Danielle Olson, yoga therapist and film-maker, says that the psoas (“so-as”) major muscle is the ‘muscle of the soul’, and it’s the deepest core muscle that we have as humans. This muscle is largely important for core-stabilization and it affects many different bodily functions, including mobility, structural balance, joint function, flexibility and more.
Not only does it keep our bodies upright and mobile, but it is largely responsible for allowing one to live in the present moment, particularly when we stretch it out and release the buildup of tension within our bodies.
Evidence from research has shown that the psoas muscle is pertinent to one’s psychological well-being and overall structural health. Author of The Psoas Book, Liz Koch, tells us that this muscle “literally embodies our deepest urge for survival, and more profoundly, our elemental desire to flourish.” Which basically means that she believes it affects us in greater ways than we might be able to understand currently.
Where can you find your ‘muscle of the soul’? Well, it travels from the legs to the spine and is the only muscle that connects the legs to the spinal column. Starting at the T12 vertebrae, it flows down the five lumbar vertebrae and connects to the top of the thigh bone.
Chronic stress to the psoas muscle is caused by many aspects of a modern lifestyle: sitting in car seats, wearing restrictive clothing, using shoes and chairs that tweak our posture all affect the psoas. This stress often leads to a variety of different problems, such as back, hip, or knee pain, and even digestive and breathing problems.
Because of its association with breathing, and how it is connected to the diaphragm, fear and anxiety are common symptoms that manifest as a result of a stressed psoas muscle. The psoas carries incredible influence on the body and mind, affecting everything from how you feel to how you view the world to how you treat others.
The best way to measure the state of your psoas muscle, as well as release the tension in the muscle, is to practice yoga. Tree posture (Vrksasana) is particular good for stretching this muscle. If you feel pain in your knees or lower back during your yoga practice, it’s very likely that your psoas muscle is constricted somewhat and could use some attention.