Psoas Release: An Essential Experience

I bolstered up and lay down to release my psoas muscles.

After a few minutes, the first sensation I noticed was a twitching in my left shoulder. I allowed the fast, uncontrolled movement to pulse through my body, shaking both shoulders, before it slowed and stopped after a few moments.

Then the heat started. The tops of my thighs felt like lead weights in a hot bath. From my hips to my knees it was all heaviness and heat. I tried to tune in, to let the heat stay hot, to let the heaviness sink me into the floor. A touch of anxiety crept in. Something old. Something I couldn't see.

So I worked to stay present.

I covered my body with heavy pillows, from my legs to my chin, knowing the weight might ease the anxiety, might contain my energy, might help me stay in this experience just a little longer.

But then the tension started. I could feel the pull in my hip crease, right in front of the body. It didn't want to budge. And then I felt the pull climbing along my lumbar spine up to the lowest ribs. There was heat, pulling, an angry tiger with its claws in me who didn't want to let go.

I tried to tune in more deeply, to notice what was happening, to allow, to remember, to feel.

And then, like magic, the result of some unconscious drive, I started to float away.

The energy just climbed up my body, in waves of tingling, going up, up, up. I could feel myself smile, enjoying the sensation, like having had a bit too much to drink, like being a little high, a little stoned. Nothing was hot, nothing was heavy, there was no angry tiger. My arms bubbled and everything started to feel so...pleasant.

I was dissociating.

The moment I realized I was cutting off from my body, that I was dis-integrating the connection between my psychic and physical realities, I knew I had a choice to make. I could keep going, allowing myself to float away, to skip the experience, to accept some unconscious belief that I wasn't safe in this moment, in this position, in this heat and heaviness, with this angry tiger. Or I could draw myself back down, stay present to whatever came up, tapping into my deep knowing that I have both the internal and external resources to handle whatever comes up.

So I breathed. I found a focal point, I allowed my breath to become silent, with my lips together, tongue to the roof of my mouth, teeth apart. Keeping my eyes open, I swallowed. I hummed, sending my autonomic nervous system the message that we might consider switching out of flight mode.

I drew myself back to my pelvis, center of my mass, bringing my awareness to the weight on my sacrum, allowing the angry tiger to resurface, awakening myself to the pulling and heat and heaviness.

I could do this.

Bit by bit, my energy wound its way back down, spiraling into my body, reintegrating me into a whole, embodied person. I allowed myself the tension, the heat, the heaviness, the tiger, the mess that it is to be human.

Moments later, it all subsided. Just eased, drifted off into the ether, and I was left peaceful and warm and safe.

My ribs had hit the ground. My psoas muscles had released.


The connection between body and psyche is one I have spent the better part of the last three years exploring.  The physical sensations that surfaced quickly in this release helped me know emotional stuff was coming up, rolling through, bringing me in and out and closer and deeper. This is not uncommon for me in a psoas release.

The psoas are considered "fight or flight" muscles, and I recommend and offer psoas support for all my clients, whether they feel in touch with chronic stress/trauma or not. Quite frankly, most of us, just by the nature of our lifestyles, are operating in some sort of sympathetic state and getting in touch with and releasing the psoas muscles can be a great way to address this problem.

By Anatomography (en:Anatomography (setting page of this image)) [CC-BY-SA-2.1-jp (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Anatomography (en:Anatomography (setting page of this image)) [CC-BY-SA-2.1-jp (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

From a strictly mechanical standpoint, unyielding, tight psoas muscles are getting in the way of all sorts of biological function (think digestion/reproduction) and are also main contributors to pain and tissue degeneration. If you are dealing with back pain, pelvic floor problems, hip and knee issues, allowing your psoas to release is an essential component of moving toward health.

The muscles attach all along your lumbar spine (the top attachment reaches to your lowest thoracic vertabra) and then arc toward the front of your body, coming over the front of your pelvis and attaching at the top inside area of your thigh bone.

(Here is a nice animation.)

If you want a quick evaluation on what's going on in your body, lie flat on the ground. If your lower ribs are sticking up and/or your hamstrings are off the ground, you'll want to make psoas release a part of your daily routine. You may have all sorts of somatic experiences as you do so; you may feel nothing. All is good.

Here is my go-to release:

1. Bolster your shoulders and head so that your hamstrings (back of your thighs) firmly hit the ground. You're looking to have those lower ribs free floating. In most people, if you put your arms out in a T, the pillows or cushions will be visible by a couple inches or so below your arms. Kinda like this:

I put my right fingers behind me so you could see the space below my ribs. They are sticking up because my tight psoas is creating what is called "rib shear," drawing my whole rib cage forward.

2. Do nothing. I like to think of the psoas muscles as two hammocks on either side of my spine, and I am letting them get saggier and saggier. There's no work to be done here, except to let them fall. Only, they might not let go. And that's cool. Your body is smart. The psoas is holding on for good reason. Keep sending the signal that it's okay to let go a little by continuing to do this release and find whatever external supports you need to proceed. I recommend hanging out for at least five minutes. I've worked this well up to an hour at times as well.

3. Consider adding some weight. Sometimes, anchoring the body with heavy blankets or the like can do wonders for creating a sense of safety. I tend to want weight over my heart and over my pelvis, but sometimes something over the ankles or alongside the legs can be very supportive.

4. Check back in. You can see in the right-hand image that my ribs have dropped, closing in the space between them and the ground, my psoas having lengthened out.

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Your whole body-mind health and resilience is wildly intertwined with healthy psoas muscles. This simple practice is revolutionary and can be life-changing. I'd love to hear what the experience is like for you!