by Nicole LaDestro
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in eight couples in the U.S. struggle with fertility challenges. Those experiencing this know that these challenges are multi-faceted, including emotional, psychological, physical, financial and even spiritual stress. Meanwhile, couples are commonly told to “just relax,” which is much easier said than done. Enter fertility yoga.
What is Fertility Yoga?
Fertility yoga is a blend of gentle and restorative yoga that is focused on supporting conception. It is designed to increase circulation to the reproductive organs, promote hormone regulation, foster detoxification and reduce levels of stress and anxiety. Along with the asana sequences (the physical poses), the practice also includes relaxation techniques, acupressure, energy work and guided meditation. Fertility yoga can enhance the natural preconception process or can serve as an integrative support to some Western fertility treatments.
The Relationship Between Stress and Compromised Fertility
Yoga is a powerful tool for combating stress, one of the worst adversaries to fertility. One way that stress compromises fertility is that it increases cortisol levels in the body, which can disrupt the endocrine system. A study conducted by the Harvard Medical School found that women who were diagnosed with infertility experienced anxiety and depression rates similar to those diagnosed with cardiac disease, HIV and cancer. Ironically, fertility challenges ramp up stress at a time when it is critical to reduce it. According to Dr. Alice Domar, an expert on the subject, “When you’re really stressed out and depressed, the body seems to sense that’s not a good time to get pregnant.”
Studies Show that Mind-Body Programs Enhance Fertility
Research has found that mind-body programs do in fact enhance fertility. It seems that the flip side of Domar’s quote is equally true—when someone is more relaxed and in a positive frame of mind, the body senses that it is a good time to conceive. A study conducted by Domar and the Harvard Medical School showed that fertility patients who participated in a mindbody program that included yoga and relaxation were approximately three times more likely to get pregnant than women who did not participate. Similar results came out of a program supervised by Dr. Rahul Sachdev, a specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. The program included stress reduction practices, such as yoga and meditation. Within one year of completing the program, couples experienced a 50 percent fertility rate. The results of these studies demonstrate the profound positive effect that yoga can have on conception.
It has been said that fertility patients are the most neglected silent minority when it comes to health-related issues. If couples are open to conceiving but are having difficulty, it is important to know they are not alone and that there is hope. Fertility yoga is one holistic modality that is becoming more and more popular as it offers a powerful support on the preconception journey.
As mentioned earlier, fertility yoga is a gentle practice and does not require any previous experience with yoga. As an example, try the easy fertility-boosting pose below that helps nourish the reproductive organs and helps the body relax.
Place a sturdy chair at the end of a yoga mat (or on a blanket or carpet). Sit in front of the chair. Lie down and place the calves on the chair so that the legs are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Let the arms rest at one’s sides, palms facing up. (Alternatively, the hands can be rested on the lower belly, palms down.) One can also place an eye pillow over the eyes to enhance relaxation. Take a few deep, cleansing breaths. Then, rest in the pose for five to 10 minutes.
Nicole LaDestro is a Therapeutic Yoga Teacher, certified Fertility Yoga Instructor and certified instructor of the Overcome Anxiety Series. For more information, visit LotusMoonATX.com or Facebook.com/pg/LotusMoonATX.