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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine.

January/February 1999

The Psoas - Stretching

By Rick Allen, DC

"Better health leads to better dancing."

[ standing stretch ]

Last month we examined the anatomy and function of the psoas muscle. Let's continue to apply our knowledge to finding solutions for the problem of low back pain caused by malfunction of the psoas. Specifically, after you have enlisted professional help as I described last month, what can you do to help yourself? The answer is to keep the muscles of the low back in balance. Since the psoas often becomes tight and shortened from sitting, the answer must incorporate daily exercises to counterbalance the tightening. In a word, stretch.

Stretching the Psoas

[ Laying stretch ]

Remember from last month that the psoas muscle connects the low back with the upper leg. To stretch the psoas requires bending backward. You can stretch backward in various positions, depending upon your flexibility and sense of balance. In the three adjacent figures taken from an instruction manual for the sequence of yoga poses called the "sun salute," you see ways to stretch the psoas while lying face down, standing or kneeling. I have put them in the order of increasing difficulty. If you have difficulty performing the kneeling pose as shown, you can balance yourself by putting your hands on your bent leg near the knee or even steadying yourself on a chair set nearby. To improve your overall flexibility, I suggest you do the full sun salute each morning. It only takes a few minutes to do the twelve poses.

The general rules for stretching apply:

[ Kneeling stretch ]
  1. Stretch slowly. Don't bounce or stretch forcefully - you may injure yourself.
  2. Breathe while you stretch.
  3. Gently hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.

I suggest you stretch your psoas and back at least half a dozen times each day. After all, you probably sit for hours each day. Doesn't it make sense to spend a few minutes every few hours to counter the effects of sitting? I bet you can even do the standing stretch while in your finest dance clothes!

For further instruction on stretching, I suggest you pick up a copy of Stretching by Bob Anderson. It is available in most bookstores in paperback.

Once again, take care of your psoas, improve you posture and improve your life and, especially, your dancing!

Next article: Have you heard about the ultimate anti-aging prescription? I'll fill you in next month.

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