One of the best ways to keep your lumbar spine strong and supported and avoid lower back problems is to stretch and loosen your psoas major muscle. The psoas major connects your legs to your torso and originates from the transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae and inserts at the lesser trochanter of the femur. In other words, the psoas major extends from the top of your low back, travels through your pelvis and attaches at the top of your thighbone. It is located deep within your abdominal cavity and thus is one of the major “core” muscles used to stabilize the spine and move your legs.
When the psoas major is not stretched it can become tight and shortened. A tight psoas can manifest as many different symptoms, but often presents as low back pain and lower back problems. Yoga is a fantastic way to stretch and use the psoas. Practicing the following three poses can help to lengthen the psoas, keeping it active for spinal stabilization and strength.
1.) Supported Bridge Psoas Stretch: Place a yoga block on its side under the upper half of the pelvis while lying on your back. If this position is too high then you can place the block widest side down. Keep your knees bent at first. Hug your right knee to your chest (it most likely will not reach) and extend the left leg long. You are stretching the psoas on the left side. Take 10 breaths, then switch sides. If you are unable to reach your knee easily, use a strap for support.
2.) Runners Lunge: From hands and knees step the right foot to the right thumb. Lift the left leg and press the left heel actively towards the wall behind you. Lift your torso at the center while drawing your navel in and up to utilize your abdominal muscles. Allow your extended back leg to feel active but dipping slightly if you wish to deepen the stretch. Alternatively you can drop the back knee and sink the back hip down for more of a stretch. Take ten breaths and then switch sides.
3.) Pigeon Pose: From hands and knees lift the left knee and bring it to the left thumb. Straighten the right leg and curl the toes under to lengthen the leg. Set your right leg back on the ground. Adjust the left leg closer to the center of the torso or wider away from the torso to find the best stretch and lessen any discomfort on the front knee. Take 10 breaths and then switch sides. The front hip can be supported underneath by a blanket or bolster.
Follow these poses with a few breaths in Child’s Pose on your back (hugging your knees to your chest) and a spinal twist to each side.
Keeping your psoas actively stretched can help to keep your spine happy and supported and keep lower back problems at bay.