If you're interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Alignment Matters.
I’m currently on my book tour, which started in California, because I started in California, both in alignment work and in life. The thing is, I just moved from California, which means that to get to my book tour I had to:
Drive 60 miles in my car.
Take a ferry to Seattle.
Take a cab from the ferry station to the airport.
Take a 2.5 hours plane ride to California.
Drive from the airport to my family’s house in Orange County.
Eat a bunch of food that wasn’t Greek.
Drive 60 miles to the closest and bestest Greek restaurant in Los Angeles.
Ride a train for two hours to Ventura.
Drive from train station to bestest friend’s house.
Eat leftover Greek food.
I’ve done more sitting in the last 6 days than I have in the last 3 months combined. My body is letting me know that this is not okay.
The psoas is a muscle that, when functioning optimally makes the world glow just a little brighter. Sitting makes the psoas about three inches shorter than it should be. And when the psoas ain’t happy, the pelvic floor, the hips, and the spine aren’t happy either.
The psoas (a muscle running between the spine and the femur bone) is often clumsily lumped in anatomy books with the iliacus (a muscle running between the pelvis and the femur) and referred to as a hip flexor or a pelvic tilter. And while the psoas can do these things, anatomy books fail to mention that the psoas also moves the ribs forward into a thrust, lifting the chest.
When checking out your body’s profile, if you see a prominently lifted chest cavity (there are some good pictures in this old post *click*) or the bony bottom ribs thrust forward of the pelvis, you need some psoas relief info A.S.A.P.
Psoas issues are no joke. A psoas that won’t release can affect baby position in utero. It can prevent the hips from extending and the glutes from building. It can compress the disks in the spinal column. It can keep the hamstrings and the calf muscles short. The psoas, like all muscle, responds to the position you spend the greatest amount of time in. Most of us sit -- at work, in the car, in front of the computer, in front of the TV, at meals -- all the time. And when we stand, we thrust our pelvis forward and lift our ribs. We suck in our stomachs and walk on gym machines. All of these things make the psoas muscles a fraction of the length they should be.
In light of all my additional sitting, I’ve had to dust off my psoas protocol to try to find some relief from my new traveling tightness. If you want to work on restoring your psoas with me, try cycling between this psoas release exercise (click) and my favorite, easy-going low lunge.
Note these things about this exercise:
1. The front shin should be vertical.
2. The pelvis should be neutral, which means that the pelvis does not tip forward to sink deeper - only go as far forward as you can keeping the front plane of the pelvis vertical.
3. The ribs do not thrust and the back does not arch.
4. Make sure you have Wonder Woman arms. This stretch won’t work unless your hands are on your hips and you look kind of stern. And have an invisible jet.
5. Do not do this stretch unless you need a haircut. And have a headband.
The affects of a home-psoas stretching program have shown to have positive impacts on improving gait patterns, so get on it! Doesn't matter how tight you are when you start - you will notice quick results with regular practice! I find the human body’s ability to transform mind-blowing. Simply amazing.
A funny tidbit from my real life: I just learned that A.S.A.P. is called an acronym and not an anacronym, the term I've always used. Because I think it sounds better. But that’s because I’m a verbal moron, evidently.
For in-depth anatomical and biomechanical info on the psoas, consider the 3 hours lecture and exercise presentation, Science of Psoas (more info by clicking here).