How Do We Know If We Should Lengthen Or Strengthen The Psoas?


February 1, 2022     psoas | Anatomy | Lower Limb | Torso | Your Questions

Transcript of: How do we know if we should lengthen or strengthen the psoas?

Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. Of course, if you’ve got your own question, just go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion and I’ll answer your question as quickly as possible. This month’s question comes from Delphine. It’s about whether we should lengthen or strengthen the psoas.

The Question:

Hi David, Thank you for being here. [DK: Hey Delphine! Thanks for watching.] In regards to psoas issues, how do we know if we have to lengthen it or strengthen psoas? Could it be the psoas is weak and we just have to balance those [two] activities [DK: I assume she’s meaning lengthen and strengthen psoas] without overstretching it or making it too tight?

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The Answer:

Delphine, I like the way you think. Because the word that ultimately comes in here is balance. How do you balance strength and flexibility? The whole body wants balance. That includes front to back, right to left, and top to bottom. Right? We’re always looking for this balance. So you’re on the right path. And asking the question is probably the most important part. Because it’s very easy to fall into the trap of: “Your psoas is weak and that’s why your back hurts.” Or, “Your glutes are weak and that’s why your back hurts.” Or, “Your abdominal muscles are weak and that’s why your back hurts.” Any of those could potentially be true. But that’s different than distinguishing them. What do we do when we hear things like this? We go off and isolate things and focus on strengthening a muscle that may actually create more imbalance.

Finding balance

So, we could describe muscles as long or short, tight or loose (I guess), strong or weak. But the truth is it can be a combination of these things. Like, a muscle could be long, meaning it has the capacity to be really flexible. And it can also be strong at the same time. A muscle can be short and tight. And by tight, in this sense, I mean tight in a way that is out of balance — too tight. And, as a result of that excess tension, it can be weak. We might often assume that if a muscle is tight, it is strong, but that’s not always true. So we’re looking for balance. You’re absolutely right. How do you know what you need to do is the main thrust of the question. How would you know when to lengthen or strengthen psoas?

Because it’s very difficult to know, what I would suggest is that you just continue to do both, lengthen and strengthen psoas, and aim at balance. And the body is really good at figuring this stuff out on its own. So if you lengthen your psoas and you do things that strengthen your psoas, you’re probably okay. That is, unless you had a very specific problem that you thought was related to psoas. And it sounds like, although you say “psoas issue” in the first part of your question, it’s not clear that there is something really specific there.

No muscle works alone

The other thing to do, to be careful with, when we talk about muscles like the psoas or the glutes or piriformis — you know, those are the big ones — is that no muscle works alone. They don’t live in vacuums by themselves. It’s not like you can fully isolate a muscle. I mean, you can, but that’s not how your body functions anyway. So, there’s no real value. You don’t mention yoga, but you’re obviously a yoga practitioner if you’re watching. The beauty of yoga is that it already works on creating some of these balances that we’re talking about: the strength and the flexibility.

The thing to avoid is trying to fix something. One, you’ve assumed it’s a problem. It may be. It may not be. I don’t know because I can’t see you. But doing the practice, generally speaking, is going to create balance: front to back, right to left, twisting. The basic movements are there. So, I would have a little more trust in that. And if you really need an intervention on your psoas, go see somebody who can get on there and treat it. Because a lot of times it’s going to take palpation, or touching the psoas, to determine whether it’s short and tight and dysfunctional or not, and therefore, meaning it would need to be lengthened. Or, are you testing weak for it? So, that’s the other way to do this.

Alright! That’s it. I’ve rambled on enough. If you’ve got a question, by all means, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion.

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