The psoas is a muscle in the pelvic region that can be blamed for back, hip, and leg pain, but specific psoas muscle exercises can bring relief, including psoas muscle stretches.
The psoas, which is pronounced “so-az,” is a muscle that sits in the pelvic area and connects the lower back to the upper thigh. It allows us to bring our knees up to our chest. One of the main functions of the psoas is to help flex the hip, so it’s vital for walking, going up and down stairs, as well as sitting down.
Stretching the psoas on a regular basis is something we should all do. Psoas muscle stretches are particularly crucial for athletes.
Exercises and Stretches for Psoas Muscle
The following list includes some of the best stretching exercises for the psoas muscle:
Constructive Rest Position
This is actually one of the more effective yoga stretches for psoas muscle pain. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and lined up hip-width apart, approximately 12 inches away from your buttocks. The next step is to put your hands and forearms on your ribcage and relax. You should notice how your weight sinks downward to the floor. As the psoas releases, it feels as if the balance of weight is more evenly distributed.
Supine Hip Flexor Stretch
You can move from the constructive rest exercise into the supine position. Start by extending your legs out flat on the floor and then slide the left foot back and put it flat on the floor as well. Pull your shoulders back and down. Now hold your left thigh with both hands and pull the left knee into your chest. Squeeze your right buttock muscle and push your right heel into the floor. Hold for about 30 seconds and then straighten the leg. This psoas muscle exercise can be done two to five times, and you can switch legs and repeat the exercise.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Exercises for the psoas major muscle should be carried out with additional pads or mats in some cases. For instance, you can use a mat for the kneeling hip flexor stretch if need be. Begin this exercise from a kneeling position. Your left knee should be below your left hip, and the right knee should be over your ankle out in front. The right foot should be flat on the floor. Put your hands on your right thigh. This will help keep the spine straight. Without arching your back, engage your core muscles and keep your pelvis stable. Lean forward into your right hip while your left knee presses into the mat. You can go a step further with this psoas exercise by contracting the left hip glute muscles. You should try to hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat the movement anywhere from two to five times before doing the same on the other side.
Half-Kneeling Hip-Flexor and Abductor Stretch
This exercise can help ease pain and improve mobility. Start in a kneeling position on a mat. Place your right foot forward, and bend it, so the shin is perpendicular to the ground. Now bring your pelvis in so it is neutral to the spine position. Hold this position and stretch the hip flexors for up to 10 seconds. Move your right foot out at a 90-degree angle. Sink your hips to the knee and hold this abductor stretch for 10 seconds. You can then bring your leg back to the center and knee down to the mat before raising the left leg up and in front. You can repeat each stretch up to 10 times.
Psoas muscle strengthening exercises can be a challenge while standing but the standing release is a good element to include. You will need a block to support your weight. You place it about 12-inches from a wall and stand on it. Lift your left foot and leg onto the block and stand with the right leg suspended in the air. You can use your right hand to support yourself by holding the wall. Once in this position, you can swing the right leg forward and back like a pendulum. Step down and the swinging leg should feel freer. You can perform the same exercise with the opposite leg.
Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)
Stretches for the psoas muscle can involve deep stretching. Yoga often allows for deep stretches. The lunge pose is a common yoga move; however, for the psoas, the lunge is different than what you may be accustomed to. To do a psoas lunge pose, get down on your hands and knees on a mat and make sure your hands are lined up below your shoulder. Palms should be flat on the mat. As you bring your right foot forward between your shoulders, exhale. Now you should straighten your back leg, push back through your left heel, and make sure your knee is off the ground. Don’t bend the knee. Hold for three to seven breaths and then return to the start position. You will notice the increased freedom of movement in the right hip as soon as you start to walk around.
Warrior Pose I (Virabhadrasana I)
This yoga pose stretches the psoas and strengthens the core at the same time. To do this psoas stretch, you stand with your legs about four feet apart. Place your foot out at a 90-degree angle and bring your left foot in by about 15-degrees. Your right foot heel needs to be aligned with the center of your left foot. Raise both arms up to shoulder level and keep them parallel to the ground with palms facing up. Exhale while you bend the right knee. Turn your head to the right and look at the tips of the fingers on that hand. You can try deepening the pose by pushing your pelvis further down. The next step is to inhale and rise up. Exhale and bring your arms to your side. You can repeat the movement on the other side. There is a second phase to the warrior pose I. You perform it by stretching your arms over your head and bringing your palms together. Hold for about 30-seconds or longer and return to the start position.
Luckily, stretching exercises for the psoas muscle don’t take a lot of time or equipment. If you have recently had surgery or are experiencing extreme pain in the psoas region of the body, you should talk to a doctor before you begin any of the exercises outlined here.
People who spend long hours sitting at a desk often complain about lower back pain and stretching the psoas muscle can help. So, whether you are an athlete or not, your psoas can get stiff from time-to-time and psoas muscle stretching exercises can make a world of difference in terms of loosening things up.