The psoas (so-as) is a large pair of muscles between the pelvis and the ribs, that wrap like cradling wings around to the front of the pelvis and drop down to attach at the lower end to the top of the thigh bone. They help us walk upright and support our abdominal organs. The tone of the large psoas can have an effect on the descent of the baby and even fetal position.
The Psoas Muscle Release, or Psoas Resolution, was developed by Liz Koch. I’m really excited about her work, and she teaches some of her hands-on techniques over at her site,Core Awareness.
Why do the Psoas Muscle Release?
…why is the Psoas so important during pregnancy, birth and postpartum? Because for a woman, her pelvis is the cradle of civilization. It needs to be lush, centered, and dynamic. The Psoas, spoken of as the muscle of the soul in Daoist healing traditions, holds the key for accessing instinctual wisdom so essential for a resilient natural birth process.
On a very functional level, maintaining or regaining a healthy Psoas relieves or eliminates low back and leg pains, opens and centers the pelvis and hips, and can help you avoid induction. On every level understanding the message of the Psoas resolves the fears of birthing and empowers babies to emerge whole-hearted.
A short psoas is associated with tightness in breath, upset stomachs, constipation, fetal engagement, and descent. A tight psoas muscle pair keeps the baby high.
A long labor can relax the psoas, as may an epidural, but why not improve your body’s balance by relaxing your psoas in pregnancy? A longer, more supple psoas is one of several factors that helps the baby engage at 38 weeksgestation.
How to do the Psoas Muscle Release
We “release” tension stored in the psoas for optimal body function. Liz Koch calls it hydrating the psoas or “unraveling” it. Watch the video below to see how she unravels the psoas using a simple wooden chair!
Unraveling The Psoas Muscle On Land - Using A Chair
You’ll learn a lot from listening to Liz narrate this adventure.
There are several ways of doing a psoas release. Here is another simple one that is easy to learn.
Lie on your back with your feet on a chair so that your calves are at a 90-degree angle to your thighs. Your thighs should be straight up and down and your calves horizontal. After five minutes, roll to your side and get up slowly.
One day you will notice that your lower back relaxes enough so that the space between your lower back and the floor disappears. Just don’t force your lower back to touch the floor, but wait until it happens on its own. Then repeat this daily as much as you can, but for five minutes at a time.
Do this if:
You have constipation
There’s a lack of engagement of the baby’s head after 38 weeks
You’ve had a previous long labor
This is your first birth
You have a history of sexual or emotional abuse
You have a desk job, or do lots of sitting (including driving)
It’s hard to stand up tall
Don’t do this if:
Any time on your back is not possible. Roll over to your side if you feel unwell while doing this. Remember, you spend 5 minutes on your back for a prenatal exam. This 5 minutes will be ok!
Please note: Do you have a hard time lying down? Your lunges, when done properly, will help your psoas too. As will daily brisk walking, breathing deeply, and letting your belly relax. Kneeling lunges, standing forward lunges, and sitting with your knees lower than your hips helps lengthen your psoas as well. Basically any activities that arch your body backwards from your leg socket will help. Drink lots of water to hydrate your psoas or the stretches won’t find a muscle with mobility.
How to do the Psoas Stretch
Two great psoas muscles come down from the spine, beneath the level of the ribs and respiratory diaphragm to the lower lumbar spine, and each one angles forward over the pelvis, draping over the leg socket and attaching to the lesser trochanter.
Gentle stretching (as pictured) seems widely okay. Liz Koch recommends not to massage the psoas directly. Fascia therapy and self care are preferred.
Do this for at least 3 minutes or longer if the helper’s arms remain comfortable supporting you.
How to sit to lengthen the psoas
There are several activities, as well as generally good posture and breathing, that help release the psoas.
Sitting with your knees lower than your hips is a really good way to allow the psoas to lengthen. Here’s a picture of Liz Koch giving Gail a lesson in sitting on a bolster.
When should you do it?
You can do these at any time—in pregnancy, during labor, before pregnancy, after pregnancy, etc.
When should you not do it?
I can’t think of any time not to!
Before a Psoas Release
Before doing any of these exercises, find a peaceful moment to set up a little space and time to do them without a busy mind distracting you from your perceptions.
After a Psoas Release
After doing these exercises, you will feel more relaxed and centered. Keep your breath flowing and repeat the exercises as needed. A resolved psoas is life changing as well as advantageous for the pregnant and birthing woman.