Here’s one for all you daytime desk commandos out there. We are a society of sitters. Many of us sit all day long. We wake up and maybe sit down at the table to eat our breakfast, then we sit as we drive to work. We get to work, take a seat at our desk and maybe don’t get up again until it is coffee time, Mother Nature calls, or maybe even the lunch bell rings. We perhaps get our half hour to an hour break and then it’s back to that chair. At the end of the day we take a quick stroll out to our car and then settle in for the drive home. Maybe we have some chores to do at home that require standing, but many times we end the day relaxing a bit on the couch or in our favorite chair. Well I think you get my point, we sit a lot.
There are many things about sitting that take their tole on our posture and physical health, but for now I’m going to give the spotlight to our iliopsoas muscles. Ilio-what!?! The iliopsoas muscle group is a combination of three muscles in the anterior portion of our thigh/lower abdomen; the psoas major, psoas minor, and iliacus muscles. Together these three work to flex our hip. You actually might have heard them referred to as the “hip flexors” before.
These are strong muscles and we depend on them for everything from walking, running, and even standing, but they are postural muscles dominated by slow-twitch red type 1 fibers. This is a big fancy way of saying they are more resistant to fatigue than other types of muscle groups in our bodies. They are meant to do smaller jobs for longer periods of time. The downside is that they are susceptible to shortening or contracture (especially in older people with a sedentary lifestyle) and require regular stretching to maintain normal tone. Such shortening can lead to anterior pelvic tilt, increased curvature in the lumbar spine, and hip extension limitations–all of which can contribute to the dreaded low back pain. Dun, dun, dun…!
So what do we do about this? We stretch the hip flexors! A great stretch for these muscles is high lunge pose in yoga. We can always count on yoga to stretch out those commonly tight muscle groups! Here are a few links to high lunge pose and a high lunge variation, both of which will give you a great hip flexor stretch. Click here for high lunge pose, click here for high lunge variation. In both of these postures, tightening up the muscles on the front of your thigh will help you find more stability and also provide a more concentrated stretch to that iliopsoas group.
Try this and see what you feel. Are you tighter on one side more-so than the other? Remember we always want to do stretches and strengthening activities symmetrically. Always do the posture on both sides!