for Pregnant Women
The psoas muscle is a neglected topic when considering the health of the body during pregnancy and birth. But it shouldn’t be! This muscle plays a crucial part in keeping our bodies pain free and our labors faster.
In this article, we will cover everything that you need to know about the psoas muscle during pregnancy, the benefits that stretching this muscle can have on your body, and a few of the best yoga positions for releasing the psoas muscle.
What is the psoas muscle?
The psoas muscle is a paired-muscle and is the only muscle that attaches the upper half of our bodies to the lower half of our bodies. It starts at the spine between the ribs and the pelvis and wraps around the front of the pelvis to attach at the top of the thigh bone.
The psoas muscle helps us to walk, bend at the waist, bring our knees to our chests and it also supports our abdominal organs. This muscle can affect the descent of our babies during birth, and even have an impact on their fetal position.
The psoas muscle helps to keep the pelvis open and stabilized - one of the most important things for a straightforward birth! Tightness in the psoas muscle can cause the pelvis to tilt forward, which affects the birth canal, and can sometimes lead to C-section.
During pregnancy, it’s easy to spend a lot of time sitting. Unfortunately, this is one of the quickest ways to develop tightness in the psoas muscle!
What are the benefits of stretching the psoas muscle?
Tightness in the psoas muscle can lead to a multitude of aches, pains, and possibly more difficult labor. Here are just a few ways that stretching the psoas muscle can help during pregnancy - and beyond!
Relieves lower back pain
Opens the hips and the pelvis
Stabilizes the core
Helps to keep sciatica at bay
Relieves tension in the hips and groin
Releases pain in the upper legs
An easier labor
A better understanding of the body
By understanding what the psoas muscle is and the benefits of stretching it, we can feel more empowered during pregnancy and labor.
Prenatal yoga poses for psoas release
From standing, step the left leg back into a lunge position. Rest the hands on your hips, lightly on the thigh of your right leg, or use a chair/wall for balance. Keeping the right knee stacked over the right angle, lower the hips towards the ground. You should feel a deep stretch in the left psoas muscle: If you need a deeper stretch, walk the right foot slightly further away - keeping the knee stacked over the ankle - and drop the hips lower towards the ground. Use blocks, if available, to stay lifted and let the lower knee come to the ground.
Extended side angle
Extended side angle pose strengthens the psoas of the front leg whilst stretching the psoas of the back leg. Come into a low lunge position with the left foot behind you, then turn the left foot out to a 90-degree angle - so that the toes are pointing to the outside edge of your mat. Bring the right elbow to the right thigh, leaning the torso forwards whilst keeping the chest open to the left. Circle the left arm to reach tall overhead, maybe bringing the bicep alongside the ear.
Modified Mermaid pose
Sit with both knees bent and the legs folded in the same direction. Place your hands behind you fingers pointing toward the body for stability. Lift the hips up using the strength of your glutes to open the psoas alongside the front side of your legs. Stay there as long as comfortable, then release and try the opposite side.
Sitting in a cross-legged position with your knees lower than your hips is one of the most relaxing and gentle ways to release the psoas muscle. Sit on as many cushions as you need to bring the hips higher than the knees. Feel free to place the hands behind you to open the body further.
Sit with your feet in front of you and as wide as your hips - or wider to make space for your belly - and bring the hands behind your lower back for support or use the strength of your arms to come onto your bac. Gently drop the knees over to the left, then back to the center, and over to the right. Repeat this for as long as you like to gently release the hips and the psoas muscle.
Precautions to take when stretching your psoas muscle during pregnancy
Pregnancy hormones relax the muscles and ligaments to make birth easier. This also means that it is easier to become injured during pregnancy - so it’s really important to be careful during prenatal yoga and stretching! Here are some things to consider to keep stretching safe.
Don’t go to your max
Don’t overstretch ligaments or joints
Stop the stretch if discomfort continues or you experience new pain
If experiencing pain in one side of the lower back it’s probably caused by pelvic instability - this is where the psoas muscle stretches can come in handy!
Always remain aware of your body during yoga, and especially during pregnancy!
If you would like to learn more about the psoas muscle and safe stretches during pregnancy, why not sign up for a Prenatal Yoga Online Class.