Stretching the Psoas Muscle
A majority of yoga students know that the psoas plays a massive role in asana. The psoas muscle is vital: for one, it is a main connector between the leg and torso, it helps stabilize the backbone, and affects posture. For this reason, if it is slightly out of balance, a person will surely experience pelvic and low back pain.
In yoga practices, the way we use the psoas requires the muscle to be strong, healthy, and flexible. It is important to note that psoas is a muscle found deep in the body and connects the lumbar vertebrae to the femur.
A tight psoas can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, but there are ways to manage and alleviate the pain. You can also visit our store and check out our Psoas Muscle Massager that can help in releasing your psoas muscle and stretching your muscles.
Hip Flexors and the Psoas Muscles
In a group of muscles known as Hip Flexors, the psoas major is the strongest and largest muscle of them all. Working together, they all contract to pull both the torso and thighs towards each other. Hip flexors tend to become short and tight when a person spends most of their time sitting. These muscles can also be short and tight if a person continually exercises in activities such as bicycling, sit-ups, and weight-lifting training.
Remember, having tight psoas is not beneficial. It leads to serious postural issues, like when a person stands up, it will pull the low back vertebrae down and forward towards the femur. These postural issues often cause lordosis (a condition that causes overarching in the lumbar spine). Lordosis is a common cause of lower back stiffness and pain. If the problem is left untreated, it contributes to arthritis in the joints of the lumbar facet.
Conversely, an overstretched and weak psoas muscle is a common cause of postural problems. In this case, the pelvis is pushed towards the knees and chest. This misalignment is characterized by tight hamstrings, which pull down on the sitting bone.
The misalignment, in turn, creates a vertical sacrum (rather than its regular gentle forward tilt) and then flattens the lumbar spine. Remember, spines are curved for a reason, and without this curve, the low back is vulnerable to injuries and weak, especially the intervertebral discs.
It is wise first to understand your anatomy so that you can create balance in your psoas muscle, which will improve the health of your low back. The psoas is significant to asana as well as the bridge pose (Setu bandha Sarvangasana) and the boat pose (Navasana). It is essential to learn ways to stretch and engage this massive muscle for the maximum benefit, a healthy lifestyle and posture.
How To Locate The Psoas
Even though a majority of yoga poses concentrate on the psoas muscle, the muscle is still highly misunderstood. In fact, a majority of teachers and students, only have a vague idea of where it is located.
The psoas muscles is located at the very back of the abdomen. It runs down and forward, crossing the outer edge of each side of the pelvis and then moves back again to attach on the thigh bone known as lesser trochanter.
The psoas plays a significant role in posture and spine stabilization. The moment it goes out of balance, it will inevitably result in pelvic and low back pain.
Now that you know about the psoas muscle and have a clear picture of what it is, it is time to see if you can feel it contracting. The moment psoas muscles contract, you will immediately feel it pulling the spine and the femur together. This action is known as hip Flexion. For example, when you lie down on your back, you can lift your right leg off the floor only when you use the right psoas, just like in reclining big toe or Supta Padangusthasana poses.
If you are flexible, you can bring your leg towards your torso. However, psoas muscles stop contracting at around 90 degrees, when the leg is vertical. When the maximum point is reached, gravity will no longer pull the leg to the floor. Therefore, the hip flexors can relax.
On the contrary, if the muscles located at the back of your legs are tight, you will struggle to bring your leg to a 90-degree point. In such a situation, the psoas contracts the entire time when you hold the leg up, even when you have a strap around your foot.
What does this refer to? By definition, it is an isometric contraction. The muscle is continuously applied, with a change in length. For this reason, anytime a person holds their body against gravity pull, it is an isometric contraction.
Navasana is another yoga pose known to strengthen psoas muscle isometrically. A person fees a rudimentary action of the psoas in Navasana, while seated on a chair.
This works by sitting tall on the front edge of a chair, with both arms stretched out in front and parallel to the floor. Lean backward on the chair without touching it, while at the same time keeping your chest lifted. The moment you drive backward on the chair, you will start feeling gravity trying to pull your torso down. However, the psoas muscles will work to hold you leveled.
To use or apply the actions of Navasana pose on the floor, sit tall on your sitting bones (not your tailbone), with the feet flat and knees bent. Lightly wrap your fingers around the top of your shin and lift your chest by having a little pull. After this, lean back to a point where the elbows are straight.
Let go of your shins and keep your arms parallel to the floor while maintaining a lifted chest. Even though this is a beginner’s version of the pose, you will be doing isometric psoas muscle strengthening and abdominal muscle strengthening.
If you wish to move into the full Navasana pose, tip your torso a bit further and lift your feet off the floor. Remember, you must find and maintain your balance. Even with both knees bend and foot on the floor, the psoas muscle is still working hard to hold the weight against gravity pull. You can stay in that position for several breaths or challenge your muscles by straightening your knees.
With the full Navasana expression, the psoas acts like a wire between the thighs and spine. This holds a beautiful V shape. The full Navasana expression offers more benefits aside from working the psoas. It works, improves, and strengthens the back muscles, abdominal muscles, and quadriceps.
After warming up and working the psoas muscle through contracting, it would be wise to stretch and lengthen it. The psoas muscle is the biggest and strongest muscle in the body. In order to stretch the psoas, you will need to extend the hip and move the femur and lumbar spine away from each other. Poses such as the warrior pose I (Virabhadrasana) and lunge pose (Anjaneyasana) are effective at achieving a psoas stretch.
It does not matter if you are a beginner or experienced at yoga, Virabhadrasana I is a great way to isolate and stretch the psoas. This pose can be done in a doorway. To do it, locate an open doorway and step closer so that the right side of the body is behind the door jamb.
Step your left leg through the doorway and place your right foot 2 or 3 feet behind you, with your back heel of the floor. Stretch your arms overhead and rest them on the wall. Then, faintly bend both knees slightly and align your stomach, chest, and hips with the frame of the door.
This pose stretches psoas muscle by tilting the pelvis. Keep in mind that tight psoas pulls the pelvis anteriorly; by pulling the top of the pelvis and spine down and forward. Therefore, a door or pillar can help you with this pose. The main purpose of the pose is to help you tilt the pelvis posteriorly, which pulls the lumbar spine towards the back of the body, rather than forward and down.
Hold the pose for a minute or two and slow your breathing. The breathing should be slow and steady to let the muscle relax into the stretch. Then repeat the same process on the other side.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
When you have finished stretching the psoas muscle, the best step is working on back-bending poses. These poses need full hip extensions. When it comes to Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, short and tight psoas muscles will tilt the pelvis anteriorly as one attempts to lift the pelvis off the floor.
The tilting results in a sharp compression in the lower lumbar vertebrae. For this reason, it would be wise to prepare the body for back-bending through stretching the hip flexors first. This is highly important, especially if you live your psoas is tight or sore to begin with.
When you are ready to work on the bridge pose, lie on your back and bend your knees and let your feet rest flat on the floor. Your heels should be pulled in close to your sitting bone and hip-width apart.
INTRODUCING PSO RITE
PSO-RITE is the newest self massage tool on the market. Its patented design mimics the hand and elbow of a massage therapist.
What does the PSO-RITE do?
- Increases circulation, relaxation and warmth to the muscles, and increases mobility. The PSO-RITE is used for muscle lengthening and joint decompression, which enhances physical performance. It also adds range of motion by releasing tension in the muscle allowing the joint to have more space, increasing mobility/movement.
- What is releasing? the cross link adhesions between the muscle fibers.
- Increasing Capacity which will increase your Performance
Where do you use PSO-RITE?
- Everywhere: Hip flexor, psoas, lower back, shoulder, neck etc.
- Along any muscle
Check out this demonstration video of the PSO RITE to see what this amazing tool can do for you and stretching.
Joe Rogan features Michael Chandler while he praises the PSO RITE for what it's done for his martial arts career and recovery after workouts.
By including yoga poses that lengthen and strengthen the psoas muscles, a person can release habitual muscle-holding patterns. In turn, this creates a balanced posture and improves low-back alignment.
As you are working to achieve the bridge pose, press the pelvic bone up into the skin of the lower abdomen. Consider holding the pose for about 30 seconds before repeating the pose several more times. As time goes by, you may find yourself going deeper and lifting higher.
Conclusions on Psoas Muscles
Remember, well-done asana practice will help keep your psoas muscle strong and flexible to accommodate a full range of motion associated with joints.
By including poses that not only strengthen muscles but also lengthen them, you can improve your low-back alignment, release habitual muscle patterns, and create a more balanced and spacious posture.