We all know that sitting is hazardous for our lower backs if we don't pay attention (question: did you know what we average about 13 hours of sitting each day, including commuting and sitting down for meals? Horrifying!). In addition to low back pain, sitting for long periods can also shorten and weaken our hip flexors.
What are hip flexors? As the name implies, hip flexors are a group of muscles that help flex the hips---meaning they decrease the angle between your legs and your torso. For example, when you raise your legs to take a step forward, the hip flexors help draw that leg up. For those of you who practice yoga, you can easily feel the contraction of your hip flexors in poses like utthita hasta padangusthasana (extended hand-to-big-toe pose), navasana (boat pose), and utkatasana (chair pose).
The psoas (pronounced "so-as") is just one of the many muscles classified as hip flexors. It's a large, long muscle stemming from your lumbar spine (lower back), along your pelvis, and ends at the top of your thigh bone.
So now, you can see that in our mostly sedentary lifestyle, the hip flexors are mainly in a flexed and shortened position. The tightened hip flexors can cause a forward tilt of the pelvis, in turn compressing the lower back.
Furthermore, perhaps a more motivating incentive, is that by lengthening your psoas, you'll find a little more height to your entire body!
The sequence below is meant for a very gentle psoas release, rather than active stretching. For active stretching of the hip flexors, you can try anjaneyasana (low lunge).
Got other aches and pains? Want more psoas release sequences? Tell me what areas of the body you'd like to see featured in my short videos!