yoga and fertility

Posted by on Oct 18, 2013 in Pre/Post-natal Yoga | Comments Off on yoga and fertility

yoga and fertility

My husband and I tried on and off for years to have a baby, a subject I have talked about at length here.  We had both been tested and when things came back as normal or inconclusive, it was incredibly frustrating to have no place to show our efforts.  Looking back now, however, I can see many areas where my own health was lacking.  While others may have clear physical reasons why conception is difficult, for others it can be the result of many factors working together to keep you from your goal.  I was practicing yoga irregularly.  I was consuming a lot of soy and soy products, believing it was good for my health.  I was anxious and stressed and believed there was no outlet but to keep on going.  Thinking about it now, it’s possible that along the way there were many conceptions, but without a healthy environment and proper circulation, the environment was unsuitable for sustaining life.  I believe that it was the yoga and the lifestyle shift that came with it that changed the outcome for me.

When I decided, after failed IVF attempts among other efforts, to head to my teacher training in Costa Rica, I knew I had to get ready.  I had been taking an online positive psychology course through Harvard that was providing all kinds of insights on the benefits of gratitude journals, on healthy approaches to goal setting, on stress reduction, on the effects of yoga on depression.  As I did my “homework”, things in my mind started to shift.  I realized that stress wasn’t a necessary part of life, and that despite heavy bouts of darkness there was always room for gratitude.  I believe that this started a shift in my own personal psychology to wellness, and mental health has a big part to play in the game of conception.  I also started to dedicate myself fully to my yoga practice.  Afraid of being “the one who can’t do anything”, I started attending a few public classes a week and chipped away at more complicated poses at home.  I cut back on coffee and sugar and eliminated soy.  I started eating more vegetables.  And then I went away and spent a month eating organic, healthy food, meditating each morning, practicing hours of yoga each day, and spending time with other happy, healthy people.  When I found out in the middle of the training that I was pregnant, there was of course bewilderment (we conceived naturally!) and amazement, but there was also a bit of “eureka!”.  It made sense.  I believe that I was in need of a protocol that I was unable to see from within the patterns of home.  Yoga + meditation + heathy eating = increased fertility.

I don’t mean to suggest that I know the answer for certain, or that this is the key for everyone, but it is a belief I carry strongly from my own personal experience.  If you are struggling with infertility and the reasons are vague, take a look at your lifestyle from a big step back- not from a place of blame (so easy for us “baby failures”) but from a place of learning.  The following suggestions are advisable for both partners.

1) Yoga for fertility- in Ayurveda, the Indian system of health and wellness (also a sister science to yoga), one of the key factors behind infertility is poor circulation to the reproductive areas and a weak digestive fire.  Yoga is helpful in both of these areas.  Yoga postures that work with the first and second chakras bring about stimulation and circulation to the hips and pelvis, an area that may well need it.  Poses such as baddha konasana, upavistha konasana, eka pada raja kapotasana (pigeon), double pigeon/firelog pose, frog squat, malasana squat, low lunges, dead bug pose and reclined “thread the needle” all work to open the hips and increase circulation in the pelvis.  Inversions such as downward facing dog, hips-boosted viparita karani, shoulderstand and headstand all temporarily wash the brain with blood as well which has been shown to have anti-depressant effects.  If the weight of infertility is dragging you down, including some inversions in your practice may be of service.

For people who have vata or pitta body types and may be very lean, conception can be even more difficult.  If you are used to a very yang (hot/vigorous) practice, try seeking a balance by adding in a yin or restorative practice once per week.  You may be depleting your stores and need to hold your stretches, allow things to open and blockages to release.  If, on the other hand, you have a kapha imbalance and feel sluggish most days, have a tendency to carry around too much extra weight, there could be fertility issues lurking here as well, such as a possibly for higher estrogen levels or higher risk for PCOS.  Bringing more vigorous or stimulating movements into your yoga diet would be more balancing for you.

To increase your digestive fires, work with apanasana, forward folds where the belly and thighs meet such as balasana and possibly paschimottanasana, and seated and reclined twists.  Twists are not recommended for those in early stages of pregnancy, but for those preparing their bodily environments for pregnancy, twists are healthy and advised.

2) Meditation- Stress is one of the key inhibitors to fertility, and the it seems the more people who want to have kids can’t have kids, the more stressed they become.  Tension restricts blood flow and creates spikes in cortisol and norepinepherine, which are both problematic.  You need to break free of this downward spiral, and empower yourself with a quiet mind and restful spirit.  Meditation, practiced for a minimum of 10 minute intervals (set a timer so you can let go of your temporal preoccupation) and practiced each day as ritual, may begin to shift the stress.  Choose a time that you can adhere to as a rule.  First thing in the morning or before you go to bed work well for many people.  Taking just 10 minutes or more out of each day, closing your eyes, finding a tall seated posture and breathing deeply can be immensely helpful for your body to combat stressors.  And this goes for both partners!

3) Diet- In Ayurveda, it is believed that digestion is the key to health.  When a body is out of balance, digestion suffers.  When we are constipated, our foods stick around too long allowing toxins to leech into our systems, and it becomes a seedbed for illnesses to take root.  When our food processing moves along too quickly, we miss out on important nutrients, things that are vital for a healthy reproductive system and circulation.  Depending on your dosha, you will have a tendency towards a certain digestive pattern.  Work to bring about balance.  Eat organic fruits and vegetables and hormone-free meat, be sure that plenty of healthy fats are a part of your diet, eat warming spices that stoke digestive fires such as cumin, fennel, cinnamon, turmeric and cardamom.  Drink plenty of water.  Pitta or vata types who may be working hard in their workouts need to be sure to follow them up with foods high in fats and oils, foods like avocado, salmon and nuts.  If you tend to deplete (you burn calories quickly, have very little body fat, are always on the move, busy and stressed), be sure to take time to replete.  Cut back on your caffeine and sugar intake and eliminate soy and other phytoestrogens from your body as too-high levels of estrogen are counter-indicated for fertility.

These three factors will do well to create an optimally healthy body with the right environment for a pregnancy to manifest naturally.  However, please keep in mind that an optimal environment for a baby doesn’t always result in a baby.  Sometimes there is a problem that is clear to doctors, sometimes not.  This protocol can be seen as a way of setting the stage, of getting the body in its most receptive state.  I believe that it can help those who are using natural methods of conception, assistive technologies to conceive or for those preparing their bodies for future conception.  Both partners need to find themselves in a state of balance (yoga/diet) and of reduced stress and expectation (meditation/walking meditation).

For more information about fertility and Ayurveda, follow the link here, here, and here.  For a more in-depth analysis of your dosha and how you can best bring balance to your diet according to your personal needs, locate an Ayurvedic specialist.

*While I never personally tried acupuncture, there is substantial medical research to back up claims that it is a very good accompaniment to those trying to conceive or who are undergoing assistive technologies for conception.  The stress relief and release of energetic blockages that comes from acupuncture has been shown to increase rates of conception.

**Reiki massage is another possible avenue for those looking for relaxation, stress relief and energy work (release of energy blockages- usually at the first or second chakras).


All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.