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  • Writer's pictureKarla Johanna Schaeffer

Psoas - The Muscle of the Soul

I'm sure you've been told or you have heard before that depression, anxiety and panic are all in your head.

That it's a mental problem. This is not the case!

The 'problem' is also in your body.

There is a certain muscle in our bodies that affects our anxiety. It's the so-called muscle of the soul. And if we exercise it, we can strengthen our courage. More accurately, it's a question of releasing it.

Whether we are running, biking, dancing, doing yoga or just relaxing on the couch, our psoas muscle plays a crucial role. This is because the psoas muscle is the main connection between our upper body and our legs. You can't see the psoas muscle. You can't judge how strong or weak or stretched it is on a visual level.

Nevertheless, the body (structure) and posture shows in what condition the inner muscle layers are.

Our psoas muscle is the deepest muscle in our body - it's our core.

It starts at the midsection of your spine and runs forward from there into the abdomen and pelvis, ending at the femur.

In fact, it's the only muscle that connects your spine to your legs.

The psoas muscle is important not only for structural or physical well-being, but also for your psychological well-being, in part because it is connected to your breathing.

The psoas muscle is connected through fascia to the diaphragm, into which we breathe.

This connection allows you to breathe and the muscle affects how you react to fear and excitement.

Also because the psoas is directly coupled to the reptilian brain through the spine, the oldest part of the brain stem and the spinal cord.

The reptilian brain coordinates and triggers our instincts. Primal instincts like fear. We cannot influence these with our logical mind or our will.

The psoas contracts in case of 'danger', when we are frightened or under stress. It is activated so to speak, when we feel insecure and unsafe - when stress hormones are released it contracts. It is particularly reactive to fear and anger.

The fact that our physical sensations also influence our psyche is nothing new.

The author Liz Koch describes in her book "The Psoas Book" that more and more experts believe that the process of fear works in two directions.

One is that when your brain signals danger and stress hormones are released in response, the psoas muscles contract and the fear reflex is triggered.

There is also a second process that can cause fear to develop. We can tense the psoas muscle in everyday life, by sitting at a desk for long periods of time, or by wearing pants that are too tight, by wearing high heels or by not moving around enough. All scenarious can cause the muscle to harden and shorten.

A tense psoas muscle in return sends 'tension' signals to our brain, and the fear reflex is triggered in response to this. Since the psoas is tense, but there is actually no danger.

A tense psoas triggers the fear reflex either because danger is suggested to it by the brain or because we allow the psoas to tense, by sitting for long periods of time.

When a chronically tense psoas continuously signals danger signals to the body, it eventually exhausts the adrenal glands and immune system, and we become weak and ill.

The Taoists, the Taoist tradition refer to the psoas as the muscle of the soul because of its connection to our deepest essence and core identity.

The psoas is therefore called the seat or muscle of the soul because it surrounds the lower "dan tien", the main energy center of the body.

This abdominal area around the belly button is considered the physical center of gravity of the human body and is the seat of one's internal energy. It is also believed in yoga philosophy to be the seat of prana, which radiates from there throughout the body.

It's fascinating that there are so many different concepts, Taoism, yoga philosophy and also our western science, all of which consider the abdominal area or the psoas - the area around the navel to be incredibly important to our psyche and our bodily health.

It's important to loosen and relax this muscle of the soul.

When the psoas relaxes our emotional blocks also begin to melt away.

Trauma research in particular is interested in this muscle, most notably Peter Levine and Bessel van der Kolk, because the psoas seems to store trauma.

But we can also heal traumatic experiences via the psoas muscle: If a traumatic experience occurs, the psoas muscle involuntarily contracts like a snail being touched.

The tension that is not let out and acted out is stored by the psoas muscles. Stress, tension and trauma is collected in this muscle and sits there for us to carry for years.

You can loosen the "soul muscle" with yoga exercises, with breathing exercises but especially with TRE® (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises) and smoothen it in order to release anxiety, traumatic experiences and physical tension.

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