Are you battling tight hips and sore psoas muscles? If you are a runner, swimmer, hiker, biker or athlete of any kind your body is likely taking a constant beating.
Hip flexors supported by your psoas muscles, which make up one of our major muscle groups for mobility and flexibility, are often easily compromised by not only the demands that repetitive movement and strenuous exercise put on them, but also by immobility for extended periods of time, such as sitting in the car, at your desk or on the couch.
Psoas muscles are made up of both slow and fast twitch muscle fibers and are the primary connectors with your legs and core, which have a direct affect on your mobility, posture and spinal stability.
Weak Psoas muscles broken down by repetitive use, overstretching or injury, can cause other connective muscle groups and ligaments to overcompensate, causing further weakness and injury elsewhere in the body.
If not properly addressed some of the issues that they can lead to are low back pain, pelvic problems, locked hip flexors, tight IT bands and knee issues.
The benefits of a regular yoga practice with the correct exercises and stretches to address the Psoas muscle groups can have a dramatic affect at reducing the risk of injury or aiding in your recovery leading to greater longevity in your active life and sport.
Carly Harper's background in personal training, wellness, and as a Team Canada triathlete gives her a unique perspective on issues to address with a yoga practice. Learn more about Carly here.
Action Plan from Love & Asana
The number one area of tension that my students talk about (my major pain point too) is in their shoulders. Carly mentioned that this was one of her struggles as a tri-athlete due to the aero bars and swimming, along with tight hip flexors and IT bands. Guess what? There’s a yoga pose for that! Honestly, there’s like 20, but we’ll focus on a couple of really good ones.
Did you know that a consistent yoga practice can help with your posture, gait, flexibility, physical and mental strength, and endurance? We all need these, but especially those of you who are high-performance athletes and want longevity in your career.
Break it down, now! Below are my favorite poses to open up your chest, release your shoulders and find length in your hip flexors and IT band. Try these out before or after your next workout…or both, if you’re up for it. Now get on the mat and feel your body change!
Supported Fish Pose (Sanskrit Name: Matsyasana)
- Sit down with your legs extended or knees bent.
- Place a block, rolled towel, or bolster along your spine from the small of your back to in between your shoulder blades
- Gently lie back and rest the crown of your head on the ground. If this is uncomfortable, place another block under the back of your head and rest it there.
- Rest your arms on the ground. Draw your arms towards your head and stop when they reach shoulder height. Leave them extended to the side with your palms face up. If the stretch is too intense across your chest, leave your arms down by your side.
- Close your eyes and breathe.
- Don’t do if you have neck or low back issues.
- Why is this good for me? Stretches your psoas, chest, and throat.
Forward Fold Variation with IT Band Stretch (Sanskrit Name: Uttanasana)
- Start in a forward fold and cross your left leg in front of your right. See if your pinky toes will touch.
- Shift your weight slightly forward to begin stacking your hips over your ankles. Feel the stretch as you fold and let your head hang heavy.
- Begin slowly walking your hands towards the right side. Bend one or both knees, if needed. Stay here for 3-5 breaths.
- Slowly move your hands to the left side. Stay here for 3-5 breaths.
- Unwind your legs for a traditional forward fold.
- When you are ready, switch sides and repeat the steps.
- Why is this good for me? Stretches your hamstrings, calves, and IT band.
Crescent Moon (Sanskrit Name: Anjaneyasana)
- Start in low lunge and drop your back knee on the mat. Tops of the toes touch the earth or keep your back toes tucked if you feel pressure on the back knee. You can always place a rolled towel beneath your back knee to relieve any discomfort from contact with the ground.
- Slowly shift your weight forward as your knee moves slightly past your ankle and your hips sink lower. Your knee should be tracking to the middle toe.
- Bring your hands to your thigh or above your head (only if you feel no discomfort in the low back or knees).
- Draw your inner thighs energetically towards each other to stay activated in your pelvis.
- Breathe for 3-5 full cycles. Release and switch sides.
- Why is this good for me? Stretches psoas, strengthens quadriceps, and releases glutes.
Remember to consult a physician before starting a new exercise program.
Pay attention to your alignment and always stop practicing a pose if you are experiencing pain. Check in with yourself and listen to your body. You only get one!
Tiffany Lord is the Owner of Love & Asana™ and a Power Vinyasa Instructor based in Woodland Park, Colorado. She is a true believer in the power of yoga to help improve mental and physical health. Her mission is to share that with the world through amazing shirts that help fund yoga programs and a sweet asana practice. Connect with Tiffany at email@example.com or visit www.loveandasana.com