Anatomy Moment: Iliopsoas

What is your iliopsoas? Where is it? And why should you care?

In the most basic description, the iliopsoas is part of the “Hip Flexor” group. The iliopsoas muscle is actually a duo consisting of the Iliacus and Psoas Major muscles.

They’re the strongest for the job they do – flex the hip. But to get to know each muscle more intimately, see below..



Actions: Flex the hip, Laterally rotate the hip, Flex the torso toward the thigh, Tilt the pelvis anteriorly.
Attaching: at the top of the hip bone to below the hip joint. You could think of it as where you’d put your hands on your hips. Your iliacus rests under where your fingertips land.

Action: The same as above plus assist to laterally flex the lumbar (lower) spine.
Attaching: from the lower spinal vertebrae to below the hip joint. It extends diagonally from your lower spine to the front of your hip.


When would you use these beauties? Standing, walking, and perhaps while doing sit-ups – to name a few examples. If you’ve taken [especially] a yoga class, you may have heard the cue to not fire from the hip flexors.

Often times – because of the job they do – it is easier for us as humans to engage the hip flexors instead of our abdominal muscles. If you find yourself becoming too familiar with your hip flexors (over-using them), then you might want to remind yourself where your abs are. 😉

Another common way to anger your iliopsoas is to sit for long periods of time without taking breaks. You see, the flexors do want to work and be useful, but they don’t want to be over-worked. They also don’t want to remain in a scrunched up position while you sit all day….. [This has been a paid-for advertisement from your iliopsoas.]


Please allow me to now give you plenty of options to apologize to your iliopsoas.
1) Drink water. This will actually solve two problems – keeping the muscles hydrated to keep fresh blood and nutrients pumping, as well as to get you up and walking to the bathroom. Thumbs up for hydration!
2) Selfmassage. (If you’re already a client of mine, I feel your smiles through the internet.) I have found that using a dimple softball for this area works best. It’s wider than a tennis or lacrosse ball so it really enables you to get to the muscle belly. You could also use a tennis or lacrosse ball on top of a foam block or a couple books.
SET UP: (for your right iliopsoas) Lay flat on the floor on your back. Using your fingers find your belly button, go right about 3″ and down 1″. Place the ball here. Roll to your belly (keeping the ball in place). At this point, just breathe with your body resting and the ball pressing into your iliopsoas. Let your breathing and gravity do the job.

3) Stretch. My favorite stretch is a simple one you can do on your bed (morning and/or night).
SET UP: (for your left side) Lay flat on your back in a bed or on a couch with your left leg draped off the surface. The end. …Seriously, that is it. Stay here for as long as it feels good. (Numbness and tingling mean you’ve gone too long.)


What I detailed was a brief summation of the iliopsoas. If you’d like to geek out over some fun anatomy terms and visuals, check out this helpful video. An added note.. the plural of  “psoas” is “psoe or psoi”.


**Thanks to Trail Guide to the Body Flashcards by Andrew Biel for the iliopsoas actions and attachments bit.


Frozen Days…

Chances are – if you’re local – you saw lots of sleet, freezing rain, and like 4 snow flakes the last few days. (I wish there had been more snow!)

If your days were anything like mine they involved some or all of the following: sitting, eating, restricted exercising (if any), TV, movies, Netflix, walk the dog, run back to house with dog, laundry, Facebook, emails, sledding, random dance parties in the house, sleeping on the couch – I think you’ve got the idea. Our lives were very different these last few days. No working, no driving, but lots of being sedentary.

How does all that affect our muscles?

Muscles are designed to move. When we’re spending more time not working the muscles and then we do something like sledding or walking on ice, it’s pretty startling to the body. We end up holding our bodies in awkward positions. From tensing when we are walking on ice, to bracing for impact at the bottom of a hill we are sledding down, to shivering – our muscles are tense.

Add to that a poor diet (because who is really watching what they eat when they’re stuck inside a house all day) and technology – iPads, computers, cell phones – and you have the perfect storm.

Now to the important information – why am I taking the time to mention this?

Winter happens. Being sedentary and involved in technology and losing track of good eating habits happens. However, there are ways to avoid being too lax when these frozen days hit.

  1. Try to keep more fresh foods in the house. By not keeping the bad stuff around, you’re much less likely to eat it. (Especially on a snow day when you’re stuck in the house with no transportation.)
  2. Keep moving! I’ll be the first to admit that exercising yourself and your dog in the house is a real thing – it does help to have dog on the smaller side. Take time to stay in motion when you’re in the house. You can keep up with chores, call friends and walk around your home (I’d suggest the pacing then the cleaning), or do what I did and run suicide drills in the hallway with your dog. Note to readers: the dog always wins. Every time.
  3. Water! Hydrate people, hydrate! If nothing else this ensures you’re getting up to walk to the bathroom frequently – thus helping with the 2nd bullet point!
  4. Bolster yourself. If you are going to spend a good amount of time watching Netflix, football, or reading it’s worth it to sit in positions where your body is more relaxed and supported. This helps tremendously with muscle tension – even on a normal day.
  5. Take a yoga class with Jaclyn Groff before you have snow and ice expected! The soreness stays with you the entirety of the storm. (Thanks, Jaclyn!)

Here’s to some sun-shiny days this week!

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What’s with this Breathing?

So I was sitting in a yoga class Sunday. First thing noted?

Notice your breathing.

Then I went to Pure Barre today. One of the last notes of the class?

Take your biggest, deepest breath of the day.

What do I often tell clients before sinking into a trigger point?IMG_5852

Take a deep breath in.

And now I’m downloading my favorite meditation that’s going to tell me – you guessed it – breathe deeply while silently repeating this mantra.


So…what’s the deal with this breathing thing? Why does everyone encourage you to take a breath at every opportunity? And who says it has to be deep and filled with purpose?

The answer? Breathing should be intentional. We do it so often without a thought – thankfully. It’s good for the mind to be centered and connect back with the body. When we give the breath meaning and priority in our days, we put ourselves back at #1. We allow our bodies to do what they do best – keep themselves healthy.

Our lives are so filled with activities, deadlines, appointments, priorities, responsibilities, meetings – have I stressed you out yet with the list? Everyone needs to take a minute and just breathe. You need to build deep breaths into your day.

Now that you’re with me on this whole intentional breathing thing, try to add it into your routine in the morning or at night. Find a meditation you click with, take a yoga class (may I suggest Cary Flow Yoga), sit out on the porch (now that the weather is awesome!), or have an afternoon snooze with your best furry friend. Whatever that moment can be for you to take some deep, meaningful breaths is – find it!


PS: Check out this article I found on LifeHack about meditation helping preserve gray matter in the brain. I’ll share my favorite meditation next week!

Well, What do You do?

Happy Monday, All!

Today I’m letting you in on my personal self-care tips. One of the questions I get asked frequently – “Well, what do you do to take care of yourself?”

Folks, today you get your answer! Let’s begin..

Of course this must be on the list! I have one fellow therapist I’ve been lucky enough to find and work with for more than a year now. As massage therapists, we often schedule our clients before ourselves. However, just as parents, friends, employees, and students must take care of themselves before being able to complete their tasks properly and to the best of their ability, so must therapists. If you want to do a good job for others and be there when you’re needed, you must be well.

I see my acupuncturist on a regular basis. This started out for me being a visit of wellness and curiosity. What this ancient healing technique ended up being for me was a welcomed addition to my self-care routine. While needles may be an issue for you, I’d strongly encourage you to share any concerns and ask any questions of a licensed acupuncturist. They’re always forthcoming with information and love to share their passion for this holistic wellness method.

That’s right! 5-7 times a week you can find me in one of four places: Pure Barre, Cary Flow Yoga, on a treadmill, or outside. (On a crazy day you might find me seeking two of those locations out!) There are different reasons for why I frequent each of those locations – I’ll explain briefly.
Pure Barre (or PB as I often refer to it): is where I want to go when I have 55 minutes, want to work out intensely, stretch my shaky muscles afterward, and meet up with familiar faces.
Cary Flow Yoga (or CFY..see the theme with the abbreviations?): is where I want to be when I need to calm my mind, center myself back on my body and what it needs, and still challenge myself.
Treadmill: ok, so I’ve started this new burst training method – check out the video. I’m loving this so far. I feel like I get so much out of a short time spent working out. And it is something I can do – no excuses – because it’s not a huge time commitment.
Outside: I love hiking. I could hang out outside all day long – on one condition – that I’m allowed a modern shower afterward!

Drink Water
Guys – this is a biggie. As a massage therapist, I can tell instantly if you’re a good water drinker or not. It’s all in your skin and muscle texture! When I ask you the question, “Are you a good water drinker?” it’s not for my benefit – I want you to hold yourself accountable. You need to drink half your body weight in ounces – every day.

Yes – I’m stating the obvious. What I mostly want to point out is bolstering during sleep. Bolstering meaning using pillows or bolsters to brace your joints as to not put undue pressure where you can avoid it. With as much time as we spend in slumber, we might as well make it comfortable! I fall asleep on my side, have a water pillow for my head, a pillow behind me, and a third pillow between my knees. The water pillow has kept me from waking with neck tension that leads to migraines for me. The other pillows keep me tucked in comfortably and well-supported.

I hope you all take these personal habits of mine into consideration in exploring what might be the best self-care routine for you! Ask your therapist what he or she does! There are many more excellent ideas out there.