Taming the Psoas

Active Psoas Stretch

Constructive RestThe psoas is very susceptible to being tight because of our daily activities. Sitting for long periods of a the time at the computer, driving, running and even exercise. Pilates can help bring the psoas back to a relaxed, responsive and supportive position so that it can do it’s job properly.

Last week we explored where the psoas was and it’s function.

What exercises can you have your clients do to lengthen and release the psoas? Well, all Pilates exercises utilize the psoas since it is a powerhouse core muscle but the below exercises will enable the psoas to release and relax enabling you to dive into harder exercise’s safely like the hundred or side kick.

If the Psoas feels tight begin with a position called constructive rest. The constructive rest position allows tension in the hips, pelvis and lower back to be released by using gravity to lengthen the psoas muscle.

Here is what I have my clients to do:

Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, your knees bent, your heels 12 to 16 inches from your butt and your feet about hip-width apart. Maintain this position for 10-20 minutes. Simply allow your body to come into a place of rest and balance.

The psoas stretch is a Pilates exercise that will help lengthen the psoas. To begin, lie on your back with your legs bent, feet on the floor, and gently press your shoulder blades into the floor to anchor them. Pull one knee up into your chest and slide the opposite leg straight onto the floor. Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch legs.

The psoas is the meat of our midline body and needs to remain supple and relaxed in order to perform properly. Allowing ourselves to take the time for constructive rest and PIlates class will enable this great muscle the freedom to work as best as it can.


The Mysterious Psoas



Do your clients have trouble understanding what you mean when you talk to them about their psoas? Everyone has heard the word Psoas used when referring to core muscles or hip flexors but what, really, is the Psoas?

The Psoas muscle is an incredible muscle that helps us move, walk, dance and live. The Psoas can be considered the core muscle of the human body. It is the only muscle to attach the spine to the leg, thus allowing for the movement of walking. The Psoas major is a large muscle that attaches at T12, the bottom of the thoracic spine continuing along the lumbar spine to L4. It then runs through the pelvic bowl and over the front of the hip, finally attaching to the top of the femur.

The Psoas is traditionally thought of as a hip flexor, which means it is a muscle that brings the trunk and leg closer closer together or closes the joint. There are new Psoas experts that want to change our interpretation of the psoas. They believe this important muscle should not classified as a flexor because in doing so we then want to stretch or strenghten it like we would any flexor, but the Psoas is different.

Liz Koch, psoas expert believes that the psoas becomes exhausted instead of tight and we must learn how to relax and release the psoas as opposed to stretching and strengthening. Focusing on proper alignment, stabilizing, and good posture supports the psoas, giving this mysterious muscle the chance to be the responsive, flexible connection between the spine and the lower body.

Stay tuned for Pilates exercises that you can have clients do to assist the Psoas in strengthening and lengthening.

A Dancer Finds Strength: Emily Jones’ Path to Pilates

I love getting an opportunity to highlight teachers! And to find out more about what got them teaching Pilates and what makes them tick. Below is a conversation I had with Blue Sparrow Pilates instructor Emily Jones.

H: When and how did you first learn about Pilates?
E: My Pilates practice began somewhat on accident as a teenager. As part of ballet and modern dance classes, my teachers would incorporate some Pilates Matwork exercises for conditioning. At the time I didn’t know I was doing Pilates, but I did know that the exercises we did helped me feel stronger and more aware of my body while dancing.

H: What was it that made you realize you wanted to teach Pilates?
In 2009 I began taking equipment classes, which brought a whole new understanding to the Matwork exercises I previously knew. After just a few months of classes I decided I wanted to become a Pilates instructor.

H: Why did you choose STOTT PILATES? And where did you train?
E: After researching the various options I chose STOTT PILATES® because of the contemporary and comprehensive approach to the traditional Pilates method. I took the STOTT PILATES® Matwork and Reformer courses at Pacific Northwest Pilates in Portland, Oregon.

H: What did you like most about your training?
E: I loved the nuanced anatomical approach to movement. Being able to apply the information I learned to my dancing helped me move with more ease and efficiency.

H: What brought you to San Francisco?

E: In 2010 I moved to San Francisco to study dance at the San Francisco Conservatory of dance. While in San Francisco I came across Blue Sparrow Pilates and became an apprentice instructor. In 2011 I certified in Level 1 STOTT PILATES® Mat and Reformer.

H: What is the best part about teaching Pilates?
E: Daily I am inspired to deepen my understanding of movement and broaden the way I articulate this information to clients. It’s exciting to watch clients gain a better understanding of their own body and feel more at ease while moving. Teaching Pilates to a wide range of people, from athletes to those recovering from injury, allows endless learning opportunity. I am continually excited about growing as an instructor.  I enjoy being able to share this passion with others. I look forward to continuing to watch familiar faces grow stronger and more confident in their bodies as well as introducing Pilates to new people.

H: What are your next goals?
E: Currently I am completely the STOTT PILATES® advanced level courses and I plan to become fully certified.

H: Do you still love Pilates?
E: YES! Pilates helps me maintain balance in my body and stay injury free. I am currently dancing with multiple San Francisco based dance companies and Pilates is an essential part of my training.

Check out Emily’s beautiful demonstration of the Pilates Reformer:

Blast Your Bod with CORE


CORE is a complete blast- you will have fun and work your butt-off!

We’ve started teaching an Instructor Course for CORE, so here’s an overview of what clients can expect from it.

What is CORE?
CORE is an interval training class. It’s based on resistence, endurance, or muscular endurance. So, we’ll perform higher repetition, with not as much resistence as you would for a power workout. But it’s a longer duration so you should get to faitigue by the time you finish each segment.

The Format
We will start with a dynamic warm-up that will get your joints moving and increase your core temperature.

Then we will have three different work intervals. Each interval will have three exercises within them. We will do them first a little more slowly and take an active recovery at the end of that. Then do the second two intervals in a row with a little more speed and challenge.

These exercises will work the entire body for a balanced, full body workout.

We will finish with a quick cool down.

During the entire class I want clients to listen to their body and go at their own pace. And most importantly– have fun!

Exercise Reduces Cognitive Decline


lAs we age our memory decline. New research shows that performing regular aerobic and resistance training can reduce cognitive impairment. The researchers concluded that endurance training, weight training, and aerobic training has different benefits to memory. So if you want a robust brain, both resistance and aerobic exercise are best. But the big message is exercise will reduce the brain’s decline.

Read the Full Article “A Brain Boost From Exercise” by Gretchen Reynolds