Stand up and fold forward.  Your lower back rounds.  Stand up, step the feet wide, point one foot sideways and lean toward that foot.  The inner thigh puts up a heavyweight fight.  If this sounds like you, hip flexor tension could be to blame.  The main hip flexor is called the iliopsoas (more ubiquitously dubbed the “psoas”), which actually comprises two sets of two muscles that spread from the lower spine, across each pelvic bone and into the upper portion of the inner thighs.

One of the best things you can do to loosen it while keeping it strong is the Psoas Spiral with a Blanket (demonstrated below).  The blanket adds a dimension of weight to the movement, so that even your abdominal muscles get a bit more of a jolt.  A student of mine suffering inner thigh pain found great relief from this goofy-but-effective exercise.

Although historical documentation suggests otherwise, if Michelangelo lay on his back on a high platform to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, maybe this is what he did to remove pre-mural cobwebs.  Fast-forward about 500 years and find more modern applications, such as optimizing your hips and lower back for standing poses, as well as implementing a clearer path of energy between the upper and lower bodies for more efficient, all-around mobility.

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Claiborne Davis

Claiborne Davis, RYT, is a Certified Yoga Tune Up® Instructor in New Orleans. He appreciates the full-body maintenance Yoga Tune Up® provides as an antidote to muscular imbalances from years of swinging a tennis racquet and from lifting weights. A former television news producer, he appreciates the physical and mental release yoga offers as a counter to high-stress work. Claiborne teaches publicly and privately.

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Very cool – I never would have dreamed doing of this with a blanket but it makes so much sense. What a great addition to my toolkit. thanks!

Lisa Pitel-Killah

What a fabulous addition with the blanket to add extra weight. I am definitely going to try this because my psoas is the root of some of my mobility problems. Thanks for sharing!


I have a bad habit of lifting my toes in my yoga standing poses and this exercise really helped me find strength between my toes along with the psoas. Thanks for your blanket addition.


As a former sprinter and snowboarder with notoriously tight hip flexors I found this to be challenging. I didnt notice any popping or catching as other people have noticed, but I wonder if the movement is impinging on a tendon or ligament in the pelvis.

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This a an easy and effective exercise. Thanks for posting both the blog and the instructional video. I will try to incorporate this into my routine and look forward to the lengthening and strengthening.

Lisa Salvucci

Another great option when there isn’t a lot of equipment around and/or the student has difficulty standing. Thank you for sharing.


i love easy neat and functional tips that can be done just about anywhere and very little equipment. thanks


Many sports require intense use of the hips flexors. This is an easy and practical exercise for various athletes. I am definitely going to this technique with towels! Thanks.

Lisa Larivière

I have had a few clients with hip flexor issues as well…I would do all of the work on them (bending the knee and manually rotating inward and outward – but I do like how you warm up the muscle with small movement and add weight to allow the muscle to strengthen at the same time)… I can appreciate your technique as this will also allow the core to strengthen at the same time… Having my client be able to work on his or her own, at home, will allow healing to occur much faster… Thank you for sharing your… Read more »

Lisa Larivière

I have had clients with similar issues with their hip flexors, I appreciate your sharing as this will allow the core to strengthen as well, allowing the client to actually work on their own rather than having me do the movements (I would bend the knee and rotate internally and externally) is best to remedy the problem I do believe… I am guessing the small circular movement to larger circular movement is to allow the muscles to warm up… I will definitely try this with my clients thank you very much for sharing your own variation…


Sorry, the Web site should read like this:


Thank you, ladies, for your positive and insightful comments. I’m very happy you all are getting good use out of this variation. Susan and Yvette, I’m not sure what the clicking noise could be. One guess would be that it’s possibly the psoas major sliding over the iliopectineal eminence. It could also be the gluteus maximus or IT band moving over the greater trochanter (there’s a lengthy explanation of clicking hip issues on this Web site: Hope that helps!


Thanks for sharing this, Claiborne. I have one bi-lateral hip replacement client and one hip resurfacing client who love this. The added weight of the blanket gives a nice, deeper eccentric stretch to the psoas and, as my clients report, forces them to turn on their abs in order to stabilize more than they are inclined to do in full leg circles. Compression, stretch and strengthening is a fabulous combination.

Erika O

what a great idea! I’m excited to try this and i don’t even have tight hip flexors! Cant wait to use this for future clients! Thank You!

yvette jain

thank you for sharing this video! when i make the full circles, i hear a crack (each round!).. what does that mean? will that eventually go away if i keep doing the circles every day?

dilshad keshwani

Thanks for sharing this wonderful variation, along with the video demonstration. It is amazing. I saw it today and did it. I am sure, I am going to incorporate this in my personal practice and also teaching. The effect on the inner thighs and the abdominal muscles too is amazing. This is a fun way of introducing variety in the classes and enhancing value too.

Bridget Ingham

I like this pose…I like to do the one legged knee circles with my students and graduate them into this extended knee psoas circle. I invite them to notice not only the difference in the right and left side but how moving from simpler to more complicated movement requires our fine tuning of our minds and bodies and to listen and feel how we adapt to the changes that create control, stability and freedom.

Joelene Marinone

The beauty of this pose is that you discovered it and it works for you and others it appears. The beauty of YTU is it entices us to be creative and modify poses to find something that will help a particular malady no matter how silly it looks! Congratulations!!

Anna Spanopoulos

I tried the psoas circles and liked them. I experimented with circling with internal rotation and then external rotation of the thigh for interesting results. Thanks for the psoas move.


There is a “knocking” noise as I do this move – as though a tendon or something is not gliding smoothly, but catches and then “thumps” into place. I’ve only tried this once so far, and no bad effects right now….any idea what might cause this?


Thanks for this exercise. My hip-replacement clients love it!