Tight hip flexors. Everyone's got them. And everyone is always wanting to stretch them. The problem is that most people aren't even targeting the source of the problem, the actual hip flexors. The psoas muscles! They are deep, they are long, and they influence so many things. You can have someone do it manually by pushing around viscera and poking in a most uncomfortable manner, but it is effective, and actually quite delicious. But, in the absence of a set of practiced and knowledgeable hands, the passive route is quite effective and also a great way to chill out the system and force some downtime for yourself.
For my postpartum mamas, tight psoas muscles are most evident in those of us with more of an anterior pelvic tilt and/or a high lumbar curve (a.k.a. a hinge point). This is the big “scoop” in your low/mid back that sticks around even after baby has arrived. The culprit can be a few things, but for today’s tip we are targeting the psoas.
The psoas runs down either side of the spine from T12 to L4, grabbing onto each vertebrae along the way, and having attachments with the diaphragm, moves at an angle out towards hips and then wraps itself a bit to attach into the inner part of each hip (in the groin area) at the lesser trochanters. It is huge and you have two. It’s prime activity is hip flexion. Stretch all day like a lot of commercial exercise videos show you for “hip flexor stretching” but most likely you (and they) are not targeting the main player. Hence, the uphill battle with hip flexors.
Get thee a beach towel rolled up or a firm yoga-type blanket folded up a few times, place it under the sacrum, bend your knees, and just let yourself relax into the position. No forcing ribs down, just let gravity do its work. I usually hang out here 3-5 min each time, 1-2x/day. The anterior pelvic tilt (think butt sticking out) I have had FOREVER improves significantly when I stay focused on releasing the psoas muscles. I prefer passive because I can do it myself, it doesn't hurt(!), and I can work on my OM while I hang out which then helps with vagal tone (getting that vagus nerve on board) 🧘♀️, and I can then do my core strengthening and actually make some gains because everything is lined up as it should be allowing for optimal muscles firing and recruitment. It's like the nesting doll of exercise!
Having your psoas muscles relaxed allows them to work most efficiently when you actually need them, and it also allows you to hold a neutral pelvis without fighting tight muscles. Everything works together. Isn’t it so beautiful?!
Runner, lifter of children, PTA, CPT, PCES, pelvic health zealot