The psoas is a major muscle in the front of the body and is connected to the anterior spine and the lumbar spine. The psoas muscles play an important role in body movements, especially those that involve the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Muscles that are used when bending and spreading the legs or bending the trunk are psoas muscles. It is important to strengthen this muscle to prevent injury to the spine, especially in the lumbar, sacroiliac, and hip joints.
The psoas is a muscle that gets so much attention when it comes to Yoga, because it is a muscle that strongly impact the way in which we move and how we feel.
The psoas is the large muscle that connects your spine to your hips. It’s a powerful muscle, making up the front and center of the torso’s core. If the muscles surrounding the psoas are weak, they can pull the lumbar spine out of alignment, causing pain in the low back and hip joints. The psoas is also a key muscle in maintaining good posture. When it’s strong, the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine are able to align the spine correctly.
Yoga classes with asanas are a great way to connect with and become aware of your body. In yoga classes, you’ll often hear anatomical terms referring to the body, including identifying muscle groups, bones, and joints.
While the average student may not know what ilium is, you can be sure it has been brought up in at least one course they have taken.
Definition of ileopsoas
More commonly abbreviated as psoas, iliopsoas refers to the interconnected psoas and iliac muscles. It is the strongest muscle of the hip flexor group, which originates in the upper vertebrae of the lumbar spine and attaches to the trochanter at the base of the femur (a small protrusion near the head of the femur).
It is the only muscle that connects the lumbar spine to the lower body and therefore has a great influence on posture and the optimal execution of body movements, including yoga.
The psoas is (partially) responsible for facilitating hip flexion or the contraction of the hip and spine. Postures like Navasana and Bakasana, which require deep hip flexion, activate the psoas.
If the psoas is tense, it can be felt in backbends, such as ushtrasana (camel pose) or sethu bandhasana, when the lumbar spine is hyperextended. Therefore, to lengthen the psoas, you must adopt postures that open the front line of the body. To strengthen the psoas, adopt postures that actively move the front of the thigh to the front of the abdomen – or, more subtly, use the psoas to hold the pelvis in a neutral position.
If you’re interested in learning more about the psoas and the poses that activate it, I suggest you sign up for a 30-day yoga challenge. Regular and consistent exercise will help you gain strength and increase your flexibility.
In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at the following postures that will help you lengthen and strengthen the psoas.
1. Deep cleft or Anjaneyasana
This deep lunge with the back knee down is an accessible pose that helps to lengthen the psoas of the back leg. With the front leg forward and the knee bent at a 90° angle above the heel, bring the back knee below or slightly behind the hip.
Stretch up through the hip points to maintain the length of the lumbar spine, letting the pelvis fall forward and down as you exhale. The hands may be on the front of the thigh, or the arms may be stretched upwards.
2. Twisted Lizard or Parivrtta Uttkhana Pristhasana
The twisted lizard pose deepens the stretch you get in anjaneyasana. From Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog), step forward with the right foot behind the right arm. Keep both hands in line with the front leg.
With the back knee on the mat, bend the back leg and bring the heel to the buttocks. Place your right hand behind your back and grasp the outside edge of the back of your foot. As you exhale, bend your right elbow while pulling your left heel toward your buttocks.
This is a great opening for the quadriceps of the back leg. Concentrate on lifting the front of the hip bones toward the navel to lengthen the psoas.
3. Apanasana or Pavanmuktasana
Begin the constructive rest or Ardha Savasana by bending the legs so that the knees are directly above the heels. Bring the right knee to the chest, interlace the fingers on the shin and pull the thigh to the right side of the abdomen and chest.
Keep the muscles around your right hip relaxed. Start stepping (or sliding) forward with your left foot, lowering your left foot onto the mat as straight as possible. As you extend your left knee, focus on the front of your left hip. Powerfully massage the back of the left leg, especially the inner thigh, which will help to stretch the left psoas.
4. Modified boat or Navasana
Begin the Dandasana pose with the back straight and stretched. Bend your knees so your heels are closer to your buttocks and the soles of your feet are on the mat. Raise both arms forward and, while maintaining the length of the spine, begin to lean back.
The weight of the upper body is pulled to the ground, but it is the contraction of the abdominal muscles that aligns the spine. This variation of Navasana is a great way to strengthen your muscles.
In the full posture, Puripurna Navasana, the heels are raised in line with the knees (or the legs are fully extended), taking special care to keep the spine in axial extension, otherwise it tends to collapse. Activate the psoas to hold the hips and front of the body together.
5. On one leg on the bench
Put the table legs in a high position. Bring your shoulders above your wrists so your arms are vertical, and neutralize your spine so your pelvis doesn’t drop into the floor.
As you inhale, look forward; as you exhale, lift your right leg into a hanging position. Pull the points of your hips forward towards your chest to keep your pelvis neutral. The psoas of both legs is activated and strengthened to keep the pelvis in a stable position. Specifically, the psoas of the right leg stabilizes the raised leg and the psoas of the left leg stabilizes the pelvis.
The psoas is a key figure in our yoga practice. Our ability to move with ease in asana depends on the strength and flexibility of our psoas.
In addition to the mat, the psoas has a direct impact on our posture, making it an important muscle to strengthen and lengthen. In this way, we can relieve lower back pain, improve posture in general and feel the stability of our body. The Psoas muscle is one of the most overlooked body parts. This muscle located just under the waist is the largest and strongest muscle in the human body. This muscle is the primary muscle that sits underneath the belly of the muscle, the Gluteus Maximus. This muscle takes a lot of beating on a daily basis, as it is used in nearly every movement of the body. And, when it is not used properly, the rest of the body suffers.