Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Understanding the Psoas: The Muscle of the Soul

By Lyla Moore

The psoas (so-as) muscle is actually a pair of muscles found deep within the core. It originates from the lumbar region of the spine (middle low back) and wraps around into the pelvic area, attaching at the hip with the help of several strong tendons. In animals, we call this muscle the tenderloin. Ilio-Psoas

From a physical standpoint, the psoas is responsible for stabilizing the base of the spine. When the muscle is tight or injured, we experience low back pain, sciatica, disc problems, hip degeneration, knee, and pelvic pain. It is engaged when we are sitting, running and walking. As you lift your knee to take a step, the psoas contracts. As the leg swings back, as it does while running, it lengthens the muscle. If you sit for long periods of time, the psoas remains in a contracted state, and this can lead to habituated tightness. During pregnancy, the tone of the psoas can effect the decent of the baby and even fetal position. Maintaining a healthy psoas eliminates low back pain and leg pains, opens and centers the pelvis and hips, which ultimately can support you in bringing your baby into the world with more ease.

From a mind/body standpoint, the psoas is the major muscle which is activated during the fight or flight response, when we respond to stimuli with primitive, primal survival instincts. It is spoken of as the muscle of the soul in Daoist healing traditions. A healthy psoas is linked to our ability to thrive, blossom, and become ourselves fully. Our self expression, self actualization, and speaking our truth, are all emotional aspects of the psoas. And for this reason, along with the physical importance, it serves us well to create awareness around our psoas.

Now that we know more about this important muscle, you may be wondering how you can maintain a healthy psoas. The key is focusing on a deep release of this muscle. It can only lengthen once it has been released. Yoga can be very helpful in aiding the release of the psoas. The simplest pose I would recommend to begin to gain awareness around the psoas would be a simple low lunge. Bend your left knee to a ninety degree angle, and take your right leg back behind you with your knee on the floor. Press the right shin and top of the right foot into the floor and release the tailbone down toward the floor. Even out the hips and lift the chest and you will feel the right side of your psoas in the stretch. Lifting arms overhead while in a low lunge may be tough on the joints during pregnancy. Once you are postpartum and ready for more work, if you lift the arms overhead and move the upper back into a small backbend, you will find even more sensation arise within your psoas. The key to finding release in this muscle is to practice moving through yoga poses using undulating movements, move the spine in a wave like motion, and focus on long exhalations. A gentle or restorative yoga practice will serve you best on your journey toward releasing the psoas.

In so much of our lives we are on go-go mode, and the psoas never gets a chance to release. As we sit for long periods, the muscle contracts and continues to remain engaged even though our bodies are inactive. As you move through pregnancy, and prepare for the intensely primal experience of giving birth, it is a great time to build awareness around the psoas muscle. What I love about the practice of yoga is that it offers us an opportunity for deep awareness within the body, as well as building awareness around how our mind influences our body. Try one of the yoga classes at Thrive to experience a practice designed specifically to support you during your pregnancy. If you’ve recently given birth, you are welcome to attend my Saturday morning Pre/Post Natal class with your pre-crawling baby. Taking time to unwind and recharge is crucial for a healthy pregnancy, and to find balance as a mother. Your psoas will thank you for it!

Holistic Childbirth Prep Workshop, Staff, Thrive Birth Talk

Storytelling For Birth, Family, and Community

In our home, stories have a special place in our daily and seasonal rituals. As we gather nightly for dinner, we go around the table, first sharing what we are grateful for and then sharing the stories of our day. We might talk about a moment of tension, a friendship forged, a duck family spotted. After dinner and dishes, we retire to the couch for story time. My partner might tell a classic from memory, or I might retell a traditional folktale while he plays the guitar and my daughter contributes sound effects.

Stories weave our lives together by giving us an opportunity to share our vulnerabilities and accomplishments. We feel heard and supported when we might have felt alone or isolated before sharing. As listeners, we sit in silence, absorbing the ebbs and flows of a narrative taking shape.

Stories also serve to give us a place in our family’s history, as well as our larger community and culture. As Autumn darkens our days and we hang our holiday lights, we gather to tell stories of our ancestors, friends, or family members that have passed. We speak their names to honor their place in our history. For my daughter’s birthday, I open the day by telling her the story of her birth. This is a complex story and every year I carefully build in more of the nuances. It is not lost on me that her birth was shaped by, while simultaneously standing in contrast to, the media’s representation of birth and a woman’s body. It’s important to me that her first experience of birth takes root between her and I, connecting us, like an invisible umbilical cord.

I believe that our stories can take seed in our beings. We hold them tenderly in our bones and body, sometimes dearly, and sometimes in angst. Over the two days in which my labor unfolded, I became deeply connected to all the reproductive experiences and narratives that were shaping my daughter’s birth and my birth as a mother. My reproductive experiences will, no doubt, affect my daughter’s reproductive experiences. The reproductive experiences that we have lived as women affect our births at a multigenerational level. One of the ways that we can positively harness our past and future is to become mindful storytellers, because telling our stories is an act of honoring our transformations.

At Thrive, we have ongoing classes and events that honor the art and power of Story. I teach our Holistic Childbirth Education Workshop, where you will hear the story of the Hormones of Love and the Landscape of Labor. On December 5th, we’ll be throwing a storytelling gala for professionals and families, Stories From the Birth Room. We’ll be joined by doctors, midwives, and other professionals who will share their own stories, some sorrowful, some hilarious, all victorious in the act of transformation. In January, our beloved yoga teacher Sara Woll will lead mamas in finding balance between fear and bliss in her Truth Telling Circle. You can also join Sara in her Prenatal Yoga and Community Tea Time class, or Lyla Moore’s Prenatal and Postpartum yoga classes, where pregnant people and new mothers gather to expand and deepen connection.

If you have a story to share, please let us know. We appreciate the wisdom we gain as we sit to listen to you.

Warmly, Kelly Gray, Center Coordinator,