WHAT IS YOUR PSOAS?
The psoas is a hip flexor muscle that’s found deep in your abdomen. There are two- right and left, because, well, most of us have two legs.
They extend from either side of your spine (connecting at the lumbar spine and intervertebral discs), running through the pelvis, attaching to your femurs (at the lesser trochanters), which connects your torso to your lower body.
These are large muscles and have a big impact on the body and it’s movement. Some would even venture to say these are the most vital muscles in the body.
WHAT YOUR PSOAS DOES
The psoas is responsible for pulling the leg up to the body. This means walking, sitting up, or lifting your knee to take the stairs, for example. These play a big role in sports that involve cycling, running, walking, and even sit-ups.
Both of them help to stabilize the spine and control posture. They stabilize movement in all planes of motion.
IMPORTANCE OF MOBILIZING YOUR PSOAS
The psoas can get knotted up from sitting or playing sports or even sleeping in the fetal position. When this happens, it can cause low back pain, distorted movement patterns, leg length discrepancy, joint disfunction, and increased stress.
How can two muscles do all this?
Think of the human body as a chain. When one link is broken, the rest will be altered as well.
So, when the psoas become too tight, they pull the lower back upward, creating a minor arch in the low back, like you’re intentionally sticking your butt out. (Short-term: look at the booty gains, baby! Long-term: OUCH.)
This “duck-butt” position also leads to quad-dominance and weak glutes. Uh oh.
Additionally, because the psoas pull the legs toward the torso, knots in it can pull the hip and leg higher than it should be, leading to one leg appearing shorter than the other. This discrepancy leads to pain in the hips and back and even muscular imbalances long-term.
The psoas is also located near the diaphragm, which helps control your breathing. When they get tight, they put pressure on the two tendons for the diaphragm, known as the crura. When this happens, your breathing becomes less diaphragmatic and turns more into chest breathing, also known as ‘stress breaths’.
More frequent and shorter breaths lead to increased stress.
Again, it’s a chain. If one thing is moving incorrectly, others will compensate for it.
HOW TO FIND YOUR PSOAS AND MOBILIZE IT
First, lie on your back with your knees bent. For the right psoas, go a couple inches out to the right from your belly button, and push your fingers into your abdomen. While you do this, lift your right leg off the ground gently. The muscle you feel flexing deep down is your psoas.
Now that you’ve found it, time to mobilize it. You can do several things to mobilize it, including stretching and self-myofascial release (SMR). Although these can all be done on your own, it is wisest to consult a physical therapist, physio, massage therapist, etc. who have years of training and experience. They can put you through hell you wouldn’t be willing to do on your own and do so with more skill- and very happily.
Stretching can be slightly safer and definitely more comfortable than SMR due to the organs in your abdomen, but both have their benefits.
- Kettlebell psoas mash
- Flip the kettlebell upside down, and using the technique explained above to find your psoas, dig the horn into your psoas (carefully) for :30-:90.
- Allow the psoas to slowly unwind. Breathe deeply and stay calm.
- A great way to get deep into these muscles is to lay back onto a box or bench with your left leg bent, heel on the box or bench. Keep the right leg extended (as long as you are mobilizing the right side).
- Lacrosse ball
- You can do this laying on your back or on your stomach, but the latter will be more intense, so ease into it. Use the same technique as explained above to find and mobilize the psoas.
- When it comes to SMR work, you can work in short intervals, (:30-:90) just be sure to avoid holding the pressure for too long or it can begin to have adverse effects.
- Once again, maintain deep breaths and stay relaxed.
- If, at any time during SMR work, you begin to resist against the pressure and flex, ease off.
- Manual manipulation
- Using your hands to find your psoas, gently massage the muscles until they begin to unwind slowly.
- Use the same techniques from above- not too much pressure but just enough to work out the knots, stay relaxed, and breathe deep.
- Couch stretch
- Face away from the wall and stand on one leg. With the leg that is up, put your foot against the wall, heel facing you. Sink down to the ground, keeping your knee on the wall until you are in a lunge-like position.
- The ideal position is your chest upright, in line with your femur. If you are struggling to attain this, you can place your hands on the ground in front of you or use a bench to support your weight as you lean forward.
- Hold this stretch for at least one minute per side, but if you have already completed you workout, you can hold it longer.
- Hold it as long as it takes to get the muscles to unwind.
- Cat-cow stretch
- On your hands and knees, imagine there is a string pulling your spine to the ceiling first, then a string pulling your belly button to the floor after.
- Alternate these positions for several minutes until you feel your abdomen and mid-back begin to loosen up.
- Samson stretch
- Get into a low lunge position. Place your back knee on the ground with the top of the back foot on the ground. Lean forward into your hips and maintain an upright chest position. Pull your arms overhead and push your back forward until you feel a stretch deep in your abdomen.
- Hold this position for several minutes.
Tell me in the comments below what you think and then share this with someone who you think could benefit from this (I’ll give you a hint… it’s everyone.)
Yours in health,