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Respiratory Diaphragm & Psoas Connection

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Or... Your Jellyfish Diaphragm and Tentacular Psoas

I am taking a year-long "Living Anatomy" course with my mentor Bobbie Ellis and her colleague Robert Litman who is an anatomy teacher and corrective breathing specialist. In a recent class Robert likened the diaphragm, it's movement, and it's relationship to the psoas ("so-as") muscle to a jellyfish and it's tentacles saying, "Nature doesn't waste a shape."

The ultra-efficient diaphragm is your major breathing muscle. It separates your lungs and heart from the rest of your internal organs. With each inhale your diaphragm contracts, moving downward drawing air into your lungs and massaging the organs below - increasing blood flow and stimulating digestion. (Click here watch a jellyfish in motion, then here to watch a brief animation of the diaphragm in action.)

Your psoas muscle attaches from the last thoracic and all five lumbar vertebra to the upper inner thigh bone. It helps you externally rotate your thigh and allows you to flex your hip joint bringing your thigh toward your belly or your belly toward your thigh. It can also assist in arching your low back. (Here are two quick videos that show the location and function of the psoas muscle: video 1 and video 2)

The diaphragm is shaped like the dome of a jellyfish with the psoas muscles, left and right, extending downward like tentacles.

Some amazing facts about your Diaphragm and Psoas:

  • Your diaphragm can travel (rise and lower) 9-12 centimeters.

  • Your heart is “stitched” to your diaphragm (via fascia) and moves downward with your diaphragm as you breathe so stimulating blood flow and avoiding getting overly compressed by your lungs as you inhale.

  • Your diaphragm is “interwoven” with your transverse abdominus (the largest abdominal muscle).

  • Your psoas is the only muscle that connects your upper body to your lower body (spine to legs).

  • Your psoas is attached to your diaphragm by fascia and ligament.

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