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Connecting to the Psoas

Posted Jan 26 2009 3:54pm

by Lesley Powell

My “lowers” issue is morphing into a psoas issue.
I DEFINITELY feel stronger in my lowers, my pelvic floor especially.
But I have a “numb” zone where I should be firing my psoas.
Right between the top of my pubic bone - in the “bikini” zone of
my lowers, I just can’t feel it. Occasionally, I have a moment of
“got it”then it’s gone. BUT, I can then pick it up from my
belly button to my ribcage.

I do wonder if it has something to do with the trauma of pregnancy and childbirth (another colleauge who has 2 children feels the same as I do in this area). No matter “why”, now I want to find it and feel it. I’m thinking a lot of pelvic clock, especially on the arc, to try to focus on it. What would you suggest as a prescription?”  Student

Since the iliopsoas is such a deep muscle within the body, feeling can be quite different from feeling the quality of tone as in the abdominals.  We also get confused with a tight muscle as feeling with a truly functioning muscles.

Stand up, bend your knees and flex your spine. Place your hands on your belly and try to soften the abdominals muscles.  As you soften your belly, sink your hands deeper into your solar plexus.  Try to pick one leg up and you should feel the psoas bulge out.

Study an anatomy book and look at where the iliopsoas connects to the upper spine and then connects to the lesser trochaner.  Since the muscles are so deep within the body, visualization is key to good function. As Irmagard Bartenieff describes “the iliopsoas is the key to pure hip movement. “ With correct initiation, the thighbone differentiates from the pelvis.  The iliopsoas, psoas for short, is one of the deepest muscles of the torso.  It connects the trunk to the leg.  It is responsible for the flexion of the hip.  The psoas major connects to the lumbar spine. It diagonally crosses down in front of the pubic bone and attaches to the lesser trochanter of the femur. The iliacus attaches to the inside of the iliac crest (the hip bone).  It also connects into the lesser trochanter.

Tightness of the psoas can lead to dysfunction and change the alignment of the body.  Lie on your back with one leg straight and the other foot bent.  Observe how your psoas feels on both sides.  Is one side tighter?  Where…upper, middle or lower?  I will do a variation of constructive rest like this.  Sometimes I do 5-10 minutes on each leg.  As my psoas rela pre-thigh lift xes, I feel a totally different space inside of my torso.

Place your hands on the front of the pelvis. Now try to slide one leg down to straight on the floor and then return back to bent knee with the foot resting on the floor.  This is a Bartenieff fundamental, a pre-thigh lift. Here you do activate the psoas but it should not change the torso’s length and stability.

Laban’s theory of mobility/stability is an important concept in engaging correctly the psoas.  If the pelvis changes with unleveling or out of neutral spine, the body will go somewhere else to move the leg instead of the psoas.

Thigh Lift

Thigh Lift

The flexion of the thigh, the femur bone in the hip socket should feel like a folding of a hinge.  This femoral fold should be soft if one is connecting to the illiopsoas.  If there is a contraction around this fold, one could be overusing other muscles such as rectus femoris, some certain fibers of the adductors and even the back muscles.  When the back becomes involved, this gives the appearance of the hips hiking, unleveling and/or rotating.  The awareness of the movements of the pelvis and the thighbone are very important to establish for correct sequencing.

Definitely pregnancy, illness and stress can affect the psoas.  When my digestive problems act up,  I feel my psoas tighten.

Great reading is Eric Franklin.  Eric will also be at Movements Afoot April 5 to teach a workshop on the psoas.

Another great resource is Liz Koch,The Psoas Story.

I also would like to thank my teachers about my understanding of the psoas,  Amy Matthews, BodyMind Centering and CMA, Irene Dowd and Nicola Weiner’s Psoas Workshop.


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