Unlocking the ‘Muscle of the Soul’
Do you spend much time sitting in front of a computer, on a plane, or in a car? If so your hips may be locked up, causing you undue stress and fear. The Psoas Muscle is known as the “muscle of the soul”. It is a long muscle located on the side of the lumbar region of the vertebral column and brim of the pelvis, and is one of the largest muscles in the human body. It is where we often store stress or trauma. This has a profound influence on our mood and our outlook on life. We recently explored in depth that fear can inhibit our ability to think clearly and also cause health problems. Now let’s look at where that fear might be stored in our body so that we can release it.
In humans, the extremes of the two polarities might appropriately be described as LOVE (+) and FEAR (- ). Love fuels growth. In contrast, fear stunts growth. – Bruce Lipton, Ph.D.
Where is a Majority of the Stress Stored?
The psoas muscle stretches from our lower trunk through our hips into the top of our thighs and is used for core stability. Every time we see something that startles us like an animal crossing the road while we drive or a violent scene in a movie, our brain sends signals for our body to release epinephrine (adrenaline). Our core muscles will engage for fight or flight. When we don’t respond, these stress hormones become stuck in the psoas or other parts of the body. This can create many health problems including insomnia, lowered immune system, anxiety, eating disorders, depression, and living in a constant state of fear or alert.
Because the psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system. As you learn to approach the world without this chronic tension, psoas awareness can open the door to a more sensitive attunement to your body’s inner signals about safety and danger, and to a greater sense of inner peace. – Liz Koch, Author of The Psoas Book
How Built up Stress Makes us Vulnerable
Empowering one’s self means we must effectively manage the stress that accumulates in our body. Constantly being in a state of fear makes it easy for others to manipulate and take advantage of us. For instance, advertisers have learned to capitalize on this biological aspect of fight/flight also known as the lizard brain. We have fast-paced lifestyles (mentally), combined with our relatively stagnant physical activity (driving, working at computer, etc.). This causes our bodies to be ineffective at releasing built-up stress which manifests as fear or anxiety. Luckily we have the tools to regulate this with a few minutes of stretching each day!
Lizard brain refers to the oldest part of the brain, the brain stem, responsible for primitive survival instincts such as aggression and fear (flight or fight) – Joseph Troncale M.D., Psychology Today
Since stress accumulates on an unconscious level, healing our bodies is a process that must happen consciously. This requires gradual lifestyle changes and a daily practice. Craniosacral Therapy is powerful because it helps teach our body how to relax into a parasympathetic state which restores the nervous system. This gentle and non-invasive approach helps us bring awareness to and melt away the stress stored within us. Yoga and daily exercise are also effective. Any conscious effort to destress will be beneficial.
To work with the psoas is not to try to control the muscle, but to cultivate the awareness necessary for sensing its messages. This involves making a conscious choice to become somatically aware. – Liz Koch, Author of The Psoas Book
Yoga and Personal Practice
The best doctor is already within you. Cultivate a practice that heals, replenishes, and relaxes you from within. There are numerous yoga poses that can help you on your journey of releasing this stress, anxiety, and fear stored within your psoas. Yoga International has a comprehensive list of photos and descriptions of poses to start you on your journey. If you spend as much time stretching your psoas muscle every day as you just did reading this article then you will notice some big changes in your life. This is how to loosen your mind from the grips of fear and anxiety. It all starts with a conscious practice in our body to release stored stress and trauma.