Psoas, Breath and Grounding

Most people starting off with anatomy get a little overwhelmed because they think they’re supposed to memorize the names, actions and attachments of every muscle. In my opinion this is what reference books are for. Sure, it’s important to know the names of the muscles we’re working with when doing yoga or when touching a client. However, it’s important to not lose perspective of the big picture.

Anatomy becomes applicable and even more fascinating when you begin to look into the relationships between the different parts of the body; relationships put things into perspective bestowing a deeper appreciation for the how the body works. Most of all, relationships give meaning and context to your somatic explorations which in return helps you to better remember the names of the structures you’re studying.

So don’t get frustrated if you cannot remember by heart all those names! Keep going back to your reference books and explore them again and again. Diversify your sources, so as to get a more comprehensive understanding, and don’t try to cram too much into your head all at once. Take your time! Let the information settle and integrate. The study of the human body is endless and you have all the time in the world.

The Psoas

This week in the anatomy study group we looked at a coveted muscle: the psoas. this muscle is fascinatingly complex because it has a lot of interesting relationships to it’s surrounding muscles, organs and bones. But first let’s give a general description.

The Psoas is a deep muscle of the trunk that connects the anterior portion of the spine to the upper leg. It is located behind the abdominal caviy and is divided into left and right psoas muscles which run vertically along the anterior-lateral edges of the spine from T12 all the way down to the lesser trochanter of the femur.

The psoas stabilizes the lumbar spine, flexes the hip and externally rotates the femur. Because it connects the legs to the spine it also responsible for our sense of grounding our connection into our feet and determines how we feel in our hips and lower back when we stand and walk.

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Psoas, Breath and Grounding

Another interesting detail about the psoas is that it is intimately related to the diaphragm. Its superior fibers interdigitate with the inferior portion of the posterior diaphragm called the crura. Their proximity implies a link between breath and grounding.

You may have felt this in your own body: when you are under stress your breath becomes shallow and irregular, you may even stop breathing from time to time. This is because the diaphragm becomes constricted and ceases to expand relaxedly in all directions as you breathe. The tension in the diaphragm extends to the neighboring  psoas muscle which contracts flexing the hip and disconnecting you from your feet, the earth and your sense of security.

Because of their proximity and inter-relatedness, exercises aimed at one muscle will also have beneficial effects on the other. For example: relaxing the breath will not only have a positive impact on the diaphragm, but will also release tension stored in the psoas. This, in turn, will enhance a sense of grounding and ease throughout the whole body. By the same rule, when you release the psoas, relax the groin and integrate the legs into the trunk, the diaphragm returns to a natural relaxed breathing pattern.

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Interesting Reads 

If you want to know more about the psoas I highly recommend The Psoas Book by Liz Koch. It’s a gem! it is short and sweet with great information and easy to follow exercises.

Another interesting read about the psoas is this interview by fellow Rolfer, Brooke Thomas, with Jonathan Fitzgordon. Enjoy!

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Next week’s post will conclude the anatomy highlights mini-series which will resume again in October.

If you have questions, comments, ideas or suggestions for future posts comment on Facebook or send me an email, I’d love to hear from you!

This article was written by
Julia Zatta

Julia is a yoga anatomy teacher and bodyworker based in Barcelona, Spain.

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