How to relax your back before going to sleep

psoas muscle

There's nothing like releasing the tensions of the day to help you prepare for a good night's sleep.

Spending 5-10 minutes relaxing your all important psoas muscles can do wonders to reset and calm your nervous system.

Get relief from low back pain

Your psoas muscles do a lot of work to stabilize your spine. Poor movement habits and gait mechanics mean they're often overworked. Overworked psoas muscles can lead to lower back pain.

If you're seeking low back pain relief these psoas releases can be quite helpful.

Don't stretch your psoas

Keep in mind, these releases aren't active psoas stretches. 

Instead, they're invitations to your psoas to relax and unclench.

If your psoas has been working overtime to stabilize your spine or if it's been in a shortened position hour after hour thanks to lots of sitting, active stretching can be too much, too soon. 

Long term changes in psoas tension will usually require a combination of release, stretching and addressing the underlying tension causes like stress, gait mechanics, tucked pelvis, rib thrusting and too much sitting time.

Quick anatomy lesson

You have 2 psoas muscles. Your psoai attach to T12 and your lumbar vertebrae (low back) as well as your intervertebral discs.

Each psoas muscle travels out to the side and downward to cross the front of your pelvis where it then attaches to the inside of the uppor portion of your femur (thigh bone).

Psoas muscle facts

psoas muscle and kidneys

1. A nerve bundle called the lumbar plexus is embedded within the 2 layers of each psoas muscle. This bundle of nerves communicate with some of your pelvic floor muscles as well as your abdominal and leg muscles.

When your psoai are tight and short, circulation (and therefore oxygen supply) to the muscle and the nerves is less than ideal.

2. Your adrenal glands sit right in front of your psoai (see image on the right).

Your adrenals are little "caps" that sit on top of your kidneys, which sit right in front of the psoai (see image on the right).

Put simply, when you're under stress, your adrenal glands go to work. 

Why does this matter? When you're under stress, your psoai also tense as part of the fight/flight response.

You need your fight/flight response because sometimes life requires it.

It becomes problematic, however, when you live in a fight/flight response because your nervous system got stuck there.

These psoas releases can be a great opportunity to help your nervous system shift gears out of fight/flight and into a more relaxed state which is oh-so-helpful for your adrenals and your psoai.

And another thing.....

When we sit, we put our psoai muscles in a shortened position. When we sit for hours and hours, the muscles fibers that form the psoas muscle adapt to being in a shortened position.

As I talked about yesterday, muscles in a shortened position don't get optimal amounts of electricity, oxygen or waste removal.

Decrease your time spent sitting and take standing/walking breaks during your sitting time to give your psoai less time in a shortened position.

A tale of 2 psoas releases

These are 2 psoas releases that I do before going to bed. They're a great way to relax at the end of the day and prepare yourself for a good night's sleep. Bonus, if you hold tension in your back this is an excellent way to give yourself relief.

Prefer video? Scroll down for the video demo of both of these releases.

Before doing the psoas releases, lie flat on the floor and just notice:

hamstrings on ground

1. whether or not your hamstrings (backs of your legs) are making contact with the floor or if you have space underneath them and

2. are the fronts of your ribs sticking out above the flesh of your abdomen. Space under your hamstrings and/or your ribs sticking out above your abs are indicators that your psoai are in need of some relief and release.

Psoas release #1

psoas release on bolster
  • Use as many pillows/cushions as you need to raise your torso high enough to allow your hamstrings to make full contact with the floor (legs are straight)
  • Place the pillows under your upper back, about the level of the shoulder blades - make sure they are high enough & don't prevent your rib cage from dropping down towards the floor
  • Let the front of your ribs sink down into the flesh of your abdomen
  • Focus on allowing the back of your ribs to relax down towards the floor
  • Breathe
  • Release and relax


Psoas release #2

psoas release and hip flexor stretch on yoga block
  • Bend your knees so that your shins are vertical (straight up and down)
  • Slide a cushion or yoga block underneath your pelvis - make sure the block/cushion is low enough that it doesn’t prevent your low back from sinking down towards the floor
  • Allow your low back to gently relax down towards the floor
  • Breathe
  • Relax

I recommend being with these releases a minimum of 5 minutes each and yes,  I've drifted off while doing them :)

When you're done, stretch back out so you're lying flat on the floor and notice what's different from when you first checked in here.

If you prefer the video version - I demonstrate both releases in this video. Enjoy!