EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All of your pregnant clients should be under the care of a medical professional.
Yoga originated in India more than 5000 years ago. The word yoga means “union” or connection of the mind and body. The practice of yoga, which involves breathing techniques and special poses, is designed to create physical, emotional, mental and spiritual balance. Although yoga is an ancient practice, modern science is discovering its power to reduce stress and increase well being.
Yoga for fertility focuses on the centers of the body or “chakras” associated with fertility and reproduction. In particular, it uses specially designed yoga poses that open the pelvis and stimulate the second chakra located just below the naval. This vital center has long been associated with fertility and creativity.
But more than just improving blood flow to the reproductive organs, yoga for fertility helps to relax the body and restore physical and emotional balance.
Stress and Fertility
Acute stress is a very real part of most women’s experience with fertility challenges. Research done by Dr. Alice Domar, director for the Mind-Body Center for Women at Boston IVF, shows that, for many women, dealing with fertility issues is as distressing as experiencing cancer, HIV status or heart disease.
High levels of stress can:
- Increase cortisol levels
- Alter the function of the hypothalamus gland, which controls ovulation
- Contribute to irregular menstrual periods
Domar’s research also suggests that mind/body techniques such as meditation and yoga can reduce stress and increase a couple’s chance of conceiving.
Meditation for Fertility
Guided meditation and self reflection are important aspects of yoga for fertility. Guided mediation is a technique that enables women to get more in touch with their own thought processes, become aware of internal blocks and learn to let go of negative thinking and limiting beliefs associated with fertility. By learning to change their thinking patterns, they can discover a new sense of control and learn to become creative and powerful in all areas of their lives.
The benefits of meditation vary with each individual and often include the following:
- An increased sense of calm in the mind and body
- A greater sense of control of the mind and thoughts
- An increased sense of awareness
- A deeper connection to self and inner wisdom
- Greater clarity and focus
- A better ability to cope with stressful situations
- Intention - Quiet the mind. As you focus your thoughts on the breath, it gives the mind something to do, and your thoughts will begin to slow down.
- Breath Awareness - Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. Without changing the breath, notice the length of each inhale and each exhale. Notice how the exhale naturally follows each inhale. Become aware of the areas the breath flows easily. Notice the areas the breath has more of a challenge reaching. Remember, there is no judgment, just observation. Is there a pause between the inhale and exhale, or does one flow directly into the other? Observe the breath for five to 10 minutes. Listen, feel and allow the breath.
- Counting the Breath - Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. Begin to count for the length with each inhale (1, 2, 3, 4) and count the length of each exhale (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Is the inhale longer or the same length as the exhale? Again, there is no judgment; just observation. Continue to count each breath in and out for five to 10 minutes.
Yoga for Fertility
Yoga for fertility can benefit women in the following ways:
- Helping to reduce stress and anxiety
- Focusing on a positive self image and positive thinking
- Renewing a sense of sexuality and feminine wholeness
- Increasing intimacy between partners
- Healing and recreating a mind/body connection
- Fostering a sense of community among “girlfriends” in the same situation
- Creating a renewed sense of control by learning simple ways to take charge of reproductive health
If you have clients who would like to conceive, you can incorporate the following yoga poses in their sessions and encourage them to practice them at home. Remind them to be guided by their body and continue the poses as long as they feel supportive.
The following two poses can be used at home, in a session or anytime a client feels anxious or stressed. They help calm the mind and improve circulation to the pelvic area.
Legs Up the Wall Pose
This pose will increase the blood supply to the pelvic area, calm the mind and relieve tired legs and feet. If you focus on expanding your belly with each inhale, it will help you soften the muscles of your vaginal wall and pelvic area. Imagine softness in your uterus and ovaries, allowing the flow of blood and energy without restriction or tension.
Preparation: Lie on your side with your buttocks close to or against the wall. As you slowly roll over onto your back, gently lift one leg at a time and place it against the wall. Once you are on your back, rest your legs against the wall. Stay in this pose for five to 15 minutes as you concentrate on your breathing. To come out of the pose, gently bend your knees and roll over onto your side. Remain on your side for 10 to 15 breaths.
Modifications: This pose can be performed using a bolster, block or blanket under the pelvis. The blanket or bolster should lift the pelvis approximately two to three inches, depending on your level of comfort. NOTE: Do not use a bolster with this pose during menstruation.
Option: Move your legs away from each other, creating a mild stretch for your inner thigh.
This pose will increase the blood supply to the pelvic area, calm the mind and relieve tired legs and feet. If you concentrate on breathing using your diaphragm, it will help you soften the muscles of the vaginal wall and pelvic area. Imagine a softness in the uterus and ovaries, allowing the flow of blood and energy without restriction or tension.
Inner Reflection: Focus on your desire to have a baby. Begin to invite your baby to come into your life. Change your perspective: you are no longer “waiting” or “trying.” From now on, you are “open to conceive” or “inviting your baby.”
This pose calms your nervous system, helps reduce blood pressure and balances the endocrine system. It is a resting pose that relaxes and calms your mind and body while lengthening your spine and reducing tension in your back and neck. In relation to fertility, I recommend performing child’s pose with your knees apart. This allows space for your belly to drop toward the floor with each inhale. Imagine softness in your uterus and ovaries, allowing the flow of blood and energy without restriction or tension.
Preparation: Kneel on the floor with your knees slightly wider than your hip joints. Keep your feet together. Sit back with your hips and bring your chest toward the floor. Reach your arms forward and place your hands and forehead on the floor.
Modifications: If there is a space between your heels and pelvis, place a block to provide support. You can use a bolster or pillow under your head and arms or bend your elbows and place your hands under your forehead.
Option: You could perform Turtle Pose by placing your hands beside your feet or ankles, creating more security and safety as you settle into your “shell” for protection.
Inner Reflection: Bring your awareness to your thoughts about yourself and your body. Notice whether your thoughts are positive or negative. Accept the thoughts and imagine them floating away with feeling attached to them.
Begin to invite more positive thoughts and perhaps repeat one of the following affirmations:
- “I love my body and trust its wisdom.”
- “I am whole and complete.”
- “I accept my body.”
- “I forgive myself.”
- “I am fertile.”
The journey through fertility doesn’t need to feel so isolating and all consuming. Using mind/body techniques such as yoga and meditation can help your clients learn to listen to their own inner wisdom and guidance. As your clients begin to make choices from the heart, they will find a renewed sense of control and connection to self.
- Barbieri, Robert L. M.D and Alice D. Domar and Kevin R Loughlin, M.D. SIX STEPS TO INCREASED FERTILITY: An Integrated Medical and Mind/Body Program to Promote Conception. A Harvard Medical School Book. Simon & Schuster (2000)
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