According to the pop singer Shakira – our hips don’t lie. Especially if they are in pain, or really tight. Read on for fun facts about the power behind our pelvis muscles, and different ways we can lengthen and loosen up in the hips.
The hip flexors literally carry the human body all day, every day. However, due to the fact that our hip muscles are responsible for walking, sitting, standing they are constantly activated and at a great risk of being injured.
The iliopsoas muscle (psoas for short) starts from the low back area then travels through the pelvis, attaching to the thigh bone. It is almost always involved when there is pain in the hip flexor region. This muscle is also known to be one of the ‘tightest’ muscles in the human body.
Symptoms of a tight psoas;
- Lower back and or abdominal Pain
- Leg and or groin pain
- Pelvic discomfort
- Trouble standing/sitting
- Inability to perform sit-ups
Causes of psoas pain;
- Sitting for extended periods
- Sleeping on the side, or fetal position
- Excess weight
- Running excessively
- Climbing large amounts of stairs
- Performing high number of sit-ups or leg ups (repetitive strain)
Due to the fact that the psoas is largely responsible for keeping proper posture, it is wise to include regular hip opening and lengthening in our daily exercise routines. Healthy hip muscles (not tight) can reduce many age related issues and assist with an upright posture well into old age. Targeting the iliopsoas with Yoga postures is easy, and rather fun to do. Regular practice of these hip opening postures can greatly reduce wear and tear on the hip joints, spine and knees.
How to Release the Psoas (Constructive Rest Position by Liz Koch)
- Lay on your back, with a relaxed spine, find a neutral and restful position.
- Bend the knees and place the feet hip width apart on the floor. Your feet should be 1 or 2ft from your buttocks.
- Keep gazing towards the ceiling and avoid moving your pelvis in any direction, nor flatten the spine.
- Optional, you can place a pillow or yoga blog between the knees, and you can cross the arms over your chest just under the neck.
- Hold this position for 10 or 20 minutes.
This will help loosen the psoas, creating a supple relaxed muscle.
Yoga Postures for Psoas Release
The following Yoga asanas, also known as poses, help to engage, lengthen and release the tight iliopsoas muscles. Practice each pose regularly to obtain supple psoas muscles which will help to prevent pain, strain or future injury to the hip flexors.
Reclining Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
This pose helps to elongate the hamstring muscles and spinal column.
- While laying flat on your back bring your right leg upwards.
- Use a Yoga belt around the balls of the feet just under the toes, or grab onto the right big toe with your index finger and attempt to straighten the right leg foot up to the ceiling.
- Keep the left leg straight and strong, pressing the back of the knee into the floor to assist in opening the lower spine.
- Keep the head and neck relaxed but long.
- Hold for 5-10 breaths then switch to the other side and repeat.
Boat Pose (Navasana)
This pose helps strengthen the abdominal muscles, hip flexors and spine.
- Start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you.
- Engage your abdominal muscles, keep your spine long then begin to raise both of your legs up in the air at the same time.
- Relax into the pose by drawing the lower rib cage closer to the spine.
- Keep the jaw line parallel to the floor.
- The legs should be held firmly together, gently gaze forward and hold this position for 5-10 deep breaths.
Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1)
This pose helps to open the hips and strengthen the legs.
- From standing position step the left leg forward and bend the left knee to 90 degrees. The right foot should point outwards at approximately 75 degrees.
- Raise the hands above your head as you gently lengthen from the base of the spine and gaze gently up towards the sky from the base of the skull.
- Hold this pose for 2 – 5 deep breaths then switch to the other side.
Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
This pose helps to open in the hips, groin and lengthens the hamstrings.
- From “Downward Facing Dog” step the left foot forward slightly wider than hip width apart and bend the knee at 90 degrees.
- Drop the right knee gently to the floor and flatten the right top of the foot onto the ground.
- Start to lower your torso forward, shoulders should pass the knee moving closer to the ground. Blocks can be used for stability, or if able, drop the forearms to rest on the ground.
- Take 3-5 deep breaths in this pose then release back into “Downward Facing Dog”.
Repeat with the right leg.
Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
This pose assists in spinal mobility, as well as opens the chest and solar plexus areas.
- Start by laying down, back on the floor.
- Bend your knees and place your feet approximately 1ft away from the buttocks, aligned with the hip sockets.
- Inhale as you rotate the pubic bone towards the sky and lift your hips up towards the ceiling. Clasp the hands behind your back to assist in opening the chest.
- For added support, place a yoga block or pillow between the knees.
- Hold for 5-10 whole breaths then slowly relax back down to the floor.
There are many other poses than can assist with opening the hips and loosening the infamously tight psoas muscles. If you would like to take your hip flexor stretches to the next level, try Pigeon Pose for extra lengthening. Lastly, to relax after an intense happy hip opening yoga class, enjoy a Supine Spinal Twist which will aid in easing the psoas muscles back into a busy day.