Although few stretch classes mention the psoas muscle by name, this complicated muscle is one of the most important in the body. Joining the lower back and the inner thigh, the psoas muscle is responsible for the movement of the legs and suppleness of the spine. A tight psoas is often the cause of lower back pain, knee pain and tightness in the hips and inner thighs.
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Lie on your back with your knees bent and pointing toward the ceiling. Although this position seems completely static, it is really a basic psoas stretch. For people with severe lower back pain, this is a safe way to relax and lengthen the psoas.
Assume the same position as in Step 1. Keeping one knee bent, stretch the other leg out along the floor. Breath deeply, hold for about 30 seconds, and switch legs. This gentle stretch targets the psoas muscle and is appropriate for moderate back pain.
Rest in the same position as in Step 1. Bring the right knee to the chest, holding the leg just under the knee. Maintain this position for a few seconds and then, while holding the bent knee, straighten the left leg out on the floor. Then, bring the left leg back to its original bent position. Switch legs.
Kneel on the floor. Move one leg forward, with your knee bent at 90 degrees, and rest your weight on your foot. Move the other leg back, so that its foot, calf and knee rest on the floor. Slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch in the hip of the rear leg. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, and switch legs. This is a deeper psoas stretch.
Stand up straight, and move one foot about 10 inches behind the other. Bend both your front and back knees, evenly distributing your weight between your two feet. Make sure your knees do not extend past your feet, and keep your hips reaching forward. Hold for 20 seconds, and switch feet.
Get down on all fours, and bring the knee of one leg between your two hands. Rest the outer part of that bent leg on the floor. Straighten the other leg out behind you. Keep your body aligned over your hips, and feel the stretch in the hip (and psoas muscle) of your bent leg. Switch legs.
Tips and warnings
- Take a yoga or Pilate's class, where psoas stretches are often part of every stretching series.
- Keep your shoulders on the floor in Step 3. The exercise will not work if your upper back is off the floor.
- Be very careful with Step 4. Consult your doctor before doing this stretch if you have severe back or hip pain. Do not arch your back as you do this stretch.