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Spring Into Action

Exercises to stretch the psoas muscle and get rid of your winter blues

By Bekki Jo Pritchard Photos provided by Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center With spring right around the corner, it’s time to shake off your winter blues and to stretch, strengthen and tone your mind, body and soul. Not only does winter bring cold, gloomy and sometimes snowy days, but it also brings the winter blues. According to The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the winter blues may cause one to experience mood shifts, feel lethargic and depressed. However, if symptoms begin to infiltrate all aspects of personal and professional life, one may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder. The direct cause of SAD is not known, however, as the days get shorter and the nights get longer in the winter months, the lack of sunshine upsets our biological clock and often causes depression. With a lack of sunshine, serotonin, the chemical in our brains that makes us happy, lowers production offering more aid to depression. Because the body is depressed, melatonin, the chemical that makes us sleep, also drops in production leaving the body tired, depressed and sometimes anxiety-ridden. I myself have experienced the winter blues and sometimes even SAD. I am not one who takes medications or synthetic products, so I am always in search of natural, effective ways to treat the issues, not the symptoms. Prior to COVID-19, I attended a seminar with YogaFit called Healing for Physical Emotional Trauma. I learned a great deal of very useful information that I could work into my career as a yoga and pilates instructor, but also for myself and my struggles with anxiety. One of the best pieces of information that I learned was that the psoas is the “muscle to the soul.” The psoas is the largest core muscle that runs down both sides of the spine and diagonally through the core combining with the iliacus, commonly known as the iliopsoas, to attach to the femur. The psoas connects the spine to the legs so your body’s balance and stability rely on it. What does this have to do with depression and anxiety? If there is pressure or contraction of the bottom of the psoas, there is a restriction on the diaphragm which restricts the body’s ability to take deep breaths. If there is contraction at the top of the psoas, there is a restriction to digestion causing acid reflux, stomach aches, bloat and discomfort. I am not sure about you, but when I feel depressed or anxious, I have all of these symptoms. The psoas, iliacus and diaphragm have the largest network of sympathetic nerves that control the fight or flight response in the brain. This means, if I release the psoas, then the sympathetic nerves will relax the brain which will allow the body to relax. This will put less pressure on the diaphragm, allowing for deeper, lung-expanding, healing breaths and less pressure on the digestive tract, causing less bloat, fewer stomach aches and overall belly discomfort. In my quest to shake off my winter blues and stretch, strengthen and tone my mind, body and soul, releasing my psoas has been my top priority by spending extra time on the Pilates Reformer at Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center. Here are my top exercises to help release the psoas and to breathe your way to the best spring 2021 can offer! Please contact me for a complimentary session on our Pilates Reformer at or 702.352.8929.

Standing Lunge Stretch

Quadricep Stretch

Hamstring/Adductor/Abductor Stretch Sequence

Hamstring Stretch

Adductor Stretch Keeping the right ball of the foot on the bar and the left foot extended to the ceiling while it’s still hooked in the ring, place the ring in the left hand with your right arm resting next to you. Allow the left leg to extend out to the left side. Press both hips firmly into the carriage and lengthen your left leg out to the sidewall, flexing your left foot back towards your face. Breathe slowly, controlled and as deep as possible.

Abductor Stretch Keeping the right ball of the foot on the bar while the left foot is still hooked in the ring, reach up with your right hand and grab the ring allowing your left arm to rest next to you. Keeping both hips bones down on the machine, stretch the left leg across your body. Keep both hips down, flexing the left foot back towards your body. Breathe slowly, controlled and as deep as possible. Hold each stretch for one minute, completing both legs 3-4 times. All three stretches can also be performed on a mat, the floor and/or your bed.

Assisted Ball Back Bend Sit up on the Pilates machine and place a mid-size to small fitness ball behind you. Sit against the ball with your legs either bent or straight out in front of you. Place your hands behind your head in order to fully support your neck and slowly begin to take your gaze up the wall in front of you to the ceiling and begin to backbend over the ball. If your neck is healthy, you can extend your arms over your head or out to the side. Otherwise, keep your hands behind your head and let your core stretch open. Breathe slowly, controlled and as deep as possible. This exercise can also be completed by placing the exercise ball on the floor or up against the couch. Hold the stretch for one minute and repeat 3-4 times.

Forward Fold

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