One way to sustain health for the spine and hips is to keep the psoas in a balanced state. From sitting at the desk while working and driving, most people allow their spines to move into flexion (a bent forward position) and their pelvis’ to move into a posterior tilt (tucked under). As a result, the muscles that surround the spine become weak (by being held in a stretched position) and the hips become tight (due to the hip flexors being engaged).
The psoas also plays a key role in stabilizing the spine and this makes sense because has it’s origin point on the spine. Common belief amongst fitness professionals is that the psoas functions primarily as a hip flexor, but there is research that suggests it’s role is to connect the torso with the legs, act as a stabilizer of the spine, pelvis and hips during movement, and to decelerate the trunk and hip during walking.
Here is one way to test and see if your psoas is healthy and functioning properly.
Lie on your back with one knee bent and one leg straight. Engage your core and then allow the bent knee to open out to the side slowly. If you notice that the opposite hip goes with it, then this is a sign that there is some dysfunction.
One exercise to strengthen this area is to lift your feet into the air in a bent position with flexed feet so that your knees align vertically on top of your hips. Then place your hands on the outside of your thighs and push outward into your hands gently. While maintaining an active core and engaged legs, breathe fully and deeply into the area right below your belly button for 5-8 full breaths. Make sure that your hip flexors are relaxed as you perform this movement. Strengthening your psoas will help prevent lower back pain and keep you in proper spinal alignment.
Photo Credit: Alexa Miller