Psoas Yoga, Shall We?

Woman doing crescent pose with back bend.

I learned the importance of this muscle in my effort to heal my back injury. As I was visiting orthopedics, chiropractors, massage therapists, and many other allopathic and holistic practitioners, I started hearing about this muscle and its connection literally to the lower back area of our body. This is when I first started looking for yoga poses for the psoas. My search intensified as one practitioner told me he believed a lot of lower back issues begin with atrophy in this muscle.

I was suffering from immense lower back pain and although surgery was highly recommended for my condition, it was an option I was not ready to embrace. So I began a search for a holistic remedy. As I learned more I started hearing about this muscle. Being a yoga instructor, I created what you could call psoas muscle yoga sequences, which are sequences that emphasize this region. Although it is a muscle, you could also look at it like a region because of the large area it covers. I’m not a doctor or expert on anatomy but from what I’ve been told and what I see when looking at a muscular view of the skeleton, it seems this muscle literally connects the upper and lower body on the muscular level. It runs from the top of the quadricep region all the way to the middle of our backs. To me, it seems obvious that tension in this muscle could easily cause compression in the lower back area.

So what I created was psoas stretch yoga in the sense that my routines would include poses that stretched this muscle. I wouldn’t want to over-emphasize it and possibly irritate it, but I did want to include it in many of my routines. Honestly, all body parts play a role in the whole functioning properly so why would we not include this region? So, if you take one of my classes no matter which class it may be, you will find by the end of the class you will have touched this muscle and region. Most of the quadricep stretches could be considered psoas yoga poses as well, yet there are some poses where you could isolate this muscle even further, and if you’re gentle these stretches feel really good. 

Due to the fact that you cannot see this muscle when looking at yourself naked in the mirror (in other words this muscle does not affect you aesthetically), people tend to develop the muscles around this area but actually ignore this muscle. Because of this, there can be atrophy and stagnation as well as tension. In other words, a breeding ground for injury when this area is engaged. Basically, yoga for psoas injury means approaching the area very gently. For the most part, injured areas of the body want to be left alone until they heal and for the most part, I recommend that. Some therapists might attempt to create a little circulation to the region to facilitate healing in that area—which becomes yoga for psoas release or stimulation--and can be attempted, but with hypersensitivity, so there is stimulation but no irritation.

Two poses that can help you care for this muscle and region that you can easily google to see a picture of them and how they are performed are crescent lunge pose with the back knee down on the ground focusing on gently allowing the back quadricep to lower closer to the ground by bending the front knee until you find a sweet stretch. Always err on the side of gentleness as opposed to aggressiveness. Another nice stretch is reclining twist.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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