The Psoas Muscle
The psoas is the only muscle that connects the spine to the femur bones (hipbones). It originates in the 12th thoracic vertebra and the discs between the vertebrae. It creates flexion of the spine, drawing it toward the pelvis. More deeply, the psoas has origins at the transverse processes of the spine. From this origin point, the psoas creates an extension, because the pull comes from behind the vertebrae’s center of rotation. The two muscles work antagonistically to increase compression of the vertebra, stabilizing the spine. Lastly, the psoas allows us to lift our legs toward our pelvis or bend forward at the waist, bringing our pelvis toward the legs.
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle at the base of the rib cage and is the essential muscle for breathing. There are plenty of other muscles involved at different times for different reasons, but the main muscle we use for respiration is the diaphragm.
How Are the Psoas and Diaphragm Connected?
There are connections between the psoas muscle and the diaphragm muscle that connect the acts of walking and breathing. The psoas is attached to the diaphragm through a fascia that encases the body in both safe and sorry ways, and the medial arcuate ligament that wraps around the top of the psoas. The psoas major is the main muscle for walking, while the diaphragm is the main muscle for breathing.
When walking, it is the work of the two psoas muscles, psoas major and psoas minor, moving in opposition that initiates the movement of bringing the back leg forward, and stimulates a natural and healthy rotation in the pelvis and throughout the spine. When we inhale, the diaphragm is meant to descend, allowing air to be drawn into the expanding lungs.
With each inhalation, the diaphragm and pelvic floor should lower down and, with each exhale, they should rise up, moving the contents of the trunk with them. This up-and-down movement of the diaphragm is the opposite of the rhythmic movement of the psoas muscles. Thus, every breath and every step we take can tone and massage the entire contents of the trunk.
Moreover, both the diaphragm and the psoas react to fear and to stress with each constriction. During “fight or flight” mode, breath is short and sharp, and so becomes the psoas muscle. Beyond the diaphragmatic connection, the psoas also links us to the brainstem and spinal cord with its origins in the spine. This gives us a clear vision of how the psoas is such an emotional powerhouse, with links to both breathing and the deepest layers of the brain.
Anatomically and physiologically speaking, there is a fairly specific design to the movement patterns of the body. The relationship between these two titans of walking and breathing cannot be understated. Health in one can and will impact health in the other.
However, having a tight psoas may cause the diaphragm to tighten, compressing the lungs. A tight psoas muscle can create a thrusting forward of the ribcage. This causes shallow, chest breathing, which limits the amount of oxygen taken in and encourages overuse of your neck muscles. By means of releasing the psoas, you will also release the diaphragm.
This is how the Unlock Your Hip Flexors program addresses any tightness and breathing issues. By unlocking your tight psoas muscle, you are not only taking care of your lungs through relaxed breathing but also correcting a host of other issues, like low back pain, sacroiliac joint pain, sciatica, anterior pelvic tilt and muscle imbalances.