Psoas?? That was a retweet I got back on twitter the other day, by a well known person (athlete/marathoner/trainer).
This althlete mentioned she'd just done a big work out, stretches, etc., to keep her low back from hurting. I replied, how cool, & that I also remind my clients to include something for the psoas, due to it's importance for low back well being. And that's when I got the ??? from her.
Since tweet text is limited, I did direct message her. However other people also wanted to know & suggested I write about it. So the following is a description and some suggestions.
The Psoas Major is a deep internal muscle that's actually attached to the FRONT of the vertebrae. It's the TRUE companion* to the Quadratus Lumborum (or rectangular low back hinge muscle) that attaches to the BACK our spine, ribs & pelvis.
The psoas (also called the illopsoas) begins in the low back (lumbar vertebrae), goes through the center of the pelvis, and ends of the top inside of the femur (leg bone).
It's responsible for keeping our low back stabilized, flexible, and raising our knee towards our chest.
When the psoas is out of sorts we can, and do, have low back pain, be too flat or swayed, tightness, pulling to one side, bulging discs, difficulty in raising our legs/knees, and so on.
Many people work and work their core, do stretches, etc., but don't get the desired effects or relief. This is because they are unaware of their psoas and what to do for it.
Two things are important for the health of the psoas. One, maintain a good body weight. Bulging abs do strain both the low back and psoas. Two, exercise, stretch, and get body/energy work by someone trained to do visceral (deep abdominal) work or muscle motor/proprioceptor techniques.
Proper stretching for the psoas includes EQUAL stretching for the core (front & back) of the body. Yoga cat pose, or downward facing dog, are two of the best. Feldenkrais pelvic clock is another good movement. Another self help is simply laying on a rolled towel that's been placed horizontally under the low back.**
Exercises for the psoas include the "back ward sit up". This is done on a physio ball, or machine designed to let you do a reverse sit up, using your back, instead of your abs. (Use caution & start slow.)
Another great exercise is to use a towel. Hold towel ends firmly in each hand, stretched above your head, making a big V. Then move arms forward (towel parallel to floor), about a foot past the front of the body & then the same distance past the back of the body. This rocking back and forth from the pelvis/low back/abs not only stretches the psoas, it exercises (contracts/releases) it as well.
Like any other muscle, the psoas needs magnesium. Magnesium is the mineral that relaxes contractions, and helps ease pain. (See blog at http://uberreikigirl.blogspot.com about this "beautiful" mineral.).
The psoas also needs water, other nutrients, and rest to be healthy. With proper attention, the psoas can be very healthy, and have the proper tension (knows when/how to contract/relax). This can go a long ways towards strengthening and protecting your low back and core.
* The abs are not the true companion to the low back muscles. The abs don't connect directly to the vertebrae, instead they're attached to the back's connective tissue, ribs, pelvis & pubic bone. They're important for posture, keeping us "round", holding our internal organs in place, & movement of our waist & pelvis. In other words, they're our front "hinge" muscles, just as the back muscles & psoas are for the back of our body.
**How To photos for using a towel for the back is demonstrated in my "The Little Book of Self Help Techniques" (available by 91/09 & priced under $20.00)