A strong flexible psoas muscle is fundamental to a healthy back and mobile, balanced hips. The psoas attaches all along the lumbar spine in the lower back then swoops down under your internal organs to attach to the top inside of the femur. It is the only muscle connecting the upper and lower body, and it has multiple jobs including spinal support and movement, hip stabilization, and internal rotation and flexion of the thigh.
Despite its extremely important role in our mobility (the psoas plays a part in anything we do from the waist down) it is often neglected. Part of this is because the psoas runs deep under other muscles and guts, so it’s hard to touch it or have a strong awareness of what it’s up to. It’s also because sitting too much, as most of us do, makes the psoas squashed, weak, and tight.
The Consequences of a Tight, Weak Psoas
Many people have issues strengthening and stretching their psoas and experience some kind of sub-optimal consequences. If you experience back spasms (“throwing your back out”), snapping hip syndrome, SI joint pain, sciatica, or myriad other issues, it’s good to take a close look at your psaos health.
My own psoas was very unhealthy during my years as a dancer and contortionist. It was chronically tight, which I found extremely frustrating. I over-stretched it and it spasmed on a regular basis. It wasn’t until I learned how to feel my psoas, which took some concerted work over a period of months, and strengthened it, that I was able to finally get it to relax and my hip flexibility and back health improved.
How to Have a Strong Flexible Psoas
The routine in this video is basically the format that I used to create a strong flexible psoas. I progressed slowly. It took me many months to be able to move through the exercises that I show in half an hour. In the beginning I kept offloading the work to the other hip flexors (see this post on hip flexor anatomy if you want to know who they are).
So you may want to just start with the first exercise, the foot slide on an elevated surface, and stick with that until you have a sensation of where the psoas is and how to use it, then progress slowly at the pace that works best for you.
This is not the most glamorous, social media-worthy work but it has changed my life to have a better relationship with my psoas, and I hope it changes yours too.
Viva el psoas! Hail the psoas! Psoas forever!