For effective psoas release, it's helpful to understand why the psoas is tense in the first place.
One reason for a contracted psoas is that the hips (and legs) are too relaxed.
If the legs are too relaxed, the psoas may engage to help create hip stability.
Activating the abs, particulary the external obliques (lengthen the neck, lift the front ribs, pull the top of the pelvis (iliac crests) rearwards) may help create a psoas release by creating a stable core but then this requires the external obliques to always be engaged, which seems "inelegant" and may lead to other problems down the road.
In my own experience, tensing the muscles of the legs or hips, particularly the gluteus maximus also isnt' the answer. (Though if it works for you then definatley use it!)
My feeling and experience is that this action is good to use prior to psoas activation.
It helps to stabilize the spine which in turn gives the psoas a stable foundation from which to act on the thighs.
(I found this helpful when trying to lift or jump up into handstand.)
To facilitate this movement these same muscles pull the sitting bones inwards which in turn causes the iliac crests to spread outwards. The act of "counter-nutation" is more than just the sacrum tilting backards. It's also the bottom of the pelvis moving laterally inwards and the top of the pelvis moving laterally outards. ("Laterally" means side to side.)
In contrast, in my hip joint and muscles of the hip articles I talk about how the obturators (especially obturator internus) and the gemelli may help to spread the sitting bones when active which in turn causes the iliac crests (the hip bones) to move inwards. And I'm guessing tha this will be accompanied by a nutation of the sacrum which means it nods forwards relative to the pelvis.
Counter nutation may at times be a key action in creating core stability.
Meanwhile nutation and opening the hips may play a role in creating stable hips.
It may be that when standing its desirable to have one but not the other. So if the hips are stable then the core doesn't need to be stable or strong. Nor does the psoas need to be contracted. The muscles of the core can then be used to move the upper body relative to the platform of the hips and pelvis.
If standing on one leg, then if that hip is stable then you might have the option of making the core stable so that you can kick or do something with the free leg, or you can relax the core if the other leg is also relaxed.
For the following exercise, stand with your weight even on both legs, knees slightly bent.
Forward Tilt the Pelvis
If you have a chronically short psoas, the first step towards helping the psoas to release may be to let the pelvis tilt forwards while at the same time increasing the curve of the lower back. This will shorten the distance between the end points of the psoas. And if this is done without using the psoas to cause the action then this may actually take tension out of the psoas which may result in decrease of pain in the lower back (if you had it in the first place.)
This may or may not be enough to cause your psoas to release. However, walking around with a forwards pelvic tilt isn't ideal. The ideal is being able to control pelvic tilt without causing unnecessary tension in the psoas.
And so the next task is learning to control the muscles of the pelvic floor and hip joint.
Relax the Pelvic Floor Muscles
Relax the pelvic floor muscles so that the tail bone can move away form the pubic bone (sacrum tilts forwards relative to pelvis.)
Create Space in the Hip Joint
The next step is to activate the obturators and gemelli to help "lift" the pelvis off of the thigh bones. Think of pushing your knees away form your hip joints or do the opposite and push your pelvis up away from your knees.
Stand on One Leg, Level the Pelvis
To activate the side glutes and inner thighs, it might be easier if you stand with your weight on one leg.
Instead of letting your non weighted hip sink down, see if you can use your side glutes to level the pelvis. Keep your torso vertical (viewed from front.) And keep your pelvis tilted forwards. Once you can feel your side glutes activate, add more tension by "squeezing" the adductors of your weighted leg. But continue to keep your pelvis level.
Meanwhile, the non-weighted foot can just "rest" on the ground.
Tilt Your Pelvis Backwards Slowly
The next execise is to keep tension in the hip muscles of the weighted leg and work at tilting your pelvis back while trying to keep the psoas release.
As you tilt your pelvis back and straighten your lumbar spine, if you notice tension coming back into the lower back, then stop and return to the start.
Tilt your pelvis backwards slowly. And then return, and then try this same exercise on the other leg.
Standing On Both Legs
Then try doing this with weight on both legs. So that your psoas stays relaxed when standing on both legs, try to keep the hip stable by using adductors, abductors and gemelli and obturators.
Friction and pressure are two simple techniques that I use to help my students get stronger and more flexible. These simple techniques also offer a roadway into not only learning how to activate your muscles, but getting a feel for them and your body. Three challenging yoga poses that I use these techniques in are chaturanga, front splits and side splits. While they might not help you get all the way down into the splits, they'll help you feel stronger, and more integrated as you work towards them. And because I've got to pay for my daughters schooling this week, I'm offering a discount on the frictional muscle control videos. (First 100 people only can save over 30%).
Active stretching teaches you muscle control to not only improve flexibility but also body awareness. You'll learn how to adjust postures for better feel as well as more control through a broader range of motion.
Standing exercises for low back pain plus anatomy that can affect the low back and how to use that anatomical understanding.
Experience your body (and understand it) with sensational yoga poses.
Is it a bad idea to heel strike while barefoot running? What are the possible benefits of heel striking? When should you not heel strike?
These yoga poses for abs work on the abdominal muscles (and hips) in both standing positions and seated positions.
Sensational yoga poses, lessons to help you enjoy the experience of your body.
Here are the Ashtanga Standing Pose Vinyassas, with inhale movements highlighted in red.
These seated yoga poses have been organized into a rough routine and include lotus, virasana, janu sirsasana and marichyasana variations as well as more basic seated poses like bound angle, pigeon and seated forward bend.
In this preparation for compass pose use your arms to pull your leg towards you for a seated hamstring stretch. To modify, use a strap.
Single joint hip flexors include iliacus, pectineus, obturators, gemelli and gluteus minimus. Use them to help improve your forward bends.
Sensational Yoga ebooks and videos are designed to help you experience your body while focusing on specific poses, actions or parts of the body.
Extreme stability teaches you how to work from the ground up when creating stability, whether you are doing poses on your hands or your feet (or some combination of both).
The working towards wheel pose ebook teaches you basic body first so that you can feel and control your spine, hips and shoulders, so that working towards difficult poses (in this case wheel pose) is easier.
The Muscle control for better flexibility ebook teaches you simple muscle activation techniques that can make it easier to improve your flexibility. Techniques focus on forward and back bending the hips but can be applied to other movements also.
Building up on the material for part 1, Yoga for Beginners 2 teaches you how to make your body stable for a slightly different experience of your hips and shoulders.
Video: This set of simple hip control exercises help you to stabilize the hip joint and control it. You may find these exercises help you improve hamstring and hip flexor strength and flexibility.
One approach to learning yoga is to simply practice yoga poses. The approach in Yoga For Beginners 1 is to help you to learn to feel your body while doing yoga poses.
Some of the exercises in Balance Basics includes learning to balance on the fronts of your feet as well as on one foot using weight shifting exercises. It also includes exercises for crow pose. I've included videos based on the balanace exercises in the book on this page.