Monday, August 31, 2009
The Psoas Major is a deep internal muscle attached to the front of the vertebrae. It's the true companion* to the Quadratus Lumborum. (The QL is the rectangular hinge muscle that's attached to the back of the vertebrae, ribs, and pelvis).
Also known as the Illiopsoas, it begins in the low back/lumbar vertebrae, goes through the center of the pelvis and attaches to the top end of the femur (thigh bones).
Our Psoas does a number of things, including keeping our low back stable, yet flexible, and raising our knees to our chest.
When our Psoas isn't working properly, we can, and do, have low back pain, tightness, be too flat or swayed, pulling to one side, bulging discs, and trouble raising our legs.
Many people do their work outs and stretches faithfully, in hopes of helping their low back. However, they may only get partial or short term relief. The reason this happens is that they either don't know about their Psoas, or over work their Abs.
Two things are very important for a healthy Psoas. One: maintain proper body weight excess weight and a bulging midriff strains the Psoas). Two: do exercises and stretches that target the Psoas, and/or get body/energy work by someone trained in visceral/motor/proprioceptor techniques that can help reset the Psoas.
Physical exercises that work the Psoas are the "backwards sit up" (done on a physio ball) or on a back sit up machine, and the "V" towel exercise. This is done with a towel held above the head (and parallel to the floor), so you make a "V" with your arms.
Maintain tension on the towel ends and bring the arms about a foot in front of the body, and then back. (Keep towel parallel to floor.) This effectively contracts and relaxes the Psoas as the back and pelvis moves/bends back and forth.
Good yoga stretches for the Psoas include the Cat a Downward Facing Dog. The Feldenkrais pelvic clock or even laying on a rolled up towel (that's been place horizontally under the low back) also work to stretch the Psoas.
Like other muscles, the Psoas needs enough water and Magnesium to make it contract and relax properly. Suggested daily amounts vary from 400 to 800 mg, and Magnesium is more effective when taken with dinner or at bed time.
By properly taking care of the Psoas, it protects and maintains the health of both our core and our low back.
*Companion muscles are defined as being opposite each other on a bone. (Biceps/Triceps, Quads/Hamstrings, & etc.) The Abs attach to our ribs, pelvis, pubic bone, and connective tissue. The Abs do protect our internal organs, help maintain posture, and are important front "hinge" muscles. However, this doesn't make the Abs true companions to the QL, or other back muscles.
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