Psoas Muscle -The enteric nervous system operates independently of the cranial brain and controls the digestive system, while sending more information to our cranial brain than the other way round. Sometimes called our second brain the enteric nervous system is our main producer of serotonin which is vital to normal functioning of the digestive system. A healthy digestive system plays a major part in our emotional well-being, which in turn is affected by our psoas muscle.
The psoas muscle is connected to the enteric nervous system, as it is also connected to many major internal organs and the central nervous system. It connects the two halves of our body by attaching to the lower thoracic and lumbar spine and onto the leg bone. Apart from playing a major role in the stability of the spine it is the major hip flexor. If you want to crack jump a through then connecting with your psoas will play a big part in your quest.
The psoas muscle is affected by modern day life, through posture and stress. The psoas becomes short and tight from being seated at a desk, or through automatic responses to stressful situations. The primal brain, or lizard brain, is only concerned with our basic survival needs such as food and a mate. Our primal brain will be constantly looking for food or danger, and will react instinctively either preparing us to flee from danger, protect us by curling into a ball, or ready spring into action to secure food, these actions are performed by the psoas muscles.
FLIGHT & FIGHT
The body will release hormones triggered by stress and adrenaline is pumped round the body to prepare it to fight or flee. Only in modern day life when for example this response is triggered by situations that are not life threatening, we still react from instinctive behaviour which causes exhaustion and overloads our adrenal system.
So we begin to see the psoas is far more than a hip flexor, and is sometimes called the seat of the soul. A short and tight psoas muscle will affect our feelings of well-being through its connection with our enteric nervous system, we have all felt the butterfly feeling in our tummy, this is the enteric nervous system communicating with the cranial brain. If the enteric nervous system is feeding the brain feelings of anxiety or fear, and the brain reacts as we discussed earlier we can see the need to address the situation.
The Hatha yoga practice of nauli will work directly on the enteric nervous system. Asanas such as lunges will stretch the psoas and properly executed Navasana and double leg lifts will strengthen the psoas. For a deeper exploration of the psoas and how to connect with it we can also adapt the standing sequence of asanas. In fact, the way we walk will have a major impact on our psoas. If we walk looking down and not to the horizon we are more inclined to use our quadriceps, and under use our psoas, and we can see from what we have discussed already this has a major impact on our posture and well-being.