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How to Release the Stress stored in our Bodies

By Jacob Devaney on Monday January 18th, 2016

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Taking time to unlock the 'muscle of the soul'

Do you spend much time sitting in front of a computer, on a plane, in a car? If so your hips may be locked up which effects your ability to dance, but worse than that it may be causing you undue stress and fear. The Psoas Muscle, is a long muscle located on the side of the lumbar region of the vertebral column and brim of the pelvis, that is also known as the “muscle of the soul”.

It is one of the largest muscles in the body and it is a place where we often store stress or trauma that can literally influence our mood and our outlook on life. We recently explored in depth just how much fear can inhibit our ability to think clearly thus creating an unhealthy perspective that can harm us and those around us. Now let’s look at where that fear might be stored in our body, and a few ways to release it.

In humans, the extremes of the two polarities might appropriately be described as LOVE (+) and FEAR (- ). Love fuels growth. In contrast, fear stunts growth. – Bruce Lipton, Ph.D.

How to release stress stored in your bodyIf you spend long hours sitting, your hips may be locked up, causing you undue stress and fear

How built up stress makes us easy to manipulate

Being in a state of fear allows us to be easily manipulated. Advertisers and politicians have learned to capitalize on this biological aspect of humans also known as the lizard brain. Unfortunately our fast-paced lifestyles (mentally), combined with our relatively stagnate physical activity (driving, working at computer, etc.) causes our bodies to be ineffective at releasing built up stress which manifests in our thoughts as fear or anxiety.

Lizard brain refers to the oldest part of the brain, the brain stem, responsible for primitive survival instincts such as aggression and fear (flight or fight) – Joseph Troncale M.D., Psychology Today

Alt text hereThe effects of stress on the body

Where is a majority of the stress stored?

It is often stored in one of the largest muscles in our body, the psoas. This muscle stretches from our lower trunk through our hips into the top of our thighs, it is used for core stability and the fight flight reflex. Every time we see something that startles us (real or perceived threat) like an animal crossing the road while we drive, or a violent scene in a movie, our brain sends signals our body to respond by releasing epinephrine (adrenaline).

The muscle that is most central to our fight/flight response is the psoas. When we don’t respond, these stress hormones go unspent and become stored in the body. This can bring many health problems including insomnia, lowered immune system, anxiety, eating disorders, depression, and living in a constant state of fear or alert.

Because the psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system. As you learn to approach the world without this chronic tension, psoas awareness can open the door to a more sensitive attunement to your body’s inner signals about safety and danger, and to a greater sense of inner peace. – Liz Koch, Author of The Psoas Book

Yoga for psoasThere are many yoga poses to stretch the psoas muscle

Therapeutic Approach

Since stress accumulates on an unconscious level, healing our bodies is a process that must happen consciously. There is no single way to do this, it requires gradual lifestyle changes and a daily practice. Craniosacral Therapy is powerful because it helps teach our body how to relax into a parasympathetic state which relaxes the nervous system. This gentle and non-invasive approach helps us bring awareness to and melt away the stress stored within us.

To work with the psoas is not to try to control the muscle, but to cultivate the awareness necessary for sensing its messages.  This involves making a conscious choice to become somatically aware. – Liz Koch, Author of The Psoas Book

Yoga and Personal Practice

The best doctor is already within you. There is no replacement for cultivating a practice that heals, replenishes, and relaxes you from the in-side, out. There are numerous yoga poses that can help you on your journey of releasing this stress, anxiety, and fear stored within your psoas. Yoga calls this “the muscle of the soul” so any focus here is sure to give great results to your overall well-being. Yoga International seems to have a comprehensive list of photos and descriptions of poses that can start you on your journey.

A 5-minute routine to stretch the Psoas

If you spend as much time stretching your psoas muscle every day as you just did reading this article, you will notice some big changes in your life. First you may begin catching a lot of attention on the dance floor, but more importantly you will loosen your mind from the grips of fear and anxiety. It comes down to a conscious choice to live in trust and love instead of fear and anxiety, and that choice has to be followed by real-world action. It all starts within!

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

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Jacob Devaney

Founder and director of Culture Collective, creative activist, musician, and producer.



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  • Daniel Wise

    Such great information. Movement is life.

  • That’s really interesting, I will focus on this muscle more now, thanks

  • David Allen Kolb

    Why is it that most articles on yoga in the west and on the internet, have pictures of women doing the yoga poses!!!??? How about showing some men doing Yoga,,,there are some of us out there you know! And there are alot of men out there (still hung up a little on the macho self image thing) who need this kind of stuff, but they aren’t participating because they feel that yoga is a women thing! C’mon,,,your being unfair to men!

    • josh

      Nobody wants to see u n a speedo, that’s why.lol

    • Minaschek

      Haha.. just because women are more beautiful?

      • Queenie

        And more vain…hence the ass shots in the bikini.

    • AKcharle

      Here ya go, I do my yoga with this guy. Great site too. https://www.doyogawithme.com/content/deep-release-hips-hamstrings-and-lower-back

      • shantilal changela

        Thank you will try

      • Nicholas Galicz

        That is a great free site

    • Dame Eleana Winter-I

      If you are a man, and you practice yoga, then you should promote it yourself. Don’t expect women to promote men.

      • David Allen Kolb

        Who said anything about having women promote men???!!!??? HUH???

      • Barefoot in MN

        why not ?
        I will promote anyone who is good & kind.

    • trisul

      Women are better designed than men, with all the plumbing neatly tucked away, whereas with men, some of it is hanging out, attached to the facade. Not cool.

    • lorraine Mithrush

      Oh whatever, we women have your name in our name “women” and have had to put up with everything in literature relating to “he” as if “she” did not exist. I think there needs to be a word that means both he and she, maybe she-he…lol.

    • julias

      I see men doing yoga all the time in adverts and pictures

    • Nicholas Galicz

      I understand your question but maybe consider this…in the beginning Yoga was only for men and mostly just various upper caste like royalty and religious men. Maybe this is cosmic Karma 🙂 In the end does it really matter? Yoga is a personal journey and pictures are just a distraction from the true purpose of yoga.

    • toklas69

      Look at those tight buns…nuff said

    • I was thinking the same, David.

    • Openminded Skeptic

      In all fairness, men are being unfair to themselves, by holding onto this ridiculous notion that there’s some tangible, cosmic definition of yoga carved in eternal stone, somewhere out there, which states yoga is for women. Yoga is yoga.

  • i need a yogi who can work from my MRI…

  • Mac Hinery

    We have been so blinded by crap teaching and teachers that the only solution to everything musculo-skeletal is to stretch and strengthen. How much time do the fastest and fittest non-humans spend doing either? Not a lot, yet we persist. Doesn’t that make anyone think? Clearly not.

    • 2much2

      never seen a cat or dog?

    • waltinseattle

      yes, I protest your statement. Also, since the mind of these others is so different, their stress systems are different. They do not relive and carry the weight of a traumatic moment. Once away from the tiger, the little vegitarian animal does not relive the close call for days and days. That is the design problem with humans. We respond to the past forever and ever, instead of taking the lessons and getting back to equanimity. (emotional “neutral”)

  • Mac Hinery

    As for the utter nonsense from Liz Koch suggesting we add more stress through idiotic exercise – yep, stretching again. How about learning to relax it Liz, how might we do that?

    • waltinseattle

      geesh mac, exercise stresses you? do it slower, do it milder. Take up Tai Chi, one of the oldest systems on earth. And you seem to be stuck in a cartesian duality the way you refer to relaxation. It is not a passive state, it is the result of actions! Why stretching? well, if yopu would be so patient to read about “modern Meridian Theory” you would find out how stretching relates to things like lymphatic flow. You understand the significance of the lymph? tight has no flow in the literal meaning as well as the psychological & choreographic senses.

  • Jay Cohen

    I thought it was an ok article, but the video was good. Thanks!

  • shantilal changela

    I am describing my problem. Before 10 year I slipped from my home wet marble staircase and it heart me my back hip at that nothing happened I was fine but after ten year I am feeling pain on my hip I can not seat on my hip also I can not sleep on my back side when I try seat it start pain but when i stand up it become normal similar is sleeping position I do not know what to do?Can you someone guide me?my email [email protected]

    • AKcharle

      I would start with a good chiropractor and let him advise you on the exercises you should do and not do. I had a similar experience and this is what made my pain go away.

      • shantilal changela

        how your pain go away who is good chiropractor I living in Fife WA 98424 USA

        • AKcharle

          Well I am American Native so I have access to the Native hospital here in Alaska. I was referred to the resident chiropractor by my doctor. I thought my hip would never be the same but after just 2 months of treatment twice a week I have had no pain after 6 months. Key is gentle exercise everyday.

  • Kathy

    well what about Rodney Yee? come on now.

  • Alex L

    Geez, I needed this. Thanks. Also, it’s nice to see an expert bobble and “oops”, keeping it real. It makes the attempt at posture not so intimidating. ; )

  • Matt

    This is possibly the most garbage health article I’ve read on the internet, and I’ve read my fair share. The author clearly has no idea of how the nervous and hormonal systems actually work. To think that stress hormones are stored in muscles, let alone one in particular, is ridiculous. Hormones will have an effect on the nervous system and muscles but they are not stored there.
    Stress, depression, anxiety etc certainly effect the nervous, hormonal and muscular systems and potentially result in muscular tension (not just psoas). Stating that this works in reverse and that stretching psoas will cure fear and anxiety is just plain wrong.

    • Abrasax

      It’s you who doesn’t know how things work, especially if all you’ve done is read health articles on the internet. Plenty of medical journals and acedemic research out there to support what the author is writing about. Maybe try a little research before getting so angry and making a fool of yourself.

      • Jody Marie Hassel

        Also Peter Levine’s work is a great resource.

      • waltinseattle

        there is the facts and there is the article written about them. the second is usually wrong somewhere. Science reporting is going down down down. I wouldnt get too upset about the “journalist” part since the rest is well within accepted.

    • Jody Marie Hassel

      Recent medical and psychological trauma research supports these claims–see Stephen Porges’ poly-vagal theory and the neuroscientific work of Bessel Van der Kolk and Joseph Spinazzola.

      • To Be As

        Have a look at Dr. David Bercelis work. With his Trauma Releasing Exercises you’ll be able to directly release tension from the psoas the way your body is designed to. Great stuff!

    • Nicholas Galicz

      I think you need some yoga dude…relax, let it go

  • The consciousness of our body and how we relate to all its parts is really key to integral well being and to truly release stress as much as toxins. Dance does help to gain and maintain that consciousness. I’ve learned something new and pretty cool here about “the muscle of the soul”. Thanks!

  • To Be As

    There is one major tool missing in this article when it comes to releasing tension out of the psoas. Have a look at TRE – it’s the most wonderful and great technique to heal trauma and stress the way our body wants to release it naturally.

    • Deanna Dubbin

      What is TRE?

      • To Be As

        Have a look at Youtube / Google / Wiki

  • Great article! Although what isn’t included here is that the psoas is connected to the kidney meridian and the adrenals sit on top of the kidneys.

    The adrenals are part of the HPA axis – hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenals – which governs your stress response. The adrenals also produce the stress hormone, cortisol.

    An over abundance of cortisol in your body leaves you feeling jittery and stressed and can lead to adrenal fatigue. One of the common reasons for adrenal issues in my kinesiology clinic is unhealed trauma.

    Yoga, meditation and kinesiology are all brilliant ways to clear out excess cortisol and return your body to homeostasis.

    • MarieElisabet

      Hi, I’m over in Sweden and was told exactly this by my reflexologist today!

    • waltinseattle

      it was “stress hormones go unspent and become stored in the body.” that made me sceptical, even though I read the body armoring theory half a century back. . But, as a TCM student, I beg you to explain the ” psoas is connected to the kidney meridian” statement because I have never read of specific muscles being relegated to the elements thus to meridians. Also, do you ever find that it isn’t excess cortisol but deficient a-choline.? particularly after extended imbalance? and which meridian would you then nourish to feed the kidney? as it is my read that one always nourishes before proceeding to other interventions.;

    • To Be As

      Thank you for this information. The body’s natural way of bringing itself back to homeostasis is by neurogenic tremors. We can easily learn how to induce those tremors in a safe and controlled way by using the method of TRE (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises) developed by Dr. David Berceli. This method is a great self-empowering tool for dealing and recovering from stress and traumatic experiences. Check traumaprevention.com for more information, or Google or Youtube it

  • Rowena Cua

    This article is missing a huge part of releasing and healing- The John Barnes’ Myofascial Release Approach was not mentioned! http://www.myofascialrelease.com

  • TessLeila

    Mahalo! This is a great “flow” and a good reminder to me about the importance of those crescent stretches

  • Markb

    It is a funny thing. When you see pictures from India of Yoga it’s usually all men. In the States it’s mostly women who, for whatever reason outnumber the men by about 5 to 1. Women are just more beautiful and nicer to look at than men which is opposite of almost everything else in nature ( birds, beasts etc.) where the male of the species is actually the pretty one. The Yoga “show-offs” calendars usually do have a couple of men but of course they have thin well-muscled bodies. So it’s a bit unfair to us guys but I’d rather see the women anyways and at least I don’t have to kill my lunch or eat bugs for supper!

    • Lady filosopher

      I think this issue has more to do with empowerment of women into the world of movement not based on force. I LOVE seeing men in yoga photos and films. To witness fluid quiet force done by a man re-instates my hopes and belief that men can find and exercise kindness and warmth,

      • Markb

        Well, your spelling is a bit off but your “F”ilosophy is quite beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  • Lady filosopher

    Taking into consideration any gender bias in photos and our culturally formed minds, Despite the known market value of scantily clad women, I think a positive aspect of this issue has to do with empowerment of women into the world of movement not based on force. I LOVE seeing men in yoga photos and films. To witness fluid quiet force done by a man re-instates my hopes and belief that men can find and exercise kindness and warmth,

  • To Be As

    “Since stress accumulates on an unconscious level, healing our bodies is a process that must happen consciously.” – This is wrong! There is a method from our body called neurogenic tremors which, when allowed, shakes off all the old patterns of stress, fear and anxiety. It start’s directly from the psoas and can be easily learnd by everyone. Check TRE (tension and trauma releasing exercises) for more infos. Great stuff and propably the best method to heal trauma on a large scale..

  • Reem Ayouby

    Very interesting article. Some scientific references would have been helpful for those who like to dig deeper.

  • tokesense

    For those looking to work on their psoas, also look up Dr David Berceli’s Tension/Trauma Release Exercise (TRE), the Egoscue Supine Groin Progressive stretch and Fitzmaurice Voiceworks tremoring videos on YouTube.


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