganglia. When in harmony with diaphragmatic breathing, the dynamic psoas stimulates overall blood flow increasing synovial fluid through the spinal cord to the brain.
Instinctively, the psoas plays a major part in the fear reflex survival system. Its quick second action ignites every fiber of your being in preparation for flight or fight. Feeling threatened it is your psoas muscle that propels you to flee, grounds you in preparation to fight or curls you into a protective ball. Keeping your psoas muscle released and supple, relieves a myriad of physical and emotional stress symptoms; low back, pelvic and hip tension; anxiety and stress. Learning to sense and explore your own psoas not only brings you in to direct contact with your deepest fears but paradoxically opens the gateway to the instinctive wisdom that dwells within your belly core.
A safe and comfortable constructive rest position is a great way to begin getting to know your psoas: Simply rest on your back in the position for 10 –20 minutes. Knees are bent and the feet placed parallel to each other, the width apart of the front of the hip sockets. Place your heels approximately 12-16 inches away from your buttocks. Keep your arms below shoulder height letting them rest over your ribcage, by your sides or on your pelvis. Do not push or tuck your lower back or pelvis to the floor. A being rather than doing position, gravity releases your psoas.
As your psoas releases the pelvis will spontaneously extend, the spine will lengthen, and an active sympathetic nervous system will be calmed.
Journeying into your psoas with gentle awareness encourages a deepening connection with this powerful core center. A seeming paradox, it is the gentle art of being aware that opens this powerful center within.
Liz Koch is an international somatic educator, and creator of Core Awareness ™ focusing on awareness for developing human potential. With 30 years experience working with and specializing in the iliopsoas, she is recognized in the somatic, bodywork and fitness professions as an authority on the core muscle. Liz is a nationally and internationally published writer and the author of The Psoas Book, Unraveling Scoliosis CD, Core Awareness; Enhancing Yoga, Pilates, Exercise & Dance, and Psoas & Back Pain CD. Approved by the USA National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB), as a continuing education provider, Liz Koch is a member of the International Movement Educators Association (IMA).