The Key to Releasing Stress and Paving the Way to Better Poses? Caring for Your Psoas

Yoga Journal|July - August 2020

The Key to Releasing Stress and Paving the Way to Better Poses? Caring for Your Psoas
If you sit a lot, your hip flexors, including your psoas major, may be tight. You may feel a profound release after working with High Lunge or a variation of Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose, in which you rest your calves on a chair seat.
ANN SWANSON

When you feel fearful, what sensations do you perceive in your body? Maybe you notice a lump in your throat, a shiver down your spine, or tensing in your jaw. But there’s another common response that you might not (consciously) notice: a tightening in the area of your hip flexors. That’s your psoas major muscle—a sensitive tissue buried deep in your core. Your psoas helps you do things like hug your knees toward your torso, walk uphill and climb stairs. In yoga, the psoas is important for stable, balanced alignment, proper joint rotation, and a full range of motion. And when you feel threatened, it activates, preparing you to spring into action.

THE PSOAS UNDER STRESS

The psoas plays a vital role in your stress response. When you experience a threat—perceived or real—your body has three main choices: fight, flight, or freeze. In the fight response, the psoas initiates dynamic defensive movements like kicking or punching; in flight, it reflexively activates to help you run. Freezing may cause it to immediately contract so your body can assume a protective fetal position.

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July - August 2020