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Try These Yoga Poses for Psoas Tightness

Try These Yoga Poses for Psoas Tightness

Reading Time: 5 minutes 30 seconds

BY: ISSA

DATE: 2024-03-04


Tightness in the hips is truly a modern problem. Even if you are active and into fitness, sitting a lot throughout the day can tighten up the psoas, a deep core muscle that is an essential part of movement in the hip joint. 

Nearly everyone can benefit from stretching and releasing the psoas muscles, and yoga is a great way to do it. Learn more about your psoas, how it gets tight, and which yoga poses are best for loosening it up.  

What Is the Psoas Muscle? 

The psoas is a deep muscle of the core. It attaches to the lumbar (lower) spine at one end. From the spine, it runs through the pelvis, connecting with the iliacus muscle, and attaching at the top of the femur (thighbone). You have two psoas muscles, one on each side of the body. 

The psoas is often referred to as the iliopsoas, which is really a muscle group consisting of the psoas and the iliacus. It is also often bundled together with the pectineus, rectus femoris, and sartorius muscles to refer to the hip flexors. 

All the muscles of the hip flexors contribute to hip flexion, the movement that brings the knee toward the chest, but the psoas is a primary player. It is also the only muscle that connects the upper body to the lower body. 

Learn More: How to Use Yoga Poses for Tight Hip Flexors

Tightness and Pain in the Psoas

As the bridge between the spine and the legs, the psoas muscles are essential for fluid movement, for walking, and for spine and torso stability. Unfortunately, they have a tendency to get tight, often painfully so. This can lead to a cascade of issues. 

Why Are My Hips Tight? 

One reason your psoas get tight is an ancient stress response. The human body evolved to respond to dangerous situations with a “fight or flight” response that prepares you to survive. Although you likely don’t face daily dangers, your body still responds to stress by tightening the psoas so you can run or fight. If you have a lot of stress in your life, you probably have tight psoas muscles. 

Another reason many people have tightness in the hips is the sedentary nature of modern life. Even if you are active, you might spend hours each day sitting. This shortens and tightens the psoas muscles. Exercise that requires repeated hip flexion (running, cycling) can also tighten them. 

Not sure if you have tight psoas muscles? Check out this guide to diagnosing and correcting tight hip flexors.

The Consequences of Tight Psoas

Most obviously, tight psoas muscles feel uncomfortable. They can even be painful. You might feel the pain in your hip flexor area (the front of the hips) but also in other areas. Tightness in the psoas can cause or contribute to pain in the knees and lower back. 

Tight psoas muscles limit your ability to move. They can reduce your performance in sports that require flexibility and hip flexion. Tightness here may even affect how you breathe. The psoas muscles support the diaphragm, the muscle that helps you breathe by contracting and relaxing. Short, tight psoas muscles can restrict your ability to inhale deeply.

Keep in mind that the psoas can also cause issues when overstretched and weak. However, due to the nature of modern lifestyles, it is much more likely that you have tight, short psoas. Balance, as in everything, is essential. 

The Best Yoga Poses for Psoas Stretching and Lengthening

Tight, short psoas muscles are common and an issue for many people. One thing you can do right away to correct the issue is to stand more. Use a standing desk at work if that’s an option. Also try getting up more frequently for breaks, standing while talking on the phone, and standing or walking for meetings. 

Yoga can also be really helpful when it comes to lengthening, releasing, and stretching the psoas muscles. If your hips are very tight, these poses could be difficult and even painful. Start slowly and ease into them. You’ll get looser as you keep practicing these poses regularly:  

1. Constructive Rest

If you have a lot of tightness in the psoas, this is an easy but effective place to start. Lie on a mat with your knees bent to about 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. Keep your spine neutral and let your arms rest on the floor or on your stomach. 

In this position, focus on feeling your body sink into the floor. Bring awareness to anywhere it feels like tension is preventing you from fully sinking down under the weight of gravity. You’ll probably feel this tension in your psoas. Awareness of it is an important first step to releasing it. 

As you work through these poses and stretches, come back to constructive rest to notice the difference as the psoas muscles loosen and lengthen. 

2. Bridge Pose

Bridge pose extends the hip flexors, lengthening and stretching the psoas as it does. Lying on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Your feet should be directly under your knees. 

Rest your arms on the floor as you lift your hips up and let your shoulder blades slide downward. You may not be able to achieve full bridge pose right away. If this is too difficult due to your tight hips, place a block under your pelvis to provide support. 

3. Bound Angle Pose

This is a great stretch for the inner thighs and hip flexors. Sitting on a mat, bend your knees and press the bottoms of your feet together in front of you. Sit with your torso upright and spine lengthened. Don’t round the spine or slump forward.

Pull the heels of your feet in toward the body. Initially, this may be difficult, so take it slowly. Let your knees fall toward the floor naturally. As this stretch gets easier, you can press down on your knees. 

4. Reclining Bound Angle Pose

To deepen the stretch of bound angle and to target the psoas even more, try the reclining version of this pose. In this pose, your legs and feet are in the same position as in bound angle, but your torso is supine. Start in bound angle and then lower your back to the floor. 

You can modify this pose by reclining less. Place a rolled towel behind you to prop up your back a little bit. The more you recline, the more intense the stretch gets, so start here if you can’t do the fully supine position. 

5. Low Lunge Pose

When you’re ready to push the psoas a little further, try a low lunge on each side. Starting with hands and knees on the mat, step your right foot forward so that it is bent at 90 degrees. Lift your chest and torso up and feel the stretch across the front of your left hip. 

6. Twisted Lizard Pose

This is a tough yoga pose if you have tight hips, so save it for when you’ve made some real progress in loosening the psoas. You can start in low lunge and transition to lizard. With the right leg forward, place your left hand on the mat. 

Reach back with your right hand and grasp your left foot. Gently pull on the foot to feel more of a stretch in the front of the left hip. Simultaneously, let your torso twist to the right as the hip really opens.

Enhance Your Knowledge and Become a Yoga Teacher

Tight hips are a symptom of our modern lifestyle. Anything you can do to break the mold—get active, stand more, stretch—will help. Yoga is particularly well-suited to stretching out tight, sore muscles. Use these poses as part of a regular practice to fight back against tight, painful psoas muscles. 

Learn how to target specific muscles and mobility issues, and much more in the ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy’s Yoga Alliance-approved 200-hour yoga teacher training program. This certification course is ideal for starting a new career but also for improving and deepening your own personal yoga practice.   

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