De-Stress & Heal Back Pain With One Move

The psoas muscle is the largest muscle attaching your legs to your torso. It acts to flex the legs forward and up towards your chest, and is a key muscle in running. The psoas is intimately connected with stress, specifically with the flight or fight response, and I wrote about that here.

When you’re under stress, there is an increase in upward flowing energy —think of being startled: you’re hair stands on end, your eyebrows go up, even your breath rises and catches in your throat. In the pelvis, the psoas is triggered by the release of epinephrine/adrenalin, and the thigh bones are pulled forward and up in preparation to run.

Creating Calm 

As you release and realign your psoas muscles (there is one for each leg) and your other hip flexors, you open the channel for apana vayu, or downward flowing energy. This is the current that creates groundedness, stability and calm.

De-Stress & Heal

Opening the channel of apana vayu not only eases stress, it realigns the psoas muscle, which can heal the low back. The key action is to move your thigh bones (femurs) back.I’m not talking about leaning your hips back—although your pelvis will shift as a result of this work—I mean you have to push your thigh bones back inside your pelvis. Because the psoas attaches to your legs at your upper, inner thighs, that’s where you need to focus.

The Set Up

Start in Down Dog and generously bend your knees so you increase mobility in your hips and low back. Squeeze your feet towards each other, without actually moving them —this harnesses the power of your legs so you can push your femurs back. Now for that…

  • Push your upper, inner thighs back so you tip your pubic bone between your legs.
  • Deepen the creases of your groins as you seat the heads of your femurs in your pelvis (it will feel like you’re sticking out your butt).
  • Widen across your hamstrings and pelvis, pushing inner thighs to bring breadth and healing to your low back.
  • Keeping all of those actions, begin to straighten your legs only so far your thighs don’t pop back forward.
  • Pro Tip: Holding all of these actions should make your lower belly and pelvic floor engage. If it doesn’t, it likely means your thighbones popped forward when you straightened your legs.
Leg actions in Downward Dog.

Leg actions in Downward Dog.

Carry It To Other Postures

Once you’ve gotten the hang of that (it may take a while!), try the same actions in an asymmetrical pose, such as Kneeling Lunge. It will always be more difficult to do this action in the back leg, so focus more attention there. Try leaning your torso slightly forward, too, it will grant more movement in your pelvis and femurs.