....protect this muscle, cuz it protects you!
Oh that sweet psoas muscle. Where is it, and why should we even care? Well first off, we all have one. The psoas is a deep core muscle that begins at the outside of every lumbar vertebra, across the pelvis (in front of the pubic bone) and attaches to the inner thigh bone.
Lower back pain is often the result of a tight psoas muscle since it connects the spine to the leg. This long, (often tight) muscle helps us straighten the lower (lumbar) spine, and also works as a hip flexor.
We use this muscle even when we don’t know it, ie walking, running, biking, even sitting in car or in front of a computer which can make up 80-90% of someones day!
The psoas is often described as, “the muscle that protects us”. It’s the one that’s used to curl our legs up into a ball when it’s cold outside, or when we want to coil up and protect our body from danger. These days we’re always stressed about something, so it explains why most of us have a tight psoas muscle on one or both sides.
Releasing this muscle can certainly work wonders. Here are a few tricks to try:
Lie on your back with one knee bend and one extended. Gently pull the bent leg toward you. Option to bend the extended leg and place the sole of the foot on the ground if it's easier on your back.
Deep lunges are often recommended to stretch the psoas. Begin in downward facing dog.
Step your right foot in between your hands, keeping your right knee directly over the ankle. Then lower the left knee to the ground and begin to slide it back until you feel sensation in the thigh and groin. Relax the top of the left foot to the ground. Your arms can lift to the sky, or rest on top of the right thigh. Lift your chest, draw the tailbone down, and pull the navel to the spine. Take 5-8 deep breaths. Switch sides.
Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose) If you’re feeling a bit more advanced, feel free to try this one, but be sure your body is nice and warmed up. Begin this pose in virasana (kneeling position with your knees together and feet apart, butt down towards the floor in between your feet.
Then take your hands to the ground and begin to walk them back toward your feet as you lean back slowly. When your forearms reach the ground, stop and take a breath. If you feel comfortable, continue down until the back is on the ground. Stay here for 5 deep breaths.
Beginner tips: If you like to sit on top of a block in virasana, that’s great, but be sure to only come down to your forearms if you’re attempting the reclined version.
Other great things to try!
Ball exercises have helped me a tremendous amount, especially right after a yoga class when my body is warm and open.
Here is a website all about ball-rolling from my amazing yoga teacher and mentor, David Vendetti. http://somasystem.com. The concept is to release the soft-tissues and myofascial system that runs through the entire body to help flush out inflammation and accumulated toxins. The more blood circulating through your body the more nourished you can potentially become!
Deep tissue massage can also provide some release. We need to stop looking at massage like a luxury, and more like a necessity. It’s important not only for our muscles, but our stress response in general.