The psoas (or more correctly two connected muscles making up the iliopsoas) is a long muscle running from the lower spine down through the pelvic area to its other attachment on the thigh bone. There’s one on each side. It’s large and important muscle involved in flexing the hip joint, and hence key to enabling fluid walking and running. It is also very deep seated within the body and vulnerable to becoming tight and tense when the body is under prolonged stress.
One simple way of relaxing this important muscle from the ‘inside out’ is lying in the constructive rest position (on your back with the knees bent and feet flat) as we often do at the start of class. After a few minutes, hug in the knees, then hold one knee to the chest while gently stretching the other leg out along the floor, releasing as slowly as you can.
Two postures that both work and stretch the psoas which we included this week were:
Warrior One (Virabhardrasana I)
This pose helps to strengthen the psoas of the front leg while stretching the psoas of the back leg. Come into the pose as you typically would: feet 3 to 4 feet apart, back foot turned to a 45-degree angle from the back edge of your mat, with heel- to-heel alignment, front knee tracking over your second toe, arms raised skyward. Then, imagine lifting your front knee straight up toward the sky, as if you were flexing your hip. You won’t actually be able to lift your knee, but this action stimulates the psoas to contract, which should help you feel the pelvis stabilise. Hold this pose for 5 to 10 deep breaths on one side, and then repeat on the other side.
Boat pose (navasana)
Sit on the floor, perched on the sitting bones. Keep the back lifted and straight, and draw in the abdominal muscles. Then lift the feet to eye level, bending the knees if you need to. Hold for up to five breaths, relax, and repeat.
A tip for boat pose (from Yoga Journal website)
You can practice a preparation for this pose periodically throughout your day without even leaving your chair. Sit on the front edge of a seat with your knees at right angles. Grab onto the sides of the seat with your hands and lean slightly forward. Firm your arms and lift your buttocks slightly off the seat, then raise your heels slightly off the floor (but not the balls of your feet). Let the heads of your thigh bones sink into the pull of gravity and push the top of your sternum forward and up.
- Strengthens the abdomen, hip flexors, and spine
- Stimulates the kidneys, thyroid and prostate glands, and intestines
- Helps relieve stress
- Improves digestion
If you feel like trying this in a chair at work or at the dinner table, do let me know how you get on!
The sketches below are a reminder (not a guide) to some of what we practised in class this week
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