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Pilates, Psoas & Back Pain

Pilates, Psoas & Back PainRelieving pain is one of the many benefits offered by Pilates, getting to know the core PSOAS (pronounced so-as) and its role in back pain relief can further help resolve those longstanding issues.

Spanning from solar plexus to inner thigh your psoas is deep within the belly core; behind the abdominal muscles, it provides a muscular shelf that supports all the organs. With every walking step, the healthy psoas provides an on-going internal massage. Attaching to each of the lumbar vertebrae and crossing over each hip socket this dynamic bio-intelligent tissue is the only muscle to link spine to legs. Like a pendulum it frees the leg for walking.

A healthy psoas is always released and responsive for movement. As part of your survival reflex it’s your psoas muscle that prepares you to flee or flight. How safe you feel at any given moment is reflected in the suppleness of your psoas.

Because the psoas responds to every spinal movement it will attempt to protect disc and nerve injuries. When misused the psoas becomes constricted, eventually leading to increased muscular tension and reduced flexibility.

Taking time to release stress each day can go a long way in keeping your psoas supple, your spine flexible and your low back healthy. Take a leisurely walk, enjoy a soothing bath and put your feet up. Check out your chair and car plus the shoes you wear. Eliminate bucket seats by filling them with a firm wedge. Sitting without psoas tension demands finding and maintaining skeletal support. Make sure your shoes are bendable (preferably in half), resilient to protect your feet from the stress of cement and preferably neutral, providing room for toes and weight throughout the whole foot.

Constructive Rest Position

Pilates exercise the constructive rest position for the PSOASA great psoas release position is the constructive rest position. A safe, comfortable position it relieves low back, pelvic and hip tension by letting gravity release the psoas muscle. Simply rest on your back. Knees bent and the feet placed parallel to each other, the width apart of the front of your hip sockets. Place your heels approximately 12-16 inches away from your buttocks. Do not push your low back to the floor or tuck your pelvis just rest in the position for 10 –20 minutes. The psoas will begin to release, the pelvis will spontaneously extend and the spine will lengthen. Keep your arms below shoulder height resting them over your ribcage, to your sides or on your pelvis. As gravity releases the psoas, you’ll feel calm (nourishing an over active sympathetic nervous system) and refreshed. It’s from this neutral centered place within your core that you’ll fully receive the benefits of your Pilates practice.

By · Posted on December 8, 2008 · Topic Industry Insider

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20 Responses to “Pilates, Psoas & Back Pain”

  1. Lesley Powell on December 16th, 2008 4:45 am

    I do a slight variation with the constructive rest position to help relieve my psoas. I lie first with two legs bent, then one leg straight for 5-10 minutes, then I do the other leg. It is amazing how my psoas releases that my spine feels new width and length from this.

  2. Michele Kornheisl on February 28th, 2009 11:37 am

    I’m a little confused how this is releasing the psoas when the hips are flexed? Please help me understand!

  3. Melissa Turnock on March 2nd, 2009 11:39 pm

    Because the body is lying flat I can only assume its length is allowed to hang back from anterior hips and vertebral origin? Yes the hips are flexed but its not a dynamic flexion of hips against an active stable point, but rather a letting go. If you slightly int rotate knees and let them prop against each other this may help let go. I am not the proponent of this approach but thought this may help you Michele?

  4. Lesley Powell on March 3rd, 2009 4:21 am

    Constructive Rest is a release technique. When your psoas is tight, it will affect your placement of the spine. As you release the psoas, your spine will laid longer on the floor. Sometimes when a muscles is tight, pushing stretching can tighten it more. By learning how to relax your muscles, one can find new lengths.

  5. lee artur on March 3rd, 2009 3:38 pm

    “the constructive rest position is one in which the pull of gravity aids in reducing muscle strain and in balancing the relaxation of musacles throughout the body” Lulu Sweigard Human Movement Potential

  6. Karen Roodman on March 12th, 2009 6:37 pm

    If the psoas is the primary hip flexor, how can it be at rest in a flexed position. I was under the impression the hip needed to be in neutral or slightly extended to create a stretch. I have also been taught that a bit of medial rotation of the femur will allow the iliacus to stretch, getting the iliopsoas in a comprehensive stretch. Please help me better understand the constructive rest position. Thanks!

  7. Lesley Powell on March 20th, 2009 10:54 am

    When the psoas is tight, it will affect the pelvis in any position. The best way to understand constructive rest is to practice it.
    Lie on your back with your knees bent. How is your spine resting on the floor? Observe the connections of the illiacus, psoas minor and major at the lesser trochanter and then where the top of the psoas connects towards the spine. Try resting in constructive rest position (CPR) for 15 minutes. How does your spine feel now? How has relaxation changed the length of the muscles and how your bones rest on the floor?

    Other sources for information: Eric Franklin, Andre Bernard, Liz Koch.

  8. Elaine Ewing on March 21st, 2009 10:21 am

    There is a difference between resting and stretching. The constructive rest position is not a hip flexor stretch, it is a release. The reason why this is a release even though the hip is in flexion is because the hip flexor is not actively working to support the leg. If one were standing upright and lifted one leg up with a bent knee, the hip flexor would be working to hold that leg up. But when the feet are flat on the mat and the client is laying down, gravity, the feet, and rest of the body are helping to support the legs. Therefore, the hip flexor can begin releasing into its natural length.

    There are many cues that help relax the body in this position. The more the back of the body can relax and widen on the mat, the better for the hip flexors to release. Some other people here have mentioned excellent resources for ideas of visual cues. Mabel Todd is another awesome author who writes extensively on this stuff. Hope this was helpful!

  9. Melissa Turnock on March 26th, 2009 11:17 pm

    This link is an informative explanation of constructive rest position, I like the use of the word ‘suspend’.
    http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/169

  10. How’s your Psoas doin’? | Pilates Scene on May 17th, 2009 3:50 am

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  11. Liz Koch on June 6th, 2009 11:23 pm

    I’d like to suggest letting go of the idea that the psoas is a hip flexor at all. As the messenger of the central nervous system the psoas is a proprioceptive bio-intelligent tissue that gives feedback where you are in space and time. This SMART-TISSUE is behind the hip flexors along the spine and functions neutral to flexion and extension movement. I am particularly jazzed right now as I recently interviewed Power-lifter Deric Stockton. Deric has a very functional, supple, dynamic iliopsoas and at age 40 around 200 pounds can powerlift 800 pounds. He and I will be teaching a workshop on Core Strength in early 2010. So I told him how I view the psoas and after giving it some thought and focus he agrees with me. We hope to write an article later this summer together to begin changing the conversation about the psoas. Every one who wrote above is right -on about release verses stretch etc. Great psoas information – but when one lets go of the idea thatt he psoas is hip flexor at all – look out – it means having a electrically charged midline that is responsive, centered, juicy, and very powerful!

  12. ian mari on June 12th, 2009 10:08 pm

    Anatomy is anatomy and that cannot be changed unless an anomalous tendon grew over your psoas.The psoas is a hip flexor in an open kinematic chain and is a strong lumbar extensor in a closed kinematic chain esp when your center of gravity is lent slightly anterior to the hip ( lordosis ).Coupled by your iliacus which has the same line of pull, it really flexes your hip.

  13. Tracy Coleman on July 5th, 2009 5:09 pm

    I like what Liz is saying about a bio-intellegent tissue, however aren’t all our tissues therefore bio-intellegent, all having a role in proprioception? Due to position the psoas will always play a role in hip flexion, how could it not – however, the idea that it is much more than a hip flexor is something I am glad to hear – the psoas has long, i feel, been an under-rated muscle and the true functioning is far more than just a hip flexor. As for anatomy being anatomy that cannont change, it is the functioning of the muscle that is in question. in isolation the positioning of the muscle would suggest hip flexion, however once the body is operating as a complete unit the collective functioning of all systems comes into play, and it is fair to say that the psoas is far more functional in a synergistic postural role, opposed to a prime mover.

  14. Andrew Brooks on July 7th, 2009 4:19 am

    its a muscle get over it

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  16. Mike Perry on September 9th, 2009 7:07 am

    The psoas is a lumbar extensor?!?! A muscle anterior to the spine that extends is a remarkable notion.

  17. Lynda Lippin on October 25th, 2009 3:34 pm

    Mike, remember that the psoas connects the legs to the lumbar spine and hence is the only anterior muscle that can pull the lumbar vertebrae forward into, yes, extension! And you are right, it is a remarkable notion.

  18. Lynda Lippin on October 26th, 2009 11:19 am

    Now, the psoas is NOT a primary extender as it doesn’t really shorten, so when functioning healthily it holds the lumbar vertebrae stable and acts as a primary stabilizer of the lumbar curve. However, when it is dysfunctional and acting out the psoas can cause those lumbar vetebrae to pull forward or even sideways.

    The psoas should not be trained as an extensor but as a neutral stabilizer of the lumbar spine.

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    [...] the exercises unfold, but each exercise has a gentle reminder of the early minutes of class. Is the pelvic floor being engaged? Does the class remember how they found these muscles? Can they recall the physical [...]

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