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Release Your Psoas and Iliacus with 4 Simple Yoga Poses

Posted by on Nov 19, 2017

Your iliacus and psoas muscles, are part of a group of muscles called your hip flexors.  These muscles can become short from just the sheer number of hours that we sit in a day, and overused when we try to sit up without our spine supported.  Short and tight hip flexors are a common cause of back ache, and hip dysfunction.  If you have ever had your psoas or iliacus released through your abdomen, you can testify to the discomfort of this technique, even if it has been effective for you in the past.  Fear not, there are simpler ways to tame these muscles.  Try out this sequence at home, on a daily basis, for a week, and see if you notice a change in the stiffness, or pain in the front of your hips, or low back.

Supported Bridge 

Start with quieting your hip flexors with supported bridge pose.  Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet hip width distance apart.  Press down with your feet to lift your hips and place a block, bolster, or a 4-6 inch thick stack of blankets under your hips.  Allow your hips to relax.  Placing a sandbag over the hip creases helps the hip flexors to release.  Hold for 2-5 minutes.

Single Knee to Chest with Hips Elevated

Keep the support under your hips and draw the right knee towards the right armpit. Straighten the left leg and draw back the left toes.  Roll the front of the left thigh in and down towards the floor as you engage your abdominal muscles, to prevent your back from arching away from the ground.  You should feel a stretch on the front of the left thigh.  Elevate the hips 1-2 inches higher if you don’t feel a stretch.  Hold for 5-10 breaths, or until the tension on the front of the thigh releases.  Repeat on the other leg.

Bridge with Heels on a Chair

One of the ways we can release the hip flexors is to activate or strengthen the hamstrings. Our body is programed to relax the muscles on one side of the body, when the muscles on the other side are engaged. We can use this strategy to coax our hip flexors to let go of their holding.  Lie on your back with your heels on the seat of a chair. Gently press the heels into the chair seat to engage the muscles on the back of the thighs.  These are your hamstrings.  Sometimes just digging the heels in is enough to provide relief of symptoms.  If you want more of a challenge, lift the hips off the floor and hold until you experience a burn in the back of the thighs.  If your hamstrings cramp, just do the dig in portion, and not the lifting portion of this exercise.  Over time you will get stronger and will eventually be able to lift your hips.

 Legs on a Chair

Now that you have strengthened your hamstrings, it’s time to perform a final relaxation pose for the psoas and iliacus.  Fully support your legs on a chair.  If you have long legs, you may need to put several folded blankets under your lower legs.  Placing a folded blanket or sandbag across the shins helps to secure the legs so that you fully let go of all effort.  Place a small folded blanket under the back of the head.  Fully allow the legs to relax, focusing on the hip creases softening on the exhale.  Hold for 2-5 minutes.

Try this sequence once a day for a week and observe the effects.  If you are short on time, just perform one of the poses per day and you may still see benefit from these postures.

This post was written by Dr. Janet Carscadden, physical therapist, yoga instructor and owner of Evolution PT and Yoga.

Learn more about releasing your hip flexors in her upcoming workshop on Dec 15th 2017: Yoga Wall: Psoas Release

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