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Mia Barnes4 min

The Psoas Muscle and Emotional Stress: How to Release Tension

The body and mind are connected in more ways than you may think. When you are filled with worry and anxiety, it tends to manifest in different parts of your body. One space where those negative thoughts travel is known as the psoas muscle. The hips on each side of your pelvis are a unique joint. They take on the total weight of your body and support the spine in almost every activity, but they also bear the load of your mental and emotional pains.  When you go through a stressful situation, the body will often respond. Whether the danger makes you fight, flee or freeze up, the psoas muscle must shoulder all the tension. It serves as the core for most of your contractions. Due to that, the tension can build up over time and tighten your psoas muscles. The tautness in your hips can often become an emotional stress source on its own.  Most people only take notice of the discomfort when it is overtly apparent in their movements and reactions. Some may describe it as knots, while others feel a dull ache, depending on how you manage your body while harbouring stress. It’s essential to release this tension regularly to relieve your body and mind and replace rigidity with fluidity.  

1. Mindful Stretching

Intentionally bending and expanding the psoas muscles can do wonders in releasing the tension. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy encompasses meditation, stretching and deep breathing. This mix of actions can prevent relapse into depression and break negative thought patterns. Begin by warming up your hips before moving into lunges. For example, a standing lunge stretch can help open up the lower part of your body. Stand with your feet a step apart, as if you’re flexing to prepare for a race. Bend your hips forward to apply pressure on one side of your lower half. Work out the tension before shifting to the other side. Incorporate some mindfulness exercises along the way, too. The whole reason behind your pelvic muscle tightness comes from emotional stress, so coping with your response is essential. As you stretch, contemplate why you reacted the way you did. Consider what specific point made you tense up in the first place. Take a deep breath and stretch it out.  

2. Massage

A massage is another low-impact way of tackling the tension in your psoas muscles. Having an expert work their hands on you can help prep you for mobility in other exercises that will work out your core. Depending on the type of massage you request, they can also target the emotional stress for you. For instance, a Thai massage can be great for beginners. Compressions on the muscles are considerably gentler while saving deeper strokes for critical pressure points. Some joint stretching can specifically target the psoas muscle, alleviating any tautness built up over time. A deep-tissue massage can also work more in-depth on emotional stress. The deep pressure throughout the session can remove the tightness throughout your whole body. You can request your masseuse to pay extra focus on the hips and glutes to address your pain points.  

3. Yoga

Yoga is a known practice that can help release tension and move the whole body. There are various poses, so you must understand the crucial stances to target your psoas muscles. 

Pigeon Pose

The pigeon pose is one of the top yoga poses for opening your hips. Start by kneeling on the ground. Bring out one of your legs and stretch it behind you while folding the other before you, shifting your weight for an even distribution. This slow movement levels your hips and releases the tightness within. 

Sleeping Swan Pose

The sleeping swan pose is a variation of the pigeon pose. Follow the same steps and keep each body part parallel. Once you are ready and stable, bring your hands up and bend your whole body forward. Get your arms flat across the floor to open your hips and spine, freeing the repressed emotion in this area.

Bound Angle Pose

The bound angle pose is quite simple but effective for the hips. Sit on the floor and rest your feet against one another, toe to toe and palm to palm. Place your hands on your feet to keep them together as you move your calves and thighs down. The legs should be flat on the floor to place the proper pressure on your psoas muscles.

Cow Face Pose

While the cow face pose can be a little more intermediate, it will leave your hips feeling relieved. Start by sitting down and bending your legs on top of one another in a criss-cross manner. Keep a straight back and channel balance. From there, lift one arm behind you as you stretch the other to meet. Both fingers should touch behind your shoulder blade to complete the position.  

4. Pilates

Try Pilates if you prefer less stationary movement as you work on the psoas muscle. Pilates can help improve your flexibility and endurance. Although some may see it as another version of yoga, this practice differs. Pilates prioritises physical conditioning, which can be more effective in clearing pain and strengthening. Most Pilates routines will target the whole body, but focus on side lying series to hone in on the hips. Lie down on your side and stretch out your body. You can raise your legs and aim for a 90-degree angle from there. Do this motion several times before flipping to the other side.  

5. Cycling

For a continuous way to work on your psoas muscle, adopt cycling. It works out your lower body in quite a simple manner, which can keep your hips flexible. This activity can also reduce cortisol levels and increase endorphins. Work simultaneously on your physical and emotional wellbeing.  

Push the Stress Out of the Psoas

Clearing the stress from your psoas muscle can feel physically and mentally euphoric. Keep up these activities to empty tension before it builds up. Opening your hips with different exercises opens yourself to a life free of burdensome negativity.

Mia Barnes

Mia is a professional health and wellness writer and the Founder of Body+Mind Magazine. Mia enjoys sharing articles on the transformative power of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. Mia’s goal is to provide actionable advice to help her readers achieve more balance in their daily lives. You can learn more about Mia and Body+Mind on and Instagram.