This post from 2011 was updated in 2020 for light editing, updated resources, and new/bigger pictures! Check out Our Best "Healthy Pelvis" Resources for more on how the psoas impacts your health.
I’m currently on 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
- Take a cab from the ferry station to the airport
- Take a 2.5 hours plane ride
- Drive from the airport to my family’s house
- 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
- Drive from train station to bestest friend’s house
- Eat leftover Greek food
I’ve done more sitting in the last six days than I have in the last three months and my psoas is letting me know that this is not okay.
The psoas is a muscle that, when moving well, makes the world glow just a little brighter. Sitting requires the psoas shorten and when you sit a lot, it doesn't lengthen all the way when you get up out of your chair. When my psoas isn't happy, neither are my hips or spine.
The psoas (two muscles, one on each side of your torso, connecting to numerous attachments along the spine and the femur bone) is often mistakenly lumped in anatomy books with the iliacus (a muscle running between the pelvis and the femur) and referred to as the iliopsoas, and labeled a hip flexor or a pelvic tilter. The iliacus does more of the pelvic tilting (the psoas doesn't attach to the pelvis); the psoas can do things like bring the legs toward the chest, pull on the vertebrae and intervertebral discs, and displace the ribcage forward.
Psoas issues are no joke. Psoai that won’t release can affect baby position in utero. They can prevent the hips from extending and thus the glutes from building. They can compress the disks in the spinal column and affect hamstrings and calf muscle length. The psoai, like all muscles, 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—the bulk of our time. All of these things make the psoas muscles a fraction of the length they need to be, and even when we're up and walking around, we're taking our sitting baggage with us.
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 psoai with me, try cycling between the Psoas Release and my favorite, easy-going low lunge.
1. Bolster the back knee if you need extra cushioning and make sure the front shin is vertical (you might have to reposition your front foot as you drop down).
2. In order to move your psoas (and other hip flexors), you have to TUCK your pelvis as you lunge forward; don't allow the pelvis to tip forward in order to travel farther. Only lunge as far forward as you can keeping the front plane of the pelvis vertical (watch your pelvis isn't twisting too).
3. Ribcage down! If the ribcage goes up, then you're taking tension OFF the psoas, i.e. moving it less.
Doesn't matter how tight you are when you start, we all have to start moving somewhere.
Find the lunge and other moves on our Healthy Pelvis DVD!