The psoas muscle is an important hip flexor and low back stabilizer that often gets tight. Stretching it will help you deepen your backbends but the benefits do not end there. It’s a key muscle and if out of balance then it can cause you back pain and freeing it up will help you move with greater ease. Due to its relationship to your glutes stretching out is key to your functional strength and therefore better posture and comfort.
What is the psoas muscle and why does it get tight
The psoas muscle can be found in the abdomen and attaches from the lumbar vertebrae. It is a key hip flexor, which means it works when the leg lifts towards the body. This is obviously a key movement, walking, running, cycling and sitting can all lead to tightening up this muscle.
Why is it so important that I do yoga and stretch it out?
A tight hip flexor is almost always at least involved in back pain so if you are suffering with back pain then it’s a good stretch to try. If the hip flexors get really tight then they pull the glutes into a slight stretch meaning that they don’t work properly. Weak glutes lead to poor movement patterns and potentially an unstable pelvis. In this case you may need to both stretch out your hip flexors and strengthen your glutes to get them firing properly.
How you can stretch out your psoas in your yoga practice
Backbending is great for stretching out your hip flexors. If you feel pinching in your back you may need to work on your technique. Make sure your feet are parallel and your knees are not splaying outwards. If you are in Liverpool and are one of my yoga students tell me and I will help you work on it. Sometimes the psoas is so tight that backbending is difficult no matter how good your technique is, in this case a lunge may be a really good option for you.
3 different lunges
I have found it is good to practice lunges in order to focus specifically on opening up your hip flexors. As a keen cyclist I have found this really important to help keep me balanced. It’s good to stretch it out in different ways as it’s a large muscle and different stretches will target different aspects of the muscle. Here are the 3 stretches that I have found useful to help stretch out my psoas. I also do dynamic walking lunges to keep my glutes working strongly.
Psoas stretch 1, upright lunge
Place one of your feet in font of the other, placing your back knee on the floor. Keep your back upright and bend your front knee forwards until you feel a stretch at the top of your thigh. Use your breath to help relax into the pose. It’s fine to let your front knee go beyond your ankle but do make sure your foot and your knee are pointing forwards.
Psoas stretch 2, the low lunge
This stretch is also good preparation for splits if that is something you would like to work on. Come into the upright lunge, as above, then drop down placing your hands or fingertips on the floor. If you don’t feel a stretch then bend the front knee more and if you still don’t feel a stretch bring the front foot further forward and drop your back hip more towards the ground.
Psoas stretch 3, Backbending lunge
This is a fantastic stretch but it can be quite challenging so take your time with it. Come into the upright lunge and then bend backwards. You can do this gently or more deeply depending on how open and adventurous you are feeling. To keep it gentle keep the arms low and just gently arch the back, taking the head back if it feels okay. To take it deeper gradually take your arms back, hanging back completely if you feel you can. Breathe!
You can practice these stretches everyday and that would be best, especially if you have an issue in this area. However a little often is best and even doing it once a week will help, so do it as often as you can find time. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds to one minute and repeat up to 3 times.