Sunday, 7 May 2017

Yoga anatomy bites - the psoas, a very important muscle

When the psoas, a pair of hip flexor muscles are either short and tight, or overstretched it can lead to a whole host of problems. These problems include back pain, leg pain, knee pain, lordosis (accenuated lumbar spine) and because they are connected to the diaphragm by fascia they can cause problems for breathing and compression of the abdominal organs.  

Problems with the psoas can be caused by weak abdominal muscles, weak pelvic floor muscles or too much sitting. The psoas are often referred to as the iliopsoas because they join with the iliacus muscle. 

The psoas originate at the 12th thoracic vertebra and lumbar vertebrae 1-5 at either side of the body and inserts at the lesser trochanter of the femur (a small protuberance of bone that projects from the posterior aspect of the femur) so linking upper and lower body.  Their function is to move the hip joint and have a vital role in good posture.  Your psoas work to lift your knee up when in a standing position, they allow your leg to extend behind as in lunges, stabilise your hips in squats and are key to walking, running and kicking.
The following poses will help keep the psoas strong and flexible.

You will need two blocks for the following yoga practice

Apanasana lie on a yoga mat with your legs outstretched.  Bend your right knee and draw your right knee in close to your chest.  If you have knee issues hold on behind your thighs otherwise you can hold on just below your knee. Hold for a few breaths then release. Repeat second side.

Pigeon - come onto all fours, bring your right knee to your right wrist and lower your hips, sliding your left leg back. Take your right foot towards  the left side of the mat. Keep your shoulders over your hips and centred so you do not lean to one side and square your hips to the short edge of the mat. Tucking the toes of your back foot and pressing into your toes can help square the hips. Use a block or a cushion under your left thigh and another under your right buttock if you need to make the pose more comfortable.

Low lunge with twist, lateral stretch and side bend - from Child's pose breathe in, come onto all fours, breathe out lift your hips into a Downward Facing Dog.  Breathe in and step your right foot forward between your hands, breathe out drop your back knee.  Breathe out, twist to the right, bringing your left hand to your right thigh.  Hold for a breath or two then breathe in come back to centre. On your next breath in raise your left arm, breathe out and lean to the right bringing your right fingertips to the mat. Breathe in to centre, breathe out lower your hands to the mat and return to Downward Facing Dog.  Repeat second side.

Triangle to Side Angle-with your hands on your hips, step your feet  a leg length apart, outside edges of your feet parallel to the short edges of the mat. Turn the whole of the right leg to the right so that the knee and foot point the same way and turn the toes of the back foot in 45degrees.  The heel of your front foot should line up with the instep of your back foot.  Inhale raise your arms to  shoulder height, lift your chest. Breathe out, hinge from the hips and bring your right hand to your right leg, left arm up towards the ceiling. Gaze can be straight ahead or up at the left thumb, depending on your neck. To release, inhale windmill the arms back to shoulder height as you come up. Breathe out and bend the front knee, breathe in bring your right elbow to right thigh, breathe out circle your left arm down and up by the left ear for Side Angle pose. Hold for a few breaths then inhale bring your arms back to shoulder height, breathe out turn your feet to face forward, bring your hands to your heart.  Repeat second side. 

Tree pose -stand in the middle of the mat and take your weight into your left foot. Find a drishti, a gaze point then take your right foot to your left ankle, shin or reach down and bring your foot to your left thigh (do not have the right foot against the left knee). Breathe in and bring your hands into prayer position. Hold for several breaths if possible then breathe out to lower. 
Repeat second side.

Supported Shoulder Bridge- lie on your mat with your knees bent. Inhale lift your hips, place the blocks under your hips, exhale lower.  Stretch out your legs.

Reclined twist  - lie with your knees bent, arms a little way from your body.  Breathe in and as you breathe out lower your knees to the right and turn your head to the left if you have no problems with your neck.  If your legs are up in the air support them with your blocks. Hold for a few breaths then inhale back to centre.  Repeat second side then hug your knees in. Stretch out your legs and spend a few minutes in savasana.

Please also see:-
'Yoga anatomy bites- flexion and extension'
'Yoga anatomy bites - adduction and abduction'
'Yoga anatomy bites- internal rotation and external rotation'
'Yoga anatomy bites - hamstring strength vs flexibility
'Yoga anatomy bites - foot flexibility and stability'
'Yoga anatomy bites - knee health'
'Yoga anatomy bites - piriformis'
'Yoga anatomy bites - glutes and preventing back pain'


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