Sitting is part of life, especially if you work at a desk or drive a lot. Sitting for hours at a time can be detrimental to your body. You might feel the discomfort, but do you know why it’s there? There are a few potential reasons (that I will address in another post), but one of them is the Psoas.
The psoas is one of the hip flexors, which means it brings the thigh and torso closer together (hip flexion). When you sit, this muscle (and other hip flexors) are in a consistent state of contraction. While they may or may not be actively contracting, they are in a shortened state. When you go to stand up and lengthen them out again, that’s when you notice the pain.
Have you ever felt your back hurt when you stand up after sitting for long periods? I’m about to tell you why. But first, we need to understand the psoas a bit better.
The psoas is one of 2 muscles that make up the Iliopsoas (Iliacus + Psoas). The Psoas runs from the anterior portion (front) of the Lumbar spine (lower back) and attaches to the medial aspect of the Femur (thigh bone). When this muscle contracts, it brings your thigh toward your torso.
When this muscle stays shortened for long periods of time, like when you are sitting, it can be “cranky” when you stand up and it needs to lengthen out again. If it is used to being shortened more than lengthened, it can pull on the attachments. If every time you stand up, the psoas yanks on your lumbar spine, this can cause chronic lower back pain, and can lead to more serious lower back problems down the road.
A regular yoga practice can be a solution for chronic lower back pain due to sitting. Here are a couple of poses that, when practiced regularly, can help undo the tightness in the psoas, and relieve your lower back pain.
Low Lunge/ Anjaneyasana
Start on your hands and knees and step your right foot forward so that your knee is directly over your ankle. You can keep your hands on the floor on either side of your right foot, or you can place your hands on yoga blocks to bring the floor a bit closer. Another choice is to bring your hands onto your right thigh, moving the torso away from the thighs as you bring the pelvis more toward vertical. You can also raise your arms over your head, like in the photo.
Activate your left glutes as you gently press your hips forward to feel the stretch in the front of your left hip. Stay there and breathe, relaxing the hip flexors as you exhale. Stay a total of 5-10 breaths, whatever feels good to you, then repeat on the other side.
Supported Reclining Psoas Stretch
Lie down on your back with your knees bent over your ankles. Take your yoga block and place it under your pelvis. Rest the bones of the pelvis on the block, do not place it under the lower back. You should feel your tailbone lengthening toward your knees. The block can be flat, on its side, or on its end, depending on what feels good to you.
This might be enough if you already feel the stretch in the front of the hips, or you can hold the block with your hands and let your knees fall open. Another option is to straighten your legs, letting them rotate open, while actively engaging the lower abdominals. However, if you feel this in your lower back, keep the knees bent.
Stay in the variation that feels best to you for 5-10 breaths. Then bend your knees, press your feet into the floor and lower the hips back to the mat.
Join the 10×10 Core Challenge January 3-12 on Facebook! While having a tight psoas is one reason for lower back pain, another is having a weak core. In this free challenge, I will teach 10 days of 10 minute core classes to strengthen all aspects of your core, leaving you with a stronger and more stable lower back and pelvis. Click here for more information or to sign up!
Practice yoga regularly at Purple Room Yoga, Online Yoga Studio! With classes for beginners through experienced students, there is something for everyone. 30 and 60 minute Vinyasa Yoga, Beginner Yoga, Head to Toe Stretch, Movement and Meditation, and Mindful Core are all available both online live and on demand! Subscriptions and drop ins are both available! Get the 10 Day All Access Free Trial!
Coming in January: Healthy Back After 50! This 4 week online course is for anyone struggling with chronic lower back pain, tightness and stiffness. When chronic lower back pain is part of your daily life, it can be exhausting! It’s like a leaky bucket, draining your energy while you are just trying to live your life. Adjusting how you move and how long you can participate in an activity that you love, just because your back hurts, it’s not fun. And it’s not fair. Click here to learn more about this 4 week course and how to sign up!