In my last post, I identified and located the quadratus lomborum (QL) and psoas major muscles, discussed why and how we can develop shortened or imbalanced psoas and practiced a few movements that can assist in countering its shortened length.
Years ago, I went to a massage therapist and shared with him my symptoms of persistent low-back discomfort. After his initial assessment, he recommended a psoas massage, which I had never heard of before and, with hesitation, agreed. It was quite painful and he performed the release with me in a number of different positions, from laying on my back to curled up in child’s pose. Once the massage was complete my back soreness disappeared and it left me bewildered. Remember the QL and psoas share the same attachment points at the transverse processes of the vertebrae of the lumbar spine? My shortened psoas was affecting my QL and therefore sending referral discomfort to my low back.
For this lower back self-massage we’ll use the Yoga Tune Up® ALPHA ball twin set and the classic size Therapy Balls. First the QL: Lay on your back and place the Alpha ball in the soft tissue area between your 12th rib and the top of your pelvis to the right of your spine. Roll onto the ball, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Stay here, for more pressure open your right knee and lay it on the floor. Then, either lay still or push into your left foot to hover your hips and move your pelvis forward and back and side-to-side. Repeat on the opposite side.
Next, for psoas self-massage, kneel and place your fingertips 2 inches to the right and left side of your navel. This is where the classic Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls will be placed to release the psoas major. Lay in sphinx pose on your stomach propped up on your forearms and place the balls, one at a time underneath you. Either remain on your forearms or lay all the way down, be still and breathe and allow the balls to penetrate as they navigate through the abdominal muscles and internal organs to reach the attachment of the psoas major to the anterior surfaces of the transverse processes of the vertebrae (T12-L5).
If you suffer from low back irritability maybe your psoas needs to be released. I’ve experienced much success with students and private clients using this technique as well. Perhaps it’ll help you too!
Enjoyed this article? Read Reorganize Your Psoas
This was great to help with low back tightness that I’ve been experiencing. It would have been helpful for me as I’m not as well versed in anatomy to have a little video or more pictures to help with the placements, particularly the psoas self-massage exercise to ensure I’m being safe with my internal organs and not squishing anything. I was also under the impression that there’s really no way to physically be able to touch or manipulate the psoas because of where it is located so I appreciate these exercises to try and get some relief.
This is so great! I’m pretty new to using the balls and I found this info to be very helpful! I am a massage therapist and I have worked on quite a few psoas and Qls. I have a few clients that are athletes and I hoping these two moves can help them with their own self care in between sessions with me!
I have suffered with this exact issue for several years! Thank you for shedding light on the relationship between these two (often pesky) muscles. Question- is it safe to massage the psoas with the Yoga Tune Up classic ball propped up on a block instead of the floor. It feels deeper for me, but I am concerned that it could be detrimental. Also, I am wondering if you have felt psoas release after rolling out the piriformis and glutes?
Ah yes, this explains so much! Have just taken an overseas flight – 13 hours sitting, and my QL has been talking to me. Not nicely. I also have chronic Psoas tightness from..well, life. Thanks for the article!
Thank you for this succinct remedy for QL pain and a fussy shortened psoas. So helpful to be reminded that they share the same attachment
I have had this Psoas release too and it made a big difference. I will try it with the balls as well
I’ve just read both of your posts posts and after days of pain I did the few stretches you listed in the first post followed this practice with the balls and experienced immediate relief! Thank you I am happy to be going into my YTU training this week
Love this…I find for both myself and my students that imbalances in the psoas translate in painful ways. The balls are a great way to get into the deep muscle tissues and release.
This is so interesting, can’t wait to try. Always looking for ways to remedy my lower back issues.
As someone who experiences lower back pain, I found this article very helpful and I found it very relaxing afterward and will definitely include this routine in my everyday self care routine. It is very important to target those areas of my back!
I have low back discomfort in the morning most days so I generally just take a hot shower but this is working even better. Great way for me to get my back tension to subside and start my day pain free. Appreciate the post
Excellent plan to tackle both the psoas and the QL to address low back pain. Haven’t thought about using the classics outside of the navel in sphinx position. It makes sense to really dig the balls into the psoas. I’m def gonna give it a try.
These 2 ball placements are my favorites (together with pecs and upper back). I personally use YTU TB similarly on the belly, only I start higher (below ribs at diaphragm height) and slowly reach down to just above hip bones, making 4-5 stops on the way in sustained compression as you explain. It can be somewhat uncomfortable but if practiced with deep breath and optionally on a softer base at first, it is truly efficient in releasing back pain
Great tip for using my alpha ball to help unglue my QL from the psoas. I haven’t tried the 2 orginal balls on either side of the belly in sphinx so I’m looking foward to trying that (read this one on a full stomach)!
This is great. I’ve had work done on my QL and Psoas before, but I’ve never been able to take matters into my own hands. Thanks for sharing these obtainable poses!
Yes! Great information. I had a similar experience many years ago…I had resistant lower back pain – even when I was not working out or dancing. A massage therapist who specialized in sports injury and prevention worked on my hips, glutes and psoas…the back pain was GONE ! Since then I have included rolling with therapy balls in my own self-care and I teach my dance students to do the same. Thank you!
In French we often call the psoas ” la poubelle des émotions “. If I try to translate, maybe we could say “the negative emotions garbage “. That sounds weird but I think you understand. So yes, sitting to long and not stretching the psoas that gets shortened is a problème, but I think that the 2 self massage you described in your blog can be reallllly helpful for almost everyone! Knowing that stress, fear and negative emotions get the psoas really tight, many people have back pain because of that! So let’s all roll and feel free ??
Thank you for the proposition of the massage technique with the Alpha Ball. I am certainly going to do it for me and my clients ! Psoas is such an important muscle !!! And so much people suffer from back discomfort !
I’m in the middle of my YTU training and today we palpated psoas major – wow!! I knew I had tight hip flexors, but still – wow. I occasionally suffer from low back pain and now that I have learned – from your blog and the YTU training about the close relationship between the psoas and the QL – I will make it a priority to lengthen, strengthen and roll my psoas and QL!
It’s so difficult to access the psoas muscle, a most important muscle to release. I learned this when I took a bodywork class and had release someone’s psoas and had them release mine – what a feeling! We were on a massage table with our legs hanging over the end of the table. One leg was then draped over the standing person’s shoulder and the free leg was extended and the released while the standing person dug into the space two inches from the navel. This method relied on another person (and an experienced bodyworker at that) so I am really looking forward to trying the “sphinx” version as I can do that on my own – so excited!
This post was a helpful outline of how to potentially address low back pain via the hips (releasing a major hip flexor in psoas major and the main hip elevator in the QL). While this isn’t a panacea for all low back discomfort, I have see similar positive results for my students who are chronically stressed and sit all day. When I don’t have access to the YTU balls in studios where I work, I offer the yoga blocks as a means to massaging the QL and the psoas in similar fashion to how to describe. I tried your method with the balls at home and forgot just how deep they can go and how much deep abdominal breaths can help!
I will give that to one of clients and myself of course!
Good advice. Going to use both of these techniques on myself and on a private client to see if we can get some low back relief!
Thank you,very helpfull ✨
I think I have the same problem. Will definitely try this massage sequence. Thanks for the share.
Thanks for the information, i’ll try that tomorrow,
Psoas work is definitely important – whether it’s strengthening, lengthening, mobilizing, or giving it some slack. I have found the variety of ways to work with it very helpful in dealing with issues from posture to emotional trauma.
Great advice and a good reminder that we can all benefit from this at some time.
I am finding some release in QL with both of these techniques and am looking forward to seeing if I can make some lasting changes with practice. Thank you for sharing!
LOVE this work for the psoas. I’ve always struggled with this as I thought of working it from closer to the insertion point and have been afraid to put a firmer tune up ball too close to inguinal ligament of the femoral nerve and have been trying to figure out other ways than using the coregeous ball. And it makes a ton of sense to just move the balls closer to the origin and play there – this is so super and I can’t wait to try it!
Psoas release techniques can be such an amazing tool when performed properly. It can also be a very intimate place to give and/or receive this technique. Using the Yoga Tune Up Therapy balls for self treatment is such a great way to eliminate these obstacles. Thank you for sharing!
Because of my anterior tilted pelvis en therefore a shortened m.Psoas, I expected that I should feel the psoasmassage as more intense than the QL massage… but it was the opposite! For shure this will help me with my sometimes recurrent lowback pain and I will teach this to my sister who has the same posture (problems) like I have. Thank you for sharing!
QL and Psoas are often difficult work with. I have been using YTU Therapy Balls for QL for a while for my sciatica problem, but never tried on Psoas in sphinx pose. Before I had my lordosis corrected many years a go, most backward bending pose was difficult and unpleasurable. Now I enjoy simple backward bending pose like Cobra and Sphinx. I don’t have any back pain or problem in general but I have a feeling I am going to love this Psoas work. Thank you!
What a great reminder of how the QL and psoas are connected!! I have some clients with persistent low back pain, and I’ll be really interested to see if like you, releasing the psoas is all they need. I’m constantly amazing by the interconnectedness of our bodies. Thank you for sharing!
I have been successful in healing my back with the QL massage with the Alpha ball. I messed up my pelvis and strained my QL doing split jerks (dropping into a lung with a weighted bar overhead). My pelvis went into an anterior tilt and tweaked my back. With the Alpha ball, I was able to adjust my back- which I had to do almost every day-until my back healed. It was a slow process but I’m so glad I had my Alpha ball to help me get my pelvis back into position.
Thank you for this post, having alot of clients with LB issues and looking for something to self relieve at home or on business trips. This technique will come in handy.
I can’t wait to try this tomorrow morning. My low back feels fine until I’m sitting in a car and this might be the ticket to helping that. Thanks so much!
Thanks for sharing this information. I am currently experiencing lower back pain and I have not researched other methods of relief except hamstring and hip stretches. I reviewed the attachment point to get a visual of what you are talking about and I’m now really excited to try this out and to feel the difference with my lower back pain, will keep you posted!
Thank you for this, i am currently working with a client with LB pain. I have recommended the QL release , but this one in Sphinx with the original balls is new to me!! so thanks a million. The YTU (R) community is full of some very creative and bright (HA!) practitioners.
I’m so excited to give this a try not only on myself but my husband as well. he’s suffered for years with low back pain. The description of ball placement was very easy to follow, Thank you!
Thanks for sharing this information. I reviewed the attachment point to get a visual of what you are talking about and I’m now really excited to try this out and to feel the difference with my lower back pain, will keep you posted!
I had a similar experience with low back discomfort- I focused on rolling the QL with little focus on the PSOAS but I am interested to try the sphinx ball technique for PSOAS release. Thanks!
I’m so happy to read this post. I’ve suffered from low back pain for a long time! I’m excited to try this! Thanks for the post.
I love the YTU balls to get into the psoas. I find it to be less invasive/pokey than manual massage therapy techniques and you’re able to control amount of pressure by laying on the ball in sphinx pose. Thanks for the post!
This was very helpful as I have some twist to the spine. By rolling out with the alpha and tune up balls. Found this a very amazing relief !!
This article was a light bulb moment for me. When students mention back pain, I think of rolling out the low back. The idea to release the psoas major, in a passive pose like sphinx pose never occurred to me. Low back issues are so common, I’m happy to add a new technique to my toolbox. Thank you!
I was experiencing left side low back and hip pain. After using my YTU balls and doing the Psoas and QL releases coupled by some Glute Medius and Max strengthening with a mini band, my pain went away. The release is great but I’ve found that you need to strengthen the supporting musculature as well. It’s ALL Good!
Never try the sphinx pose with the classic ball on the area to release the psoas. Can’t wait to try this technique. Thanks for sharing.
The psoas is so hard to get to! I appreciate this point of view – is there a way to do it with regular therapy balls? Maybe putting a yoga block under a ball to lay on top of it?
Oh the pesky QL! During my level 1 training I learned that a major cause of my back pain is from a really tight QL. I am dealing with low back pain and I’m almost willing to try anything to make it better! Thank you so much for your massage tips! I honestly can’t wait to try rolling the psoas as well!
Thank you for sharing your experience and for this massage treatment.
Is there a Part 2 to your Psoas/QL article? Looking forward to reading more!
I love the alpha on the QL! I also have a very tight psoas and illiacus muscles and warm up the area by lying over the Coregeous ball placed below my naval and practicing abdominal breathing. I then move the ball to one side and take several deep breaths then begin to slowly roll across the ball before moving to the 2nd side. After this, I swap-out the Coregeous for the Alphas and place one just medial of the medial border of each illium. I slowly lower to lying onto my stomach, resume abdominal breathing then gently “wag my tail” side to side. If I want more intensity, I bend my knees and sway my feet side-to-side and/or lift up onto my forearms.
I often find my psoas is tight from repetitive motions in running and cycling. I have found the therapy balls to be incredibly helpful in releasing these muscles, but sometimes find I don’t have enough time to do the whole sequence described in the Roll Model book. Thanks for providing a quick alternative that will be easy to fit into a busy schedule!
I need to try this. It didn’t occur to me that the QL and psoas share the same attachment point – makes a lot of sense and sounds like a good place to start with my YTU balls. Transverse processes of the vertebrae of my lumbar spine, here I come!
While in law school I was very disciplined about my yoga practice, but failed to integrate needed stretches or bodywork as well. I was doing very athletic classes in the morning and then sitting in terrible chairs for hours each day. One day I had terrible low back pain, so much I couldn’t move. After massage and self diagnoses, I realized it was my psoas and QL. Both were getting beautiful release during the yoga, but then crammed for hours during the rest of the day. I have since incorporated the rolling and sitting on a ball at work to counter this. The rolling provides such great relief!!
Thank you for sharing! I am always amazed by the relation each muscle have with one another, in this case the psoas and QL. Will definitely share this with my community.
I often forgot to message my psoas cause its a strechy muscle on my body, but thats doesn’t mean that he is relax enought you it allow my QL to relax..
Pairing a these releases with a core strengthening exercise is a great way to correct muscular imbalances and support the spine.
Something to think about for my low back discomfort. Thanks
Love love love these techniques. These are some problem areas for me as well. I haven’t worked out the QL with the Alpha ball yet, can’t wait to try!
I similarly had constant low back pain before I discovered the ‘Alpha’ Ball in my QL! I fell in absolute love!
I have not tried the balls on my psoas in Sphinx pose yet, but I will tonight…Thanks for the post!
Thank you for this insight! My community perpetually asks for relief exercises for low back pain. There are a plethora of possible instigators, but, if tight Psoas and/or QLs are causing the funk, this can be one of THE best offerings! Major gratitude to you for posting!!
Cant wait to try it personnally and after that integrate this move with my runners class. Thanks
I tried this and felt almost immediate relief in my low back as well. Thank you! Great explanation, I’ve never used the sphinx pose to release my psoas – it definitely intensifies the release.
I cant wait to try the psoas release with the classic ball. I am just discovering the relationship between my imbalanced pelvis the low back pain and my QL and Iliopsoas. I feel like the sidewinders and rolling are helping so much with the relief of my low back pain.
As a runner, the psoas is a muscle that often speaks to me … thank you for your. article
I love to use UTY balls in my yin yoga class to add an other dimension to the pose. This is a good one.
Wow!! I just learned this briefly also today in YTU training. I can remember when I was recovering from a horrible back injury caused at work, I exhausted all of the PT, chiropractor and acupuncture and my back still was bad. They gave up on me and the Dr. told me to check my kidneys because there is no reason I should still have pain. I knew it was not my organs…Yoga has helped me recover, but I did not know the psoas had anything to do with it. My mom has chronic back pain, so instead of focusing on the back, I will begin research on the psoas. Thank You for this!
I will definitely have to try this! Thanks for the info!
I played 2soccer games last night and woke up this morning with low back pain and a tight feeling in my hip flexor. I read your post and rolled out as explained the Ql and the psoas.my back pain was gone and the hip felt better.then I played 2hours of touch rugby and had no problems running forward or backwards.this post certainly helped me and I will use it not only when there is a feeling of tightness or pain but also as a preventative measure.
Wow, it is amazing the way things are so connected in the body. I’ve noticed lately that my psoas is pretty tight, I think a psoas massage could really help and possibly affect other areas of the body as well. Great to keep in mind as a teacher as well.
We just learned about the relationship between the Ql and the psoas and in our level one certification .this is a great refresher as I sit on the bus on the way to class.i also liked the addition of the sphinx posture on the balls since it facilitates spinal and hip extension something we all need to counter the effects of sitting.
Thanks for this post and information. My husband suffers from constant low back pain. Doctors could not find the reason .
I will try this massage on him , who knows maybe he also has an imbalanced psoas.
the tune up balls have been a great addition to treating these conditions. I myself (RMT)have benefited from self care with the alpha ball and the more I use it the strain in my lower back has almost disappeared. having experiencing both psosas and QL issues myself has helped me work with many clients and setting a good example gives them hope.
Being an RMT, I frequently will suggest a poses massage to my clients with low back discomfort and have found great results for them. It is not the most comfortable massage but if you can bare the discomfort and awkward positions, you may find this to be more helpful in relieving some or all of your low back discomfort.
I love this post so much! Thank you! Over the last months, I’ve really delved more deeply into understanding the psoas and QL relationship. I’ve also learned that “tight” doesn’t necessarily mean it needs stretched. Sometimes a muscle can be “tight” (aka: shortened) and also weak. Using the Alpha ball in the psoas (and QL) feels AMAZING, but I also love the biofeedback it gives me and knowing where my Psoas and QL are in relationship to one another. I’ve also explored a lot with pelvic tilt and how it affects these two muscle relationships. Thank you for sharing!
I am an RMT and often work to release psoas tension to alleviate clients low back tension, but rarely ask my colleagues to work on this area for me, even though I know the benefits. I like using the alpha ball as well for self massage through the QL, as well as the corgeous ball for the deeper hip flexor release.
I tried the excerices outlined in this post. First I reading the authors previous post in order to correctly locate my psoas & QL. Understanding the connection and location along the inside of the hips and abdomen aided in my therapy ball use. I have always had a nagging pain I can not stretch or release. With these exercises I was finally able to release my psoas and QL. Amazing.
Great can’t wait to try the psoas release with ball rolling! And of course on the Ql
This release was very helpful after gardening, thank you!
After doing this QL release my lower back feels great. Good to know that not only the psoas has to be released!
love this! i have used sphinx to release the psoas often but never thought to go to the QL
I tried this today, I felt a good release in lower back. Thank you!
Juliana, yes! You are correct. You’ll place the ball under the right QL and then turn both knees up, then open the right knee so more weight rests on the Alpha ball.
Just to clarify-place the ball to the right of the spine and then drop the right knee. In the first picture, the ball is to the right of the spine, but the left knee is dropped. Is this just for the article so we can see the ball better or am I understanding this incorrectly? Thank you:)
I have used this roll out on myself and in many classes. Time to put it back in! I will share your story with my clients too! This roll out sequence actually helped me relieve neck and upper back pain too!
The psoas and QL are deep muscles, and i’m always searching for techniques to release them. I specially love your sphinx pose to release the psoas.. I’ve got very tight psoas myself, so I’m really enjoying this!