Have psoas, will travel.

If you’re interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Alignment Matters. If you’d like movement instruction via video, start with Science of Psoas.

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).

Are you still interested in learning more on this?

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30 thoughts on “Have psoas, will travel.

  1. Ooh, cool – I get to be the first one to post a reply! I’ve missed your blog posts. Hope the tour is going well.

    After about a month or two of pretty regular psoas stretching/releasing, my formerly chronically tight psoas is finally starting to show some signs of lengthening. I am SOOOOO grateful to you for this wonderful information that I have not found anywhere else. You’re a godsend. 🙂

    Keep lengthening that psoas, girl!!

    P.S. The 3 hour Science of the Psoas course is totally worth it.

  2. Katy you have saved me !!

    I have been traveling from Honduras, Miami, Disneyland(2 days of rides, picking up & holding grandchildren, eating way too much food before, during & after the Thanksgiving holiday. Fly from LAX to St George, Utah then drive to Salt Lake City Utah. Dragging around luggage since the 28th of October. I am going to lengthen my Psoas Right Now!!!!


  3. thanks for this post! i do way too much sitting unfortunately between driving and sitting in front of my computer at work and at home. i’m always looking for new stretches to do.

  4. Thank you for this wonderful post.

    It seems I have way too much questions about your favorite low lunge 🙂 and they really prevent me from enjoying the exercise 🙂

    1. Is the purpose here to shorten or stretch the psoai?

    2. In my yoga practice my teacher always reminds us about keeping the pelvic floor active in similar poses (active mula bandha), is your purpose the same or the exact opposite?

    3. Would a not-so-easy-going low lunge with the knee off the ground do the same work ? With the knee on the ground, either that my knee hurts, or I am too far in the pose to be able to go out gracefully.

    4. Are you joking in #4 about the arms? Is it OK, if I leave them along the body or on the knee?

    5. If I raise my arms above my head as in the famous warrior one pose, and my back arches, will this defeat the purpose of the low lunge?

    I hope you enjoy your trip 🙂

    1. Some answers for you:
      1. You are stretching (applying gentle tension) the psoai in this movement.
      2. I wouldn’t add any tension to the PF — contracting things often interferes with the neurological signal to relax.
      3. The work in a knee-up lunge adds an element of contraction, so there is no longer passive tension on the psoas. See Theresa’s suggestions for the painful knee…
      4. Yes, completely joking.
      5. If you raise the arms, the ribs tend to also lift, which puts slack into the psoas, reducing the stretch.

      Thanks for your comment! I’m almost home!!!

      1. Thank you for you detailed answers, I think I finally understood the stretch.

        I am so lucky I have found you and your blog, you provide much needed insight on my home exercise 🙂

        Hope you are home already 🙂

  5. yay, psoas stretching!

    i’m sorry to hear of your sufferings of travel, but appreciate that you’re doing a book tour — i really enjoyed the class today, and hope to meet up with you sometime again in the future. =)

    1. I’m so glad you made it out! Hopefully I’ll see you when I return to the Bay Area next year! Good luck in school…

  6. Anacronym! That’s a portmanteau word, meaning (I guess) an acronym used before it’s time. Eg: “Chaucer said we must needs get to Canterbury ASAP — my psoas is killing me from sitting on a horse all day.”

  7. Hi Katy

    I took the psoas class as well and loved it-totally worth it!! prior to the class, I would do a version of the stretch you show in this blog. What I realized is that I was doing it wrong. I knew I had a psoas problem but couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t feeling better. Once I knew to follow the parameters you speak of, I felt this incredible/ very intense stretch all the way down my quad!! Now- I am feeling better!! Thank you so much Katy. P.S. read your book- loved it 🙂

    1. Thanks Sue!! Could I ask you for a review on Amazon.com as soon as they’re accepting them? I’d appreciate it!

  8. …and if your patella can’t take the weight/compression (on the back leg), put a pillow under it…or better yet, let the patella hang off the front of the pillow so the patella isn’t taking any weight/compression at all.

    1. My challenge is that the head of my left femur can’t take the weight/compression in this lunge position. I’ve been doing all the other psoas stretches from the course and occasionally go back to the lunge as I heal, hoping eventually I’ll be able to do it pain free. Any suggestions?

  9. Good to have another post! I’m trying to put all these useful tidbits into practice and I can see a difference after only 2 week or so!

    Quick question on this one, I have a lot of right hip and lower back pain (achy and it cracks frequently with a line of pain that feels like it runs right along my spine into my tailbone) and my right leg has pulled up a bit shorter than my left. So I thought I’d feel this a lot on the right side. Oddly enough, I can’t feel a thing on the right side but I can on the left. Should I only feel it on the left when I have right sided pain?

    Again, thanks loads for all these wonderful posts. For the first time in about 3 years I can sleep on my back with my legs stretched out! And that was after years of waking up from back pain in the night and have to sleep on my side with my knees bent. Thank you so much!

    1. Your left side could be so tight that it’s twisting your right side out of alignment — it’s OK if stretches aren’t felt evenly — just make sure you do both sides just in case!
      And, excellent about how much your hard work has paid off! Well done 🙂

      1. Thanks for the encouragement! I have about 45 mins worth of stretches that I’ve gathered from your site and the supple shoulders dvd that I go through once a day as well as walking and I can feel my hips and back loosening up. But when I try to do any of my usual workouts (barre workouts) I end up with back and hip spasms worse then ever. Is it best just to stick with the walking and stretching while my body is rebalancing?

        My theory is that while initially loosening up and rebalancing I’m in a sort of gap phase where my unused muscles aren’t yet strong enough to do their job but since I’m limiting the improper muscle recruitment I’ve been relying on I’m not as strong as usual…does that make any sense at all?! I’m struggling to express myself…

        Thanks again for all the helpful posts!

        1. So, it sounds like your typical workout is using your muscles in a way that leaves them in a fit. I’d ditch them for awhile and work on new muscles and patterns that you’ve neglected the bulk of your life. And, I thought you expressed yourself beautifully!

  10. Where should I feel the stretch if I’m doing it right? I think I am (doing it correctly) but I’m feeling the stretch in non-psoas muscles (I think).

  11. Any engaging of the abdominals during this stretch? Also, I feel a tight stabbing pain in my low back close to my spine when I do this stretch, any thoughts on that? Thanks Katy!

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