This post is about the hip flexors or the psoas muscle. I’m posting on it because we have all probably experienced hip or low back pain at one point in our lives and the psoas muscle plays a crucial role in a healthy back and healthy hips. And I believe that we could all use a little extra TLC when it comes to it.
First a little about the psoas. 🙂
The psoas muscle is the deepest muscle in the body and the only muscle that connects the spine to the legs. Because of its depth in the body, it is the hardest muscle to strengthen and to stretch and can easily become weak and or tight if we aren’t using it. As a quick pinpoint to where the psoas muscle is, it attaches at the middle (thoracic) spine and thru the lower (lumbar) spine, moves over the front of your pelvis and then attaches again at the top of your thigh (femur) bone (I have attached an image of it below). It’s a very long muscle and because it attaches to the spine and moves over the front of the hip, you can see why it would be so important to stretch and strengthen it, and why it can be the cause for a myriad of issues such as lower back pain and hip discomfort.
Plot twist! I think it’s important to also mention before we move on to the poses, that the psoas muscle also attaches to the diaphragm by a ligament from the diaphragm that wraps around the top of the psoas. What?! When I found this out it seemed crazy to me, but I nerd out when it comes to this kind of stuff. Even if you don’t find that fascinating, it’s still important to note because it can directly effect our breathing which we know is pretty important. Okay. Moving on!
Lets get started. Remember to do both sides of the poses that apply which are most of them, and to hold anywhere from 1-3 minutes. 🙂
Table top pose with knee to nose. You will start on your hands and knees. Make sure your wrists are below your shoulders and your knees are below your hips. You can rotate your hip for a moment in your hip socket. Move it in both directions. You will then extend the leg straight back and draw your knee toward your nose. Continue this movement 4-6 times. If you want to add in the breath you can inhale as the leg goes back and exhale as you draw it toward your nose. This is all to warm up your hip flexor before we stretch and strengthen it.
Low lunge. Or runners lunge with your knee down. Make sure as you are coming into this, that your front knee is under your ankle and not behind. This will keep proper knee alignment. Once in the pose, you can tuck the back toes and or drop your chin to your chest to deepen the stretch in the psoas.
Runners lunge with twist. From your previous pose you are going to turn the toes of the front foot out slightly and add a twist by bringing your hand closest to your front leg to your thigh. The other hand can come up onto a block if you need more room or you can bring it onto your mat.
Supported psoas stretch. From your back you will slide a block under your sacrum. The bone right above your tailbone. You can start the block on its lowest level and see how this feels. If it’s enough, stop here. You will then extend one leg forward. This might be enough. If it is stop here. If you’d like to go further you will start to draw your knee into your chest. Make sure you are breathing. Hold anywhere from 1-3 minutes and switch sides. 🙂 When done with both sides, lower to your mat and give your spine a moment to neutralize before moving on.
All the previous poses have been poses that have helped stretch the psoas, the next two poses are psoas strengthener’s. From your back you will bend both knees and then start to lift one leg so that it’s at about a 45 degree angle. Keep the core engaged here as well by drawing your belly button to your spine. Try and hold for 30-45 seconds if you can and then slowly build up your strength from there.
1 legged Tadasana. This pose is also a strengthening pose. It can be done with the support of a wall. Once you are standing. You will press firmly into your right foot while lifting the left leg up. Keep your knee bent at first and then begin to extend your leg out. You can use your breath as your guide and extend the leg on the inhale and draw the knee back in on the exhale. Think about engaging your core here as you move as well. Try for 4, and on the last leg extension see if you can hold it for 10 seconds before switching sides.
Sphinx and or Seal. From your back you will roll over to your belly. You will start to lift yourself to your forearms. (Note: of this is borthersome to your back at all, omit this pose). Once on your forearms, make sure your elbows are right under your shoulders. You will focus on pressing into the tops of your feet. If it feels good, you can also drop your ears to your shoulders and breathe into your neck here too. If you’d like to go further, you can move your hands forward and slightly wider than shoulder distant apart and press into the palms for seal pose. Again, if this is bothersome to your back lower back down to sphinx.
From Sphinx pose you can roll back over onto your back and move into your savasana or corpse pose. Take as much time here as you need.💞