A beautiful example of the mind-body connection — of how releasing muscle tension can reduce anxiety and stress — is the psoas, a thick, hard-working muscle that connects your low spine to your upper thigh bone. The psoas is located deep in your body, and its main job is to bring your thighs closer to your torso, like when you sit or run.
Releasing tension here can make a big difference in how your feel emotionally. At the end of a long day, you can de-stress using a few simple yoga postures that lengthen and relax the psoas. Because the psoas is so deep in the body — and often chronically contracted — you may not even realize that yours is tight. But when you stretch and release it, you will notice a big difference in how you feel physically and emotionally.
Try this 10-minute sequence to unlock your psoas muscle after work or before bed. With a more relaxed mind, you make space to give more love to your family and yourself.
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing
The diaphragm shares an origin point on the low spine with the psoas, so relaxing the diaphragm with deep belly breathing will begin to relax the psoas as well. Sit comfortably on the edge of a thickly folded blanket. If this is uncomfortable, lay on your back or sit on a chair. Begin to breathe in and out through your nose so that your belly gently expands and falls. If you’re in the habit of sucking in your belly, try to release that and let your belly move happily and freely. Breathe for 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Variation On Supported Pigeon Pose (Pada Rajakapotasana)
Come to hands and knees in a tabletop. Slide your right knee up to a couple inches behind your right wrist. Instead of taking the right ankle behind the left wrist like in regular pigeon, scoot your right heel to just outside of your right thigh, like in hero’s pose. Extend your left leg in a long, straight line behind you. Come onto your palms or fingertips to keep your upper body lifting away from your lower body. You should feel a stretch in your left upper leg, near your hip. Take at least 10 deep breaths, then switch sides.
3. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Plant your right foot on the ground with the knee above the ankle. For now, keep your hands on the ground or on two blocks on either side of your foot. Extend your left leg behind you and place the knee on the ground, using a blanket or a pillow if it’s more comfortable. Press down with your feet and gently pull your inner thighs toward each other as you inhale and lift your upper body so that your rib cage is above your hips. If you feel a good stretch in your left hip and upper thigh, stay here. If you want to go deeper, you can grab hold of your left foot with your right hand and gently twist your torso toward your bent leg.
4. Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
You’ll need a yoga block, or a 6-inch stack of books for this pose. Have your prop nearby as you come onto your back. Bend your knees, and plant your feet about palm-distance away from your tailbone. Lift your hips off the ground and slide your prop underneath your sacrum, the flat, lowest part of your back located just above your bottom. Rest your sacrum on the prop. It should feel comfortable, so play around with scooting your prop up or down until it is.