Yo Azz Should Stretch That Psoas

For the past week, I’ve been in my hometown of Castleberry, Alabama visiting with family and helping out my grandmother who just had surgery. Whenever I’m home, I go to my mom’s yoga classes to relax and unwind. My mom has a special talent for strengthening yet restorative yoga practice.. I wish you could all take her class! During the practice, I felt tight and inflexible through my legs and especially in my hips. I thought back to the stressors and daily activities of the week and remembered all the small things that angered me, got under my skin, or just changed my mental state in any way.. the mini temper tantrums I threw in my car when someone cut me off, the mindless Netflix-watching of the night before, worrying about my grandmother’s surgery.

You’ve probably heard before that people, specifically women, carry stress and tension in their hips. You can think of the hips and pelvis as the body’s junk drawer, where all of the energy and stress that you’re not quite ready to deal with, yet not ready to release stays and becomes cluttered. While this may seem like an abstract concept, the anatomical structure of the hips and pelvis actually forms a bowl which is full of dense and complex musculature that the rest of body depends on for stability and motion. These muscles often become shortened or “tight” as we spend much of the day sitting down on them. I try to stretch out and “empty” that anatomical junk drawer at the end of every day and go to bed feeling lighter and more relaxed. It is not uncommon to hear sighs of deep relief and sometimes even tears shed during a hip opening sequence at a yoga class!

One of my favorite muscles to focus my attention on during hip sequences is the psoas muscle, which is unique because it is located both superficial AND deep within the body. It’s actually the only muscle in the human body that connects the trunk to the lower limbs (c’mon that’s cool, right!?). It originates on the transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae and inserts on the lesser trochanter of the femur. Liz Koch, author of “The Psoas Book” describes psoas as “so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.”

With that being said, here are 5 deeply restorative and beneficial hip-opening and psoas-stretching poses to get you started with your own “decluttering” process. Shout out to my mom for helping me demonstrate and for teaching me these sweet stretches!

 

Agnistambhasana (Fire Log Pose) 

This one also targets a bonus muscle: piriformis (one of the most common causes of sciatic nerve pain!)

Quick tips: Try to stack your knees and feet and keep the shins as parallel as possible to each other and to the mat. Be sure not to round your lower back and sit up tall while flexing the feet.

Full instructions here.

 

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

This is one of my all time favorite poses. I like to relax in it while watching TV. The name comes from the shape of the body in which the elbows are the ears and the legs are the cow’s lips (awwww!)

Quick tips: Try to stack your bent knees directly on top of one another and keep the feet flexed to protect the joint. This is a surprisingly deep stretch so don’t worry if you can’t get the perfect alignment the first time. This pose is a double whammy because it also provides an intense shoulder stretch. Again, don’t worry if you can’t clasp your hands. Just sit up and tall and keep breathing!

Full instructions here.

 

Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)

The name of this pose speaks for itself. It lifts the spirits, brings peace to the mind, and stretches the heck out of the hips.

Quick tips: Try to bring your knees into your armpits and keep the tailbone pressing down towards that mat. Lengthen the lower back and neck and try not to round the spine. Rock gently back and forth for a DIY low back massage!

Full instructions here. 

 

 

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose)

Dubbed “king of the hip openers,” pigeon pose will bring deep relief and a MEGA stretch. Wait until you’re good and warmed up from the other poses to try this one!

Quick tips: Ideally, the front shin is parallel to the top of the mat and the body is resting peacefully over the leg with the arms outstretched (hahaha, no). Just go as deep into this pose as is comfortable and enjoy the sensations. Imagine directing your inhales to the area where you feel the stretch. Keep the ears relaxed away from the shoulders!

Full instructions here. 

 

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Half Lord of the Fishes is extra awesome because not only is it a hip-opener, but you also get a juicy spinal twist! Side note: twists are hypothesized to help keep the spongy intervertebral discs hydrated and healthy!

Quick tips: The natural temptation is to allow the lower back to round out so that you can twist deeper. Resist that urge and keep the back long and tall as you gently look over your shoulder. Keep the neck long and in line with the backbone to avoid compressing the neck. Shine the heart forward and don’t round the shoulders!

Full instructions here  

 

 

 

If you try these stretches, let me know in the comments! Yo azz will thank you! 😉

With love and light,

Asia

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