I’ve known the basics of the psoas muscle for a while, but I have to admit, I’ve only given significant personal thought to it fairly recently.
For folks who are new to this whole psoas business, the psoas is basically the deepest core muscle. It originates in the lowest thoracic vertebra and each vertebrae in the lumbar spine. Then it crosses to the front of the body across the pelvis, where it attaches to the femur. In stick figure visual terms, like this:
The main function of the psoas muscles — there’s one on each side — is to flex the hips. They also play a role in externally rotating the femur in the hip socket and in laterally bending the spine.
Why does the psoas matter? A lot of our daily motions — sitting, walking, running — involve hip flexion and therefore the contraction of the psoas muscles. Fine and good, except in cases where the psoas becomes too tight, which is not so uncommon. This can lead to a shortening of the muscle, anterior pelvic tilt, and low back compression — any or all of which could create or exacerbate pelvic or low back pain.
Pelvic or low back pain.
Wait. I might know someone like that.
In the grand scheme of all psoas muscles ever, I don’t think mine are extraordinarily tight, based on my experiences with some postures I will detail in future posts. I don’t think my psoas is the primary cause of my low back and pelvic pain. However, based on that same asana awareness, I do think there’s some tightness there, and I couldn’t guarantee that said tightness isn’t compounding pain from another source.
For balance, of course, I’ll also be on the lookout for psoas strengthening exercises, but this step of the core series will primarily focus on awareness, exploration, and stretching.