SL Warm-Up: Stretching the Iliopsoas and Piriformis muscles

The piriformis and iliopsoas are two muscles often hard to access by basic stretching and exercise. When tight, both muscles independently have been known to exacerbate or be responsible for sciatic pain and/or lower back pain.

The standing stretches outlined below enable deep access into the pelvis and free up the spine, making the series an ideal lead-in for Bodyweather MB training. Although this standing stretches series can be exercised on their own, they are most effective as the final of a number of series that make up the full 'SL Warm-Up'.

The SL Warm-Up was developed by Stuart Lynch (hence, 'SL'). Stuart Lynch is a Bodyweather practitioner and theatre director in Copenhagen. I trained and performed under Stuart in Sydney 1999 alongside Tess de Quincey, as well as on a couple of short intensives in Europe.

The standing stretches directly engage the iliopsoas (major psoas) and piriformis muscles, and with regular application enable a deep opening of the hip joints. Working these muscles in an MB preparation situates the body as extremely available, enabling the individual to work strongly but safely in the MB.

Standing stretches series:
the front and back thigh muscle stretches, are stretched with the following poses:
1. Bring the right knee toward the chest to take the ankle in the right hand. Working in alignment as much as comfortable, swing the tightly bent knee to the back of the body. Draw the calf in toward the back of the thigh by gripping the left hand
over the top of the right hand's grip on the top of the foot. Keep the knees together. Draw the shoulder blades toward each other, but keep the sternum soft (receding). Breathe.
2. Swing the right knee to infron of the body, and draw it toward the centre of the chest, cradled in the right arm’s inner elbow. With the left hand on the shin, further draw the leg across the chest and increase the stretch. Hold and breathe. Make sure the pelvis stays level and aligned.
3. Water Skier – Draw the pelvis forward as you move the right arm around the knee to grip the shin from above. This will release the right knee away from the body somewhat, until the shin sits horizontally. Hold with shoulders down, chest open. Gaze is 45degrees above horizon.
4. Slide the right hand grip down the leg to take the left ankle with the left hand from underneath. Turn the foot out to expose the underside of the foot as much as possible. The foot is sitting high on the thigh of the standing leg. Release the right leg. Hold and breathe.
5. Use your right thumb and finger tips to give a dynamic pressure to each toe individually (on the inhalation only). Start on the upside and work through the toes, then continue on the underside. Release the toe stretch on the exhalation before starting on the next toe.
6. As you bend your standing knee, slide the right foot down the standing thigh to sit above the left knee. Give a dynamic pressure (on the inhalation only) by placing the right hand on the seat of the inner knee. You may wish to increase the stretch by bending forward closer to the knee and using the right elbow on the right knee instead. Release and swap legs.
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