The One Muscle That Does Not Need Strengthening

Published by Liz Koch on August 15, 2005 in Articles

Located behind those flab or fab abs is a little known but oh so powerful muscle called your PSOAS (pronounced so-as). The only muscle to connect your spine to your leg, the psoas influences everything from low back pain and anxiety, to full body orgasms and pure pleasure. It is a supple, juicy dynamic muscle.

So why don’t people know about the psoas and why do so few physicians ever mention it?

Subtle to sense, the psoas is not easy to locate and because it is so deep within the human core, it can not easily be palpated (nor is it a good idea to have your psoas manipulated!).

A part of the flee/fight/freeze response, invasive techniques can exacerbate psoas problems. A primal messenger of the central nervous system the psoas is an emotional muscle expressing what is felt deep within the belly core – what is commonly referred to as “gut feelings”.

A tense psoas can disturb digestion, reproductive functioning and create a host of other aliments. Released and vital it fosters feelings of pleasure and comfortable.

Constructive rest is an easy position for releasing tension in your psoas muscle. After work and before your evening meal take 10 – 20 minutes to rest in constructive rest and feel the benefits.

A safe and comfortable position, constructive rest helps to relieve back, pelvic and leg fatigue and tension. Begin by resting on your back. Knees bent and feet placed parallel to each other, the width apart of the front of your hip sockets. Place your heels approximately 12-16 inches away from your buttocks. Keep the trunk and head parallel with the floor. If not parallel place a folded, flat towel under your head. DO NOT push your lower back to the floor or tuck your pelvis under in an attempt to flatten the spine. For best results keep the arms below the shoulder height letting them rest over the ribcage, to the sides of your body or on your belly. There is nothing to do; constructive rest is a BEING position.

In this simple position gravity releases the psoas and you’ll feel more at peace with your self and the world.

Lydia Schultz
Posted on April 18th, 2007 | Permalink

Ok! I have accepted that I have a psoas problem. It leads to my SI joint going out also, I believe. I have been doing yoga, rolfing, walking, I have a sacro wedgy and sit on a golf ball. I will do ANYTHING. The pain is so intense sometimes that I am at the end of my rope and often wonder sometimes how I can live like this.

I need to know if there is an end to this problem! I need to know if there is some way that I will be permanently relieved. I was told a couple times that because of a TOTAL hysterectomy that SCAR TISSUE could be a problem. Is this a possibility?

My pain? Lower back always. Glut on the right side. Top of the thigh. GROIN! omg! Groin is an issue particularly in yoga. Lateral movement of the thigh is a no no! Big time. Shooting pains go into the knee and sometimes actually even in the thigh. All of this is on the right side. Sleeping is sometimes interrupted.

PLEASE tell me what I can do, where I can go, and that it will be resolved. Yes.

Lydia Schultz

Susie Pollitt
Posted on July 3rd, 2007 | Permalink

I am a trained body worker (though I have not worked since giving birth, and cannot work ‘cos of lower back problems) and yet I am almost ashamed to admit that I did not know this. Yet I thought the training I had received was excellent!I did do this posture on a regular basis for 20 mins at a time – no wonder it helped to keep me functioning at the time! Thanks

doug farley
Posted on January 3rd, 2008 | Permalink

i have been working on my psoas muscle for 1 year i was interruppted last may when i had a near fatal dissection to my aorta (tripleA) i am again working on my stretches. the surgern told me that my aorta is damaged in my right lower limb. i have always had pain there of which i thought as of 1 year ago it was my psoas….is there a connection. it seems like doctors are not paying much attention to psoas. thanks in advance
doug

The Velvet Workout « Vermont Pilates
Posted on March 2nd, 2010 | Permalink

[...] might wonder how I relaxed that very deep muscle in the core. I did it by doing the Constructive Rest Position. Doing the CRP allows the psoas a bit of a break from it’s over working day. I equate an exhausted [...]

Liz Koch
Posted on March 28th, 2010 | Permalink

A relaxed supple psoas is a great starting place…..

richard kepski
Posted on February 3rd, 2011 | Permalink

Hello, I am a pesonal trainer/athletic trainer/yoga instructor. I have been working with clients & teaching yoga for the past 21 years. I have had many people with this similar problem & I can’t agree with you more. I strained my psoas muscle squating heavy weights and my back has never been the same. I have always treated this problem as a “locked up” muscle that needs to be released and then strengthened. Sometimes this has worked, but I have found exactly what you write about in your articles, that the psoas does
identify with your emotions and it becomes fatigued very easily with stress and bad postures. I believe that you have identified a HUGE contributer to low back/mid-back pain & disfunction. I agree that we do not need to strenghten the psoas individually, but enhance its flexiblity and function dynamically.Sitting kills the psoas & doctors are misinformed about its purpose.

Thank you for being so insightful as to this chronic problem. If anyone has any doubts concerning your approach, I can tell them personally that strengthening the psoas with traditional methods will only make the situation worse.Be patient and let your psoas heal !!!

Esalen Massage by Lavandu
Posted on February 21st, 2011 | Permalink

I look forward to the Psoas Workshop in Santa Monica weekend of March 5-6! See you all there. Pat

Jeff Rudd
Posted on May 3rd, 2011 | Permalink

Hello Liz, I believe my psoas is the root of much of issue. I have been practicing your constructive rest and notice when doing it I will yawn several times even in the first few minutes. What does this tell you? Thanks

Liz Koch
Posted on July 24th, 2011 | Permalink

Hi Jeff,
The diaphragm and breath will shift and change as your Psoas releases. Yawning is often a sign of re-organization.

Teaching yoga to veterinarians | Downward Dog DVM
Posted on December 24th, 2011 | Permalink

[...] about yoga is still new to me.  After a few hems and haws, I suggested that she try a pose called constructive rest for 15-20 minutes to help loosen up her iliopsoas [...]

Linda
Posted on January 4th, 2012 | Permalink

I have done yoga, pilates, been rolfed, had chiropratic, physical therapy, myofacial releases and massages and was seriously considering looking into a hip replacement when I came across your articles via another website. I have been in severe pain, limp, have R foot turnout and basically cut back my hours as a labor and delivery nurse. I was told by pilates teacher it was my psoas 3 years ago but problems has only worsened. I look forward to reading you book, watching the DVD and articles on your website. I feel much hope and for that I thank you!

SI Joint Pain and Yoga « Yoga with Nadine
Posted on April 22nd, 2012 | Permalink

[...] Mostly? They make it worse. Especially the kind where each leg is doing a different thing. I will write a post about the things I do for happy SIJ’s, soon, but for now, if you have SIJ pain, try practicing the constructive rest position: [...]

Kier
Posted on August 1st, 2012 | Permalink

I see there hasn’t been a comment for a while but I’m just really intrigued by the emotional link with the psoas.

When I suffer from back pain I will usually get into bed in the constructive rest position simply because that is most comfortable. But for the first few minutes it is agony and I can feel my spine ’shifting’. I also get extremely angry.

I have 2 questions:

1) is anger a normal response to this if the psoas is indeed linked to our emotions?

2) Will lying in the CRP position every day and striving for good posture be enough to permanently release my psoas? And can I do it as I get into bed?

Thanks

Les Schoenberger
Posted on August 7th, 2012 | Permalink

I came across this article last night and can’t say THANK YOU enough-I did the CRP last night and FINALLY felt some relief. I have back/hip issues that were addressed by a PT and feel at least 85% better but the Psoas is always very tight and sore and would pull on my hip and leg adductor muscles and I would feel groin pain and despite me mentioning the Psoas to the PT and my chiropractor they weren’t up on what to do for it except a few basic stretches, but they didn’t help much. This is gentler and seems to counteract some of the effects of the PT exercises that I have to do; THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

Liz Koch
Posted on September 21st, 2012 | Permalink

Integrity is what the messenger of the midline – the psoas speaks. Whether we feel compromised due to physical compensations or over extension the core lets us know! So yes anger is differently an expression related to changing the situation. anger is an energy that moves us to do something to improve our lives. it is a force like the green grass that pushes through cement. As for CRP in bed – it is not the best place to work in CRP. Try a padded floor. Gravity does the releasing of superfluous tension and a bed tends to be too soft. No its not enough – you will need to hydrate the core by re-establishing a juicy, dynamic psoas and increasing proprioception through awareness.

Liz Koch
Posted on September 21st, 2012 | Permalink

The psoas is not the problem it is the messenger….I hope to meet you at a workshop. It is a vital place to begin if you plan on hip replacement be sure to listen to interview I did under Podcasts with John Critis as it will help to prepare for the very best outcome ~ movement without pain!

Crunchy-Chewy Mama » Blog Archive » Morning with a high-maintenance mama
Posted on March 30th, 2013 | Permalink

[...] tightness and lack of movement in my cecum and sigmoid colon, my physical therapist also points to tightness in my psoas as part of the [...]

Brian
Posted on June 5th, 2013 | Permalink

Hi. So you are totally focused on the psoas as the muscle that is the cause of so many ailments. I agree. As I stretch lying in bed, up to an hour, I can feel my pelvis aligning with my legs and lower back. As one who had very bad posture all or most of his life, I can feel an tightness in my trapezius and latisimuss dorsi, even my neck muscles. Actually more like an ongoing war to see which will give in first, any of these muscles contracting from the stretched limit, the curve or the straightening of the small of my back, the psoas contracting from its lengthened position, or my mind, just giving up. Ha .. It sure wont be the latter. I’ve come so far, stretching and lengthening, using the Alexander technique to ever, ever give up. Thanks for another facet of information I can use against this beast, the ongoing battle of gaining good posture, and all of the refined living associated with it.

Eileen Kozak
Posted on July 6th, 2013 | Permalink

It seems to me that in CRP, the psoas is flexed, almost as it is in sitting. I can see that having the back resting on the floor, might relax the attachments at the lumbar vertebrae. Can you explain? Thanks so much.

Rick Widdifield
Posted on July 15th, 2013 | Permalink

Hey. Was wondering what you think of Thomas Hanna’s Somatics as a way to release the psoas? A signature Somatics move begins in CRP, then you arch the low back away from the floor, then you press the low back down into the floor, and then you release completely and do deep listening. The idea behind this is to tighten chronically tight muscles even tighter, then completely release them and pay close attention to how it feels so that your central nervous system is retrained to know when these muscles are really relaxed. Thanks for all the great information!

lulu
Posted on July 17th, 2013 | Permalink

Hi Liz! I was wondering if you could possibly clarify something for me please? I have been reading a lot of Katy Bowman’s work who I know you are familiar with. When I get into CRT position should I be putting myself in a neutral pelvis as she describes it Asis/psis lined up even if that means 50% of my spine is not on the floor? Should I just lie there like that and let things go or what I’m a bit #confused what to do with my pelvis! Thanks

Jason Nikzad
Posted on July 31st, 2013 | Permalink

Should I focus on breathing during this position? Do you recommend actively taking deep inhalations and exhalations (diaphragmatic breathing where the abdomen rises and falls)?

Si Joint Pain and Yoga | mm...Yoga! Melbourne Mobile Yoga
Posted on September 27th, 2013 | Permalink

[...] Mostly? They make it worse. Especially the kind where each leg is doing a different thing. I will republish the post about the things I do for happy SIJ’s, soon, but for now, if you have SIJ pain, try practicing the constructive rest position: [...]

Joy
Posted on December 14th, 2013 | Permalink

Well, I both agree and disagree with this post. I have been dealing with psoas issues for over 20 years. I have heard so many times that my psoas is tight, not weak, and needs releasing and stretching, not strengthening. And so, over the years, I have practiced literally hours and hours of Constructive Rest (I studied with Andre Bernard himself), done virtually every psoas stretch ever invented multiple times, tried other release techniques, including those in Liz’s book, had manual therapy of many kinds, including rolfing, and you know what? Still had the same psoas problems. Where I agree is that the psoas definitely responds to emotions (have worked with that, too). Where I don’t agree is that it doesn’t need strengthening. I’ve finally begun doing a very basic seated leg lift for psoas strengthening. And you know what? Finally, finally, after all these years, I begin to feel relief! Everyone is different, and yes, some people may need to strengthen their psoas.



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