The PSOAS Muscle and NLP

 Is your body trying to tell you something? Are you holding tension and stress whilst blocking confidence and energy?

In recent years, interest in the psoas muscle has grown, both for those who seek greater physical flexibility and core strength and those researching the mind-body connection.  Whatever the provenance of your curiosity in this muscle, an insight into its functions may prove valuable to all.

Where is it and what does it do?

 In simple terms, the psoas muscles connect the legs and spine. Paired psoas muscles attach to the lowest thoracic vertebrae, extend down each of the lumbar vertebrae, down through the pelvis and attach to the upper inside of the thigh bone. They are associated with three major joints, the joint between the lumbar and sacral vertebrae (lower back), the sacroiliac (SI) joint and the hip socket. When properly aligned, the psoas muscles act to support and move us as we walk and run. When sitting, the psoas muscles help to stabilise the trunk.

How do the psoas muscles become shortened and tensed?

Having a job that requires you to sit for long periods, especially in non-ergonomic chairs  

Driving for a prolonged time 

Having rounded or hunched shoulders tends to collapse the chest towards the abdomen

Sleeping on your side, curling up into a ball or foetal position

Having an argument, mentally fending off criticism, the embarrassed cringe response: all cause a tightening of the gut, collapsing of the chest and a contraction in flexor muscles

Any flight or fight response

What consequences ensue from shortened, tensed psoas muscles?

Because of its pivotal role in many biological functions, the psoas muscles can be a main contributor to mental and physical pain, discomfort and even tissue degeneration. Physically, if the psoas is too tight, then there are implications for strain on the lumbar spine, pelvis and sacroiliac (SI) joint. If there is tension in one side of the psoas muscles, then there may be shortening of a leg, leading to compensations higher up the spine and neck. There are also the organs of the abdomen to consider; collapsing of the chest and shortening of the trunk leaves less space for the organs in the abdominal cavity, leading to abdominal pain and digestive problems. If the psoas muscles are tight, the chest drops, the lumbar spine extends and breathing becomes less than efficient: short and shallow. In terms of mental wellbeing, dysfunctional breathing can exacerbate a stress response, whereas deeper, more correct breathing can avert it. 

There are other reasons that tense psoas muscles produce mental stress. Taking into consideration that the abdomen is somewhat restricted, gut functioning may be adversely affected. The gut has a second, surprising role; it is well known not only for digestion, but also as the ‘body’s second brain’ or seat of the enteric nervous system. This nervous system, distinct from the central nervous system (CNS) of the brain and spinal cord, has long been known to monitor and control digestion. In recent years, however, its role has been linked to physical and mental wellbeing. The enteric nervous system (ENS) is so vast, it can operate independently of the brain. An extensive network of over 500 million neurones link the brain and ENS and demonstrate an intricate communication system between the two. Expressions such as ‘gut reaction’ or ‘gut instincts’ are no longer metaphorical, but have real meaning in neurological terms. Emotions such as fear, anxiety and excitement, signaled by the brain, can all be felt in the gut. Moreover, nerve signals from the ENS may affect the brain and therefore affect our mood. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin (a ‘feel-good’ molecule) and ghrelin (a hormone which increases hunger, but also decreases anxiety) are also produced in the ENS. It is apparent, therefore, that the smooth functioning of the gut is paramount in avoiding digestive issues and depression and anxiety too.

Could the unconscious mind be tensing the psoas muscles to highlight a problem for you?

It’s well known that the mind-body connection is under the governance of the unconscious (subconscious) mind. This part of the mind has several prime directives, one of which is the running and preservation of the body. In addition, the unconscious mind serves you mentally and physically to be the best you can be at all times. Should you encounter a particularly stressful time, a negative emotional experience, the unconscious mind surges into action to help you to overcome your issues. If we don’t know the form this communication takes, then the messages from the unconscious mind are unheard. Additionally, if we hear the message, but ignore it, pretending everything is fine, we also create a conflict between our unconscious and conscious minds.

Conflict causes the unconscious mind to redouble its efforts and shout its message, i.e., to create pain or disease. For example, long-term pain (6-8 weeks or more) often results from negative emotions that were not resolved. These negative emotions were not dealt with as they arose, so the unconscious mind tries to make its message ‘louder’. It craves resolution of the negativity. Although we may have put these emotions ‘to the back of our mind’, they remain; they are stored and await our attention. If left, the conflict within us, the raw emotions of a shocking experience, may lead to more significant illness. Sometimes, the resulting illness can manifest years after the conflict and stress. The duration and intensity of the illness may be linked to the duration and intensity of the original conflict, but unless we can interpret the communications of the unconscious, we may never realise fully the root cause of the illness.

In light of this theory of dis-ease, muscular tension in the psoas may occur as a result of unresolved negative issues, leading to the mental and physical pain and discomfort discussed above. Dealing with the emotions is the key to complete recovery. Dealing with the physical, chronic contraction of the psoas alone may only be treating the symptoms, not the cause of the pain or illness. The pain may return if the emotions are not addressed. However, alleviation of physical discomfort is a step in the right direction to releasing the pent up (wasted) energy of holding onto unhelpful emotion.

Relieve the (physical) symptoms - How to release the psoas very easily and effectively in a few minutes each day

The unconscious mind regulates transmission of energy around the body without having to consult the conscious mind. Breathing and targeting of energy distribution are linked and used in some NLP (neurolinguistic programming) practices to redeploy and unblock energy. Here are two breathing exercises to release the psoas muscles (if you have any respiratory problems, check with your doctor; if you feel light-headed, stop, you may be doing too much too soon):

1. Your pelvis is like a bowl

Imagine that your pelvis has been replaced by a bowl. Visualise the bowl, the colour, the patterns or decorations on it and the inside of the bowl. Put your hands on your hips and ‘feel’ the bowl.

The bowl has an unusual base, it can allow to be drawn in, or pushed out.

Slow down your breathing to 3 or 4 counts for an inhalation and 3 or 4 counts for an exhalation.

Now, with each inhalation, imagine that you are drawing water up from beneath the bowl, such that the water flows up towards the rim. See it in your mind’s eye filling, hear the swishing of the water.

For the exhalation, see the water in the bowl pushed out through the base. See the water escaping, hear it gushing out.

Keep the length of the filling and expulsion of water the same

When you can do this easily, see if you can change the water; create a swirling vortex around the bowl as you fill it, see the crystal clear, fresh water swimming around the bowl and hear it rush as it fills. Now exhale and really visualise the water taking away any dirt or dust from the inside of the bowl, washing down the sides as it leaves. Hear the water gurgle.

Then try on an exhalation to empty every last drop of water, before allowing fresh, clean water to enter

2. Take your shoes off!

Lie down on your back. Press your belly button to the floor to support your lower back (you can tilt your pelvis a little, with the base of the pelvis tilting upwards). Place a shoe, trainer or slipper on your chest and breathe, watching the shoe rise and fall. Now, let’s try to breathe into the pelvis:

As you breathe in, visualise the air entering your pelvis. As you exhale, imagine you are pushing the air lower, into the pelvis. Breathe out such that you shoe does not move on your chest. Push the air downwards, using more of your lung volume.

Now place the shoe on your abdomen. Breath deeply into your pelvis. You should observe that the shoe rises and falls (but the chest does not).

Some people feel newly invigorated after daily practice, this is the effect of having freed the energy held in contracted muscles.

Relieve the (emotional) cause - How to discover the root cause of psoas chronic contraction and release unwanted, unhelpful emotions

Use Create Your Future® methods to address past root causes and on-going present causes of pain and discomfort. Master Practitioners of NLP are trained in removing old, past negative emotions, as well as removing the pain of current ones. Create Your Future® (also known as Time Line Therapy™) is a gentle, yet profound set of visualisation techniques that provide a holistic approach to reducing and eliminating symptoms.* Interestingly, these interventions takes hours, not months or years to complete. If you’ve experienced prolonged pain, or a pain that doctors suggest should have abated by now, or a pain that remains a mystery, you may be interested in investigating these techniques to create a better mind-body connection and release mental and physical discomfort. For more information about Create Your Future® / Time Line Therapy™, see

*Please note that clients should have seen their doctor about the physical symptoms of disease; NLP practitioners do not ‘heal’ and alternative therapies are not an alternative to consulting a medical doctor.

Tracey Cole PhD, MABNLP, MABH, MTLTA is a Master Practitioner and Master Coach of NLP, Time Line Therapy™ and Hypnosis. She works with clients from all walks of life to relieve stress, phobias and negative emotions. In addition, she works with the mind-body connection to help clients to manage their weight and health issues and to perform to their optimum in sporting contexts.

Prev: Sleep Makes Memories More Accessible, Researchers Find
Next: Top Signs That You’ve Grown and Matured

Stay informed! FREE subscription to the NaturalTherapyForAll’s email newsletter

Your email privacy 100% protected. Unsubscribe at any time.

Social Connection
Popular Posts
Disclaimer is not responsible for the content of the published articles written by members and visitors. The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Always seek the advice from qualified healthcare professionals with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition.