I do a wonderful stretch every morning where I lie on a big round ball and stretch out my muscles in my abdomen. It is the best feeling in the world to me! It got me thinking about why this stretch would feel so good and what tightness might be going on in there.
There are several muscles in the abdominal area and one that is of the most interesting is the Psoas Muscle. This muscle literally runs from around the lower end of our back to the femur (leg muscle) and when it gets tight or constricts, it will cause tightness within the abdominal area.
The psoas muscle allows us to bend your hips and lift your legs up to your chest – like walking up stairs. It also stabilizes your trunk and spine when you are sitting. If it is tight, it will force the lower back to arch. This muscle will also get tight when you are sitting for long periods of time. Interestingly, I find this muscle to be tight with women with endometriosis as it is a natural response to tighten muscles in the abdominal area when we experience pain or any kind of stress. The psoas has a direct influence on your fight or flight response.
According to Dr. Langevin (Neurosurgeon), “the psoas bridges the belly’s enteric brain, central and autonomic nervous system. The large never ganglion located within the belly core is going to the digestive and reproductive organs passes over, embeds into, and through the psoas.”
In other words, whatever is going on within your digestive system, your reproductive system is going to be passed through this muscle. Its tightness is a direct reflection of pain and inflammation that is going on within your body. Interestingly, that tightness can also be a direct contributor to pain with having endometriosis.
What makes the psoas too tight?
- Sitting for long periods without stretching in the opposite direction
- Poor posture with your lower back arching
- Excessive running, cycling or walking
- Sleeping in the fetal position
- Doing a heap of sit-ups
Basically, think of anything that constricts your abdomen and it is likely that your psoas is involved.
Indicators that your psoas is tight:
- Lower back pain
- Your pelvis tends to rotate forward
- Your digestion is slow or you frequently have constipation
- Menstrual cramping and pain
- Feeling exhausted
- Chest breathing
According to Liz Koch author of The Psoas Book, “The psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, that a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.”
What can we do about it?
- Flex the opposite way after long periods of sitting or doing exercises that “close in” the abdominal area – hence lying on a big round ball ;). Do a backbend or try a quad stretch.
- Do specific stretches that stretch out the psoas muscle. These include poses like the warrior pose and cat/cow.
I would highly recommend our free Yoga Challenge to get into gentle postures that free up the psoas muscle but also alleviate much of the anxiety and stress, which could be contributing to the tightness in the first place. Register here.
There are many factors which contribute to pain with endometriosis and everything does overlap and correlate. I have found this connection is incredible and something I think we largely overlook.
Are you going to try stretching with me and see if your pain reduces?