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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!

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Jacob Devaney

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

 

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83 Responses to How to Release the Stress stored in our Bodies

  1. 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!

          • Neither, but I practice yoga, and one aspect that is stressed is that there is no competition, no vanity. This video is chock full of vanity. The video is playing up to get likes rather than true yoga philosophy.

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

    • 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.

      • That is completely ridiculous. Here in the Netherlands we have plenty of male yogateachers and practicioners. Never saw anything hanging out other then women’s boobs, wearing too revealing, too low cut shirts.

        • My comment was meant as a joke, there is a trend in industry to hide pipes and cables behind a neat facade. Men have their jewels hanging in bag between their legs, an obvious improvisation that was vastly improved when God made version 2 of the human being from Adam’s rib (another attempted joke).

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Because articles like this are targeting women so the depict women. A lot of the media focuses on women and in our society today, female is medicalized hence more and more articles like this. Luckily this article is focused on a non-medicinal approach to health unlike many others out there.

    • I understand where you are coming from, but I am sure there intentions were not meant in that way. I mean, the lady may be a writer or something, who knows the connection, but men can do what is healthy and stand up in their power.

    • Here in the Netherlands we have plenty of men showing yogaposes. I really have no idea what you are talking about. That said most of these spiritual courses attracted more women then men. As some of us women gave birth to sons, you should not conclude that is sexist. Some men overhere have now started their own approach, male style, towards spirituality, which i applaud.

  2. 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.

    • 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”)

  3. 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?

    • 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.

  4. 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 c.shanu@live.com

    • 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.

        • 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.

  5. 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. ; )

  6. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    • 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.;

      • Hi Amanda See if you can find some info on “Touch for health” and muscles related to meridians and the 5 elements. Thus mostly shows up as deficient Yin. Touch for Health is an invaluable resource for showing the flow of energy and muscles related to meridians . Hope that helps

    • 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

        • I was writing about the neurogenic tremors (which are not mentioned in traditional yoga schools), but which seem to work splenditly well in combination with Yoga practice. The difference between Yoga and the tremors is, that the first we do actively (by willpower) and the other is a mechanism of the body to release trauma and stress on it’s own (if we allow it). Namaste!

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

  11. 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!

    • 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,

        • The spelling tells a cultural story, so it is not “a bit off”, it is a bit ‘calculated’. Thank you so much for appreciating the ‘f’ilosophy.

    • Sex sells in the US. Putting a women gets more views. Look at how many men commented on the woman instead of the yoga practice, and movements. An almost naked blond in red two piece bakinis on a beach with shades. Its the major weakness of the west. Lost focus?

  12. 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,

  13. “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..

  14. 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.

  15. I came up with a very practical and trippy way to release stress from my back. And it would be easy to describe if I could illustrate or animate it.

  16. My way of stretching my back healed me from serious health problems in a matter of week. I would like to illustrate it and attach my name to this exercise so no commercial ‘healers’ would use it and charge money for sessions. I want it to be illustrated in 3D just like the image above.

  17. This is why my legs have stopped functioning. They have stored a huge amount of stress that the tissues and bones have been destroyed. Now they have collapsed in a way that I can no longer walk.
    WOW!
    And the doctors tried so hard to introduce this fancy word in my life, Ankylosing Spondylitis without being empathetic even a bit; such a waste of degrees and stethoscopes!
    However thanks UPLIFT for sharing this awesome content with us!
    .
    ~ Om SHANTI! ~

  18. I like this because you see how flexible she is in her spine and torso and that she really, really breaths fully. And it is a nice sequence if you add a bit of warm-up.

  19. Thank you for the interesting approach to releasing stress. Does anyone have an opinion on how this contributes to obesity and sedentary lifestyles?

  20. Our bodies have a natural reflex to release unresolved stress tension and trauma through autonomic shaking and trembling. In the west and in exercise cultures often including yoga it tends to be misunderstood as a sign of weakness, lack of control and therefore suppressed and inhibited rather than deliberately activated And utilised. Modern approach to this ancient reflex this through TRE which is a simple exercises to deliberately invite this natural restorative impulse in the body. If you want to find out more visit trauma prevention.com

  21. In the 60’s, there was not a single book showing females doing asana poses. And the men pictured generally were Indian, with strange, inscrutable faces, and little dhotis that just covered pelvic area, front & back.
    I looked in vain for a more user-friendly (for an American college girl) yoga book.
    In this video, this young woman is amazing.
    Did anyone notice the surfboard in the background? Or the total muscle mass on this kid? She works out, I think, in more modalities than yoga,and I respect that–even if it is not a gym, but constant surfing. She has the way-strong upper arms needed for
    paddling out long distances, or paddling
    like lightening, against tbe current, to catch the exact right point of entry for a big curl.
    She has the surfer’s thighs (no explanation necessary) and the constant-surfer’s butt (almost non-existent, muscles going IN,vs.fat or muscle sticking OUT). For a young woman,
    this is NOT vanity–a Kim Kardashian
    type in a bikini, with huge ( often implanted) boobs and a really round butt– THAT is the current vanity. To have a surfer’s body is to say, “I don’t care about “magazine” or “pladtic” beauty–I’m an athlete, in a sport designed by men, and for 100’s of years done only by men, but I have become wonderful at it, and I have done Hatha Yoga for so long that the names of the poses, and the transitions into them, are completely 2nd nature–I can teach them
    while doing them. AND, an uninterrupted
    sequence of all-psoas concentrated poses requires incredible strength–as you can see
    in the video. She is in full forward lunge
    position the whole time she shows you the
    right-sided poses, then,without a second’s pause, goes into full left-lunge and stays in it
    for all the left-sided poses.
    Personally, I think, from watching
    video’s of surfing championships (both sexes)
    that her bikini is just her daily dress ( except
    when surfing in horribly cold water, in which
    case, there’s a body suit–and you have to be TWICE as strong to surf in the rubber-rigidity
    of a body suit.
    So, I am thankful for ANYONE showing
    me how to strengthen the PSOAS, and I would like to tjink that other watchers were watching the video for that reason, rather than to
    ogle or find reasons to comment negatively
    on the dress of the yoga instructor.
    Yes, when I was in college, I was turned off by the “surface” “shallow” views of the wierd-looking men who populated the yoga books. Seeing exactly how shallow that was, and how much time I missed in training my body because of it, with age I am wiser, and wish heartily that I might have looked BEYOND https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7e8272d5d7597f786ddbd1f1849d3ecde63d2aaa23ac024a25e6e0dc8c71255a.jpg
    the surface images, and maintained my
    honest interest in practicing yoga, for my health, and for the balance of mind-body-spirit
    it offers.

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