How to Stretch the Psoas Muscle

senior woman in lotus position meditation with closed eyes at home while sitting on yoga mat

If you read my previous article, I hope you have a sense of where the psoas muscle is. Since it is deep in your core, many exercises help you stretch the psoas.

More important than exercise, every well-executed step is a spinal twist and, therefore, a psoas stretch on the opposite side. Even every breath we take—and again, I have to emphasize that it needs to be a well-executed breath—helps you stretch the psoas. Bend over to tie your shoes? You got it—a psoas stretch.

Stretch the Psoas or Strengthen It?

Yoga's Lunge Pose utilized the psoas muscle as well as the hip flexors.

Earlier I mentioned that psoas-related pain is often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. When it is diagnosed, the prescription is usually to stretch the psoas and/or strengthen the psoas. And I don’t want you to do either of those things.

If you want to get out of psoas muscle pain and all of its related symptoms, you have to learn how to align and use this muscle correctly. And give it a break so that it can relax. That doesn’t necessarily involve stretching the way you think it does.

Your Breath and the Psoas Muscles

 Side view of young female with closed eyes breathing clearly while doing breathing exercise during yoga session.

So much of what we do throughout the day involves the psoas major muscle. Have you thought much about the way you breathe? Not to be too cranky but most people don’t breathe well. Stand up tall and feel the way you breathe.

I will almost guarantee that your breath is a little shallow and mostly goes up into the chest. I look at a lot of bodies and this is the overwhelming pattern I see.

If you learn to breathe better, which involves changing the way you stand to better align and employ the psoas muscle, healing is much more likely to happen. And each breath helps you gently heal and stretch the psoas.

Walking and the Psoas Muscles

Even the most sedentary person walks a few
thousand Psoas muscle medical vector illustration diagram. Lumbar spine and psoas major attached from discs to femur bones. Hip pain problem and hurting lower back can result from tight psoas. steps a day.

But most people don’t walk well. If you don’t walk correctly (and I know most people don’t even think about how they walk) you miss out on thousands of gentle psoas muscle stretches throughout the day.

It is hard to emphasize enough that the body is a self-healing machine if employed well.

How and Why to Do Nothing to Stretch the Psoas

Here is the most important advice I have for you. You don’t need to stretch your psoas or strengthen your psoas. You don’t need to do anything. Let me explain.

How great would it be if you could find relief from your pain by doing less rather than more? If that sounds good, you need to learn a different type of exercise I call psoas release exercises.

Release the Psoas

Senior sporty woman practicing yoga, lying on floor practicing Constructive Rest Pose for deep rest and psoas release.

What is a release exercise exactly? It is a whole lot of nothing. When it comes to chronic pain that no doctor or physical therapist has helped you with when no medication or procedure has relieved your pain, and you know your partner can’t bear to hear about it any longer, doing nothing to solve your chronic pain should sound like a pretty great option.

Give Your Psoas a Break

 Supported Savasana Pose with the extra comfort of the bolster.

The psoas muscle doesn’t get much of a break. It is working when you are standing. It works when you walk and run. It’s working, though suffering, when you sit. It’s working when you exercise. And it is working overtime when your body is put into situations that call for protection from fear and worry for your safety.

So if I can show you how to relax in a way that gives this muscle a much-needed break, you might be able to take a step toward healing that you thought was out of your reach. There’s no magic involved. It is simply about letting go. Healing with less rather than more. And if you have tried the “do more” approach over and over again, it might be time to get off that hamster wheel.

Another cool thing about doing nothing the way I am talking about? It can’t really hurt.

I know from years of working with the psoas muscle that it is easy to take one step forward only to take two steps backward when you try to do too much. Does that sound familiar?

What Does a Psoas Release Feel Like?

What does a psoas release feel like? Not much for most, to be honest.  This doesn’t mean it’s not working.

Another great thing about releasing the psoas is you might not feel anything during the exercise. But as soon as you are done and stand up you can feel if there is a difference. It will likely be subtle at first but will ultimately connect you to a sense of ease that you thought might be gone forever.

Benefits of psoas release exercises:

Happy healthy woman's back view waking up stretching in bed room

  • Looser hips
  • Freedom of movement between the legs and pelvis.
  • Deeper sleep
  • Emotional ease and equanimity
  • Less back pain
  • Better energy

The mysterious and majestic psoas muscle holds the key to unlocking years of chronic pain and tension for certain people. When you have been struggling for years to find answers that never come, it might be time to take a step back and explore a minimalist approach to healing.

Reprinted with permission from

Jonathan FitzGordon has been practicing yoga since 1995 and has been teaching since 2000, having studied with some of the yoga community’s leading teachers. He owned and operated the Yoga Center of Brooklyn from 2001-2009 and created the CoreWalking Program in 2005 because walking is something we all do, and walking correctly is an amazing way to bring positive change to our aging bodies.

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