Talking about the PSOAS muscle
Updated: Jan 10
By Amanda Evans FFHT, MMM student & teacher
Why have we not really heard much about the PSOAS in the past?
Its not like it has only just appeared in the body! The PSOAS muscle seems to be very in vogue of late… lots of press and articles in the last couple of years talk about the essential role it plays in strength and stability not only in body but also the mind.
In case you didn’t know…The PSOAS and the IIACUS are part of the ILIOPSOAS group of muscles, there is also a third, the PSOAS MINOR, but this muscle is only present in 40-70% of humans and if present at all, makes a very small contribution to the stabilisation of the pelvis and hip joint.
The PSOAS MAJOR originates at the 12th THORACIC vertebrae and attaches to all 5 of
the LUMBAR VERTEBRAE. The ILIACUS lines the inside of the pelvic bowl like an open fan, both muscles pass directly over the hip socket and join in a common tendon at the LESSER TROCHANTER of the FEMUR, the inside of the upper thigh bone. Together they influence the mobility of the hip socket and also the range of movement in the legs and feet. The lumbar vertebrae have an anterior curve and hold up the trunk transferring the weight of the head and shoulder to the pelvis and legs; this curve is created as the PSOAS moves across the rim of the pelvis as we learn to walk and stand. It is a BI-ARTICULATE muscle that works two joints for mobility. It acts as a shelf in the basin of the pelvis providing support for the internal core organs. In fact, a supple and healthy PSOAS in motion massages the internal abdominal and reproductive organs with every walking step.
‘The muscle is also located at the body’s centre of gravity, so its role becomes that of regulating balance, and affecting nerve and subtle energies as well.’ 1
The PSOAS MAJOR needs to be supple yet strong, not only to support the upper body but to bring stability to the pelvis.
Imagine the torso of the body is the carriage and the legs are horses… the psoas major acts like the reigns from carriage to horse (connecting upper body to lower body). Hold the reigns too tight, and the horses will be held back in their movement, hold them too slack and there shall be too little control and instability in motion; but, when holding one side tighter than the other, the horses do not work in harmony together and your ride will be all over the road.
‘If the psoas on one side is unbalanced with the other side, imagine what this might do to the gait or stride of walk. If both psoas muscles (left & right side) are healthy and can move freely, there is a steady flow to the movement and the energies that happen within the body systems.’2
MMM: PSOAS Friendly
In Margaret’s work, all of the exercises that work the spine, pelvis and abdominals engage the PSOAS and just as importantly rest it too. MMM is about contraction and release after all. We must mention the GREEK POSITIONS which not only provide a twist for suppleness but with the half knee bend also adding strength and stability. SPINAL MOBILITY gives the opportunity for the PSOAS to be moved in all directions, thus, bringing attention and stability to that area as well as freeing the spine. STANDING/SITTING STRETCHING, QUADRICEP STRETCHING, you name it, MMM does it.
Even in the WALKING EXERCISES, it is crucial that the PSOAS is strong, supple and balanced as it will provide a free leg swing, if short and tight it will hinder the vital pendulum motion during walking which will interrupt the smooth flow of each step.
Imbalances and tightness in the PSOAS can cause back, hip and leg pain and postural problems. Posture is always key in MMM, and by coordinating the right breathing to each movement gives leverage to the efficacy of each exercise.
Imagine a fine healthy psoas muscle and how positively that will affect your posture and walk, this can only make you feel more stable and confident in body and mind yes? Margaret’s work gives us the outlet to experience that inner strength in the self, by putting the way we want to be into practice creatively in class, bringing confidence and self-awareness. She understood the body and how its movement affects the mind and the whole being in totality as one big picture. She truly was holistic in her view.
Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones’ book, The Vital Psoas (Lotus Publishing), gives a complete Holistic view of the PSOAS and how its strength and flexibility contribute to every aspect of our well-being; exploring the body, the mind and its subtle energies too.
‘Imagine being kind to a muscle’ 3 rather than ‘working it to exhaustion.’3 Bringing relaxation and release to your muscles has a positive effect on the mind. This brings into play the Parasympathetic Nervous System which stimulates the ‘rest and digest’ mechanisms of the body.
Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones writes:
‘(The)Somatic Nervous System: carries information from the nerves to the central nervous system (CNS), and from the CNS to the muscles and sensory fibres; it is associated with voluntary muscle control.’ 4
‘The deep location of the psoas affects the central and peripheral nervous systems. Having a fundamental role in behavioural patterns, the memory of traumatic stress can be held in the psoas major as an organ of perception. Its involvement can cause tightness, unresponsiveness and pain. Its release can begin a healing process.’ 5
The PSOAS muscle starts to develop at around the age of 6-12 months. Just as we are growing and learning about the world it’s frustrations & joys, also too the PSOAS, a harbour of all early experience. By connecting with the PSOAS and consciously focusing on its release, who knows what other tensions in our life might be released too.
The origins of our movements are a fascinating subject, dance can give the opportunity for not only strength, flexibility and beauty in movement but also for healing.
All images and quotes in italic supplied courtesy of Lotus Publishing, sourced from: The Vital Psoas Muscle, Staugaard- Jones, 2012, ISBN 9781905367245.’