As a woman, your psoas and iliopsoas muscles -- hip flexors -- really get a workout. Broad hips built for childrearing make a woman's body posture tend toward a swayed back. This position causes a constant state of flexion for the hip-flexor muscles, often resulting in low back pain. Combine this with a sedentary life or a job that requires sitting and hip-flexor woes become a chronic condition. Yoga helps strengthen and the hip flexors to relieve tension and soothe lower back pain. However, if done incorrectly and out of alignment, yoga can further inflame the psoas, making a bad problem worse.
The Pelvic Loop
Stand tall on your mat in mountain pose with your feet hip-width distance apart.
Breathe deeply, visualizing the breath reaching into your lower back. Use this breathing technique to make space and expand this area.
Eliminate the curve in your low back by slightly tilting your tailbone down and rotating your pelvic bones up towards the navel. This action takes the pressure off the psoas muscle.
Breathe. Maintain this action throughout your yoga practice.
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) With a Belt
Stand perpendicular to your mat in mountain pose with your feet hip-width distance apart.
Locate the bone protuberances, or ASISes (anterior superior iliac spine), on either side of your pelvis.
Tie a yoga strap around your waist.
Exhale and step your feet 3.5 to 4 feet apart. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees to the right and turn your left foot in 45 degrees to the right. Inhale.
Exhale and turn your pelvis to the right, squaring it to the front of the mat.
Place your fingers on your ASISes. Inhale and bend your front knee to 90 degrees. Gently use your fingers to guide the ASIS on your back leg up, counteracting the anterior tilt. Exhale.
Inhale and raise your arms to the sky, parallel to each other. Move your back waist into the belt and your tailbone down and away from the belt. Hold and breathe.
- Maintaining the pelvic loop throughout all yoga poses strengthens the hip flexors and eliminates overstretching. This should be the primary focus in your pose.
- If you don't have a belt handy, concentrate instead on keeping the ASISes level and breathing into your back.
- If you already suffer from inflamed hip flexors, only practice yoga under the guidance of a professional instructor. Practicing this pose without visual demonstration and hands-on manipulation may cause further injury.
Christina Shepherd McGuire writes articles about adventure sports, fashion, mothering and natural living. Since 2003, her work has appeared in "Action Outdoor and Bike Magazine," "Teton Family Magazine," "The Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine" and several online publications. McGuire holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.