I write a lot about the psoas because it’s been such an important structure for me to pay attention to in my own practice. I’ve struggled with hip pain for more than 20 years and trace it back to structural abnormalities (I was born bow-legged and pigeon toed and had surgery, casts and braces to correct it 40 years ago) as well as poor training as a young runner and weight lifter (teen age girls probably shouldn’t put 400 pounds on barbells for a lift, nor is it wise to run middle distance and marathon in the off season, just in case you wondered about such things 🙂
Yoga has revolutionized my embodiment in so many ways, and one is to allow me to study how I use my illiopsoas. The psoas gets stretched in any backward bending, some more than others, and it gets worked whenever we bring knees toward chest. Tightness or injury in this muscle can mimic lots of other injuries and even create bizarre symptoms. True injury is debilitating for a time… I’ve learned you even use this muscle to get out of bed!
One of the most subtle stretches for the psoas is Warrior I – Virabhadrasana I. From mountain, step one foot back 2 to 3 feet. Your hips remain forward, so it helps to inner spiral the femurs and push into the feet to bring the hip of the back leg forward, and the hip of the front leg back. The femur of the back leg is naturally drawing the pelvis under and forward; resist this by engaging the abdominals to move the rib cage back in space and over the pelvis. Tuck your tailbone.
Breathing in, raise the arms overhead by the ears or in “I give up” if your shoulders are tight.
Breathing out, bend your forward knee. Check in with the hips: if you had headlights on the front of each pelvic crest, would they both be pointing forward? Press into the feet, engage the inner & outer hip muscles, engage mula bandha and your core to find alignment, then relax, smile and shine!
Because of the psoas’ pull on the pelvis and low back, this is an outstanding preventative and sometimes help for low back pain. Try a backbend (bow, bridge or cobra perhaps?) before and one after and see if you can tell the difference in your openness and ability to radiate. And radiate love, truth and beauty!