Psoas: ‘The’ Core Muscle

This mighty muscle, lying at the very core of your physical body, has a profound influence upon our well-being.

The psoas is the most important muscle in the body for 3 reasons:

  1. It brought us up to stand. The lumbar curve was created when we came to stand upright by the psoas.
  2. The walking muscle.  It is the muscle responsible for propelling you forward.  There are a lot of muscles helping it, but essentially walking is falling, and falling is all about your psoas. A healthy psoas provides a suspension bridge between trunk and legs. The psoas responds to every movement of the spine. Ideally the psoas guides rather than bears the transfer of weight from the one (trunk) into the two (legs).
  3. It’s a muscle of trauma.  This is the muscle in your body wherein you’re storing your emotions. When feeling threatened it is your psoas muscle that propels you into fleeing or fighting or curls you into a protective ball.

Everything from the chairs we sit in to the shoes we wear can curtail the natural movement of the psoas. Having a constricted psoas might be traced back to your first shoe. Wearing a shoe that shapes the foot, stops bones from rolling, limits ankle mobility, drops the heel behind or shifts the weight onto the toes can and does affect skeletal balance. It can stifle the vitality of your psoas.

Premature standing and walking (before the bones are fully formed and weight bearing) teaches a child to rely on their psoas muscle for structural support. Playpens and walkers encourage early standing and limits crawling, which is so important for kinaesthetic maturation. Plastic baby holders restrain and limit natural movement, rhythm and the protective give and take of a mother’s supple body.

The Effects/Symptoms of a Shortened Psoas

  • Pain with prolonged standing, or standing while leaning forward (doing dishes), pain on rising to stand after sitting, especially when you are leaning forward (computer use or bleacher sitting), and lying flat on your back with the legs flat
  • Constricted organs
  • Impinged nerves
  • Impaired diaphragmatic breathing
  • Putting pressure on the uterus, a tense or short psoas can cause cramping
  • Pushing the oesophagus forwards, a tight upper psoas can cause digestive problems
  • A short psoas can interfere with the diaphragm fully descending through the abdominal core

Psoas as ‘The’ Core Muscle


See the Psoas as a support.  It is the length and vitality of the psoas that helps to maintain volume in the core. Providing a diagonal muscular shelf, the psoas moves through the core supporting the abdominal organs. A major ganglion of nerves is located on top, around and imbedded through the psoas. Together with the diaphragm, the action of the psoas works like a hydraulic pump to massage the organs and viscera while stimulating the flow of fluids throughout the body.

The keystone of skeletal alignment, it is the balanced pelvis that provides a base of support for the spine, ribcage, neck and head. It is the aligned pelvis that transfers weight down through the hip sockets, legs, knees and feet. If the bones do not support and transfer weight properly, it is the psoas muscle that is called upon to provide structural support, making it tight & weak.

In addition to the psoas being tight, it is also typically weak at the same time. This creates dysfunction in the muscle. Our brain has trouble controlling the muscle because it has been in a shortened position for so long, thinking the psoas always needs to be flexed.

True core strength then, depends upon core integrity. Unlike other muscles, the Psoas does not need strengthening, but rather nourishing. The ‘weak’ Psoas muscle is really a dry, exhausted, Psoas; abused, over-used and too often misused.

Test your Psoas

  • constructive-rest-positionConstructive Rest is an easy position for releasing tension in your psoas muscle. After work and before your evening meal take 10 – 20 minutes to rest in constructive rest and feel the benefits.  Begin by resting on your back. Knees bent and feet placed parallel to each other, the width apart of the front of your hip sockets. Place your heels approximately 12-16 inches away from your buttocks. Keep the trunk and head parallel with the floor. If not parallel place a folded, flat towel under your head. DO NOT push your lower back to the floor or tuck your pelvis under in an attempt to flatten the spine. For best results keep the arms below the shoulder height letting them rest over the ribcage, to the sides of your body or on your belly. There is nothing to do; constructive rest is a BEING position. In this simple position gravity releases the psoas and you’ll feel more at peace with your self and the world.
  • Psoas Strength Test  hip-flexor-strength-test-226x300
    (Modified Sahrmann’s Test (3))
    Here is a general way to determine if your psoas is weak:

    1. Standing, grab and pull your knee to your chest as high as you can without leaning backward. You will need to get your thigh well past 90° (in relation to your supporting leg).
    2. Once your knee is close to your chest, release your hands and attempt to keep your leg above 90 degrees for 15 seconds.
    3. Start timing when you release your hands and stop when your thigh drops below 90° (make sure to use a clock on the wall).

    If you fail before 15 seconds then you have a weak psoas muscle. Any major body shifts, leans, cramping, or loss of control in the allotted time also results in a failed test.  Failure far before 15 seconds shows further weakness. For best accuracy have a fitness professional conduct your test.

For more on Psoas muscle & its conditioning, check out:

Thus working with the Psoas challenges the standard precept of core strength. To really achieve core strength you must first regain a supple, responsive and fluid core so that rich bio-intelligent messages from the central nervous system can foster healthy neuromuscular and skeletal relationships.


Exercising in Ankylosing Spondylitis

Treatment for ankylosing spondylitis is what many often enquire about. People ask for treatment that completely cures ankylosing spondylitis disorder. Well, there is no known curative treatment for ankylosing spondylitis. However, there are different techniques & methods that reduce the effects or intensity of ankylosing spondylitis considerably.
Understanding ankylosing spondylitis, is very important so that you can opt for the best suited treatment for it. Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory arthritis that mainly affects spinal cord & sacroiliac joints, causing fusion of the spine- Bamboo Spine. It is of type autoimmune spondyloarthropathy. There may be involvement of other organs such as kidneys, lungs, eyes and heart. Hence, when your diagnosis is ankylosing spondylitis, you should immediately seek the treatment.

Treatment for ankylosing spondylitis includes various options such as medications, exercise & physiotherapy.
Goal of Treatment: Relieve pain, manage symptoms & prevent further progress of the disease.
  • Various types of movements of back & neck
  • Deep breathing for expansion of lungs
  • Stretching exercises for joint mobility
  • Guidelines- Maintaining erect posture is also very important to reduce spinal scoilotic curvature. Slipping on firm surface & avoid use of pillow while sleeping
  • Yoga can provide a relief from pain, stiffness, improve breathing & improve the range of mobility.
  • Yoga also helps to reduce stress and maintain the energy of patients
  • Asanas: (positions in Yoga) such as Vajra Asana, Dhanura Asana, Makara Asana, Bhujanga Asana, Ardha Matsyendrasana & Neti kriya help to remove rigidity, improve flexibility of joints & also correct bad posture. Pranayama is helpful for muscle relaxation as well as to improve the movements of ribs & changes in pressure within abdomen & chest
  • Before practicing Yoga session, a person should perform stretching to prevent sprains, muscle strains or further injuries
  • Build flexibility, increase strength, endurance, & coordination in legs, abdominals, arms & back.
  • Help with maintaining the  natural curves of the body
  • Create a neutral position for each joint that is close to the optimal alignment of the head, shoulders, thorax, spine & pelvis which ensures that all sections of the body are in their ideal place
However, high-impact exercises such as jogging & sports are jarring to your frame and are generally not recommended. Instead, engage in Tai chi, Swimming because it involves all muscles & joints in a low-impact, buoyant environment. Cycling can also help restore lost movement.
Option of surgery is also viable, in case of severe ankylosing spondylitis condition. Joint replacement surgery, especially of hip and knees is opted for reducing further development of ankylosing spondylitis.
Exercise, even in small five to 10 minute doses, can improve posture & mobility. According to the Spondylitis Association of America, most people say that their condition improves after exercise. However, first consult a rheumatologist or physical therapist before you begin, because movements that may be beneficial under normal conditions may actually harm those with AS.
Time Frame
Convenience and consistency are the most important parts of your routine. If you feel stiff in the morning, then you may try to loosen up early & then exercise in the midday or evening. If necessary, you can split your exercises throughout the day. For example, you can first do exercises while lying down, and then later in the day you can work on neck stretches or deep breathing.
Much relief can be gained in ankylosing spondylitis by following an exercise regime consistently.
DISCLAIMER: Please consult your medical professional before beginning exercises.

Flat Abs without Crunches

Dream of having a surfboard stomach!

 If you have been doing crunches forever & are wondering why you still don’t have flat abs, you have been working under ‘The Myth that doesn’t Die’: You can do exercise for a certain body part & get rid of the fat there.
The Truth: Flat abs are difficult to get.

The abdominal muscles are made up a single muscle unit attached at the ribs to the pelvis. There are a couple of different layers, making up the rectus abdominis (six pack), transverse abdominis (core), & external /internal obliques. These muscles work together with the back muscles to hold the trunk in an upright position. These muscles are a clear indicator of posture.

So how do you get flat abs without doing crunches?

Leave all processed foods
Getting a flat stomach has a lot to do with fat accumulation over the abs. Most people will accumulate fat on the stomach, butt, and hips as a result of a poor or unbalanced diet. Stomach fat is some of the toughest to burn off. Since spot fat reduction is not possible, crunches won’t effect the flab sitting over the muscle. No specific exercise can reduce fat from the stomach region. It is 80% the effect of diet that people accumulate fat or burn fat off the body.
Since diet plays such a huge role in body fat, cutting out all processed foods will have an equally effective role in burning it off. Processed foods account for prepared restaurant foodsfat foodjunk foodprocessed meats, processed dairy products, and anything else altered from its original state. Processed foods are high in sodium, possess far less nutrition and usually have preservatives.

Try eating foods that are prepared freshly at home. Shop for whole products at the grocery store or market, eat whole fruits and vegetables & nuts. These foods all come in their natural state and have not been processed or prepared before-hand.
Cut Down your Cardio

Contrary to popular belief, cardio is not the most effective way to get abs. Cardiovascular workouts do help to burn a moderate amount of calories, but it is not the best way to burn up stomach fat. This is not to say that cardio won’t help, but unless you are preparing for some kind of athletic event, cardiovascular exercise only requires a maximum of 30 minutes 3 times per week.

“Use It or Lose It”

Men and women alike who want a flat stomach should start lifting heavy weights to challenge the muscles to work as hard as possible. Using any combination of exercises which target all major muscle groups, the body will start burning fat. 

Lifting heavy weights leads to more weight loss than cardio does-after cleaning up your diet by cutting out processed foods, the body will start to drop weight accordingly. When weight is being lost, muscle mass will also be lost instead of fat, if the muscles don’t have a reason to stay. By working the muscles, the body is forced to search for other sources of energy, working its way to fat.

Work on Core and Stability Movements
Rather than sit ups and crunches, use stability and whole core exercises. These are exercises which target the core muscles & use them in a way similar to their normal function. A crunch is hardly a natural movement, and isolates the rectus abdominis muscle, whereas a core exercise can work the entire back & deep abdominal muscles. The plank, safest & most effective, helps to reinforce the stabilizing muscles, and can be used to combat back pain safely.

When doing specific ab exercises, train them with tension–increase the intensity, not the amount of time you train them.  Start off with exercises like:

Abdominal Holds
Start the above with 20 counts, & increase by 5 counts each try.

Progress to…
Reverse Wood Chop
Single-Arm Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Row
Tip Place your free hand behind your back, palm facing up. Don’t rotate or lift your torso as you row the weight.
Single-Arm Lunge
Many of the “gimmicks” you see on TV use professional fitness models to promote their product.  Most of the time, they have never used the product before & got in great shape with other methods – they might have even had liposuction done just before shooting the commercial, to look even better.
Besides getting a flatter stomach, you will probably have better posture and prevent neck & back injury at the same time.
Get Moving!
P.S. Don’t Like exercising that much? Try Bellydancing!
Disclaimer: Consult your doctor before trying any of the above exercises.