I have talked previously about the anatomy of the Psoas muscle in a blog in January which you can find here:
We will add to this knowledge this week in our focus on Bridge pose.
The psoas muscles on either side of your back and hips are the only muscles to joins the trunk and the legs together and they are the key operators in stabilising your spine and pelvis. These muscles are enormous, almost as big as your wrist and attach to the spine all the way from T12 to L5; travel over the pelvis then down to the lesser trochanter of the femur. If the Psoas is tight or weak, much of the slack is taken up by your low back muscles which overwork to compensate and cause you backpain. Rather like when the hamstrings take over from weak and glutes. To lengthen these muscles, we’ll need to extend the hip, moving the lumbar spine and the femur away from each other.
A chronically tight Psoas muscle fixes the pelvis in an anterior tilt (hyperlordosis, of which my back is a classic example) and contributes to arthritis in the Lumbar Facet joints. Weakened and slack Psoas muscles will reduce the natural lordotic curve and take length and flexibility from the hamstrings (by bringing the back of the pelvis downward) that we all require for a competent stride and other spinal and leg movements.
The psoas muscle is challenged by movements in which the leg is externally rotated and lifted behind you, like a ballet style leg lift at the barre. If you twist and sidebend at the same time either in sitting or standing you are also shortening the psoas muscle. At the front of the hips they are also shortened as the knees come into a bend so lots of sitting will be shortening these vital muscles.
These Psoas muscles are connected to the diaphragm and the other hip muscles so your breathing affects their release. The medial arcuate ligament wraps around both the Psoas and the diaphragm and both work in tandem to facilitate your response to frightening and stressful situations in life.
During my workshop with Monica Voss from Canada who came to Jasmine yoga trust on Wednesday we did some very slow and mindful work in bridge pose. Bridge pose can be difficult for me since my tight and short psoas muscles tilt the pelvis anteriorly as I lift my pelvis off the floor and if I am not mindful, or there is not enough time for the Psoas to release before I take lift off, then the pull from the Psoas can cause a sharp compression in the lower lumbar vertebrae on the way up. Apart from time, the focus on the out breath to release the curve of the low back and an internal rotation of the femur (turning toes in) before we set off which allows lengthening of the psoas muscles, produced a safer and more effective Bridge. You might say it was a Bridge Over Troubled Waters!!!