What are the benefits of yoga for fertility?
Having struggled with unidentified secondary infertility for a number of years before we were able to complete our family, fertility is something that I have developed a deep interest in and spent a lot of time researching. In my case, all of our medical tests and complications led to the medical conclusion that we would need IVF to conceive and that we had a 30% chance of success. However, eventually we conceived naturally, not once, but twice more and I believe that my re-engagement with a more regular yoga practice played a role in achieving and maintaining two healthy pregnancies.
Fertility experts such as Zita West agree that factors such as diet, lifestyle and stress have a big impact on our ability to conceive, so by taking a holistic approach we can give our bodies the best chance to conceive naturally, or to give our assisted approach the best chance of success. She herself recommends yoga to couples struggling with fertility issues but what exactly are the benefits of yoga for fertility?
Benefits of yoga for fertility
Yoga asanas, or poses, that we practice in a yoga class can bring physical and psychological benefits for helping with fertility. In modern society, many of us sit at desks all day long, causing the blood to sit in our pelvic region so we want to be regularly practicing asanas that will get the blood flowing and fresh blood to this region to nourish our reproductive organs.
Yoga asanas for blood flow
In a fertility yoga class you can expect to practice poses that open the hips and increase blood flow to the pelvis and reproductive organs, such as forward bends, hip openers and inversions. By increasing blood flow to these areas we also deliver more oxygen, nourishment and hormones to promote healthy reproductive organs.
Yoga asanas for balancing hormones
If you have already been struggling with fertility issues yourself or know anyone who has, you will know that they can cause a great deal of stress. This stress can cause hormone imbalances. Assisted Reproduction Techniques (ART) also cause disruption to Women’s hormones, through stimulating ovulation with Clomid, or follicle stimulating hormone as part of an ART round, these hormone imbalances can affect your mood further with this negative energy further reducing your ability to conceive - a vicious cycle. By minimising these side effects we increase our chance of becoming pregnant.
We will work with specific poses that help with hormonal balance, particularly thyroid secretions as deficiency in thyroid secretions can lead to miscarriage.
Energy flow and Chakras
The chakra system is made of chakras or energy centres which serve as a gateway for the flow of life-energy (or prana) into the physical body. The seven main chakras are aligned down the spine, with the lower chakras, particularly the second, sacral chakra (svadhisthana) being most commonly associated with fertility. These chakras respond to energy vibration and can become unbalanced when the energy flow becomes restricted or blocked by stress, illness or negativity.
If you are struggling with fertility issues, by practicing particular poses we can direct life-energy to these chakra centres will help to improve their physical function and with regular practice lead to an improvement of inner chakra function. Through meditation and addressing any past trauma that is blocking the chakras, we can restore the energy-flow to improve general wellbeing as well as fertility.
Some fertility yoga classes may include guided meditations, specifically aimed at clearing the chakras along with asanas (poses) targeted at the relevant chakras.
Stress reduction and positive lifestyle change
Fertility concerns and the processes involved in ART can be incredibly stressful on couples, emotionally as well as physically. One of the biggest benefits of yoga for couples trying to conceive, whether naturally or with assistance, will be helping them to remain healthy and calm during a time of immense stress.
Dr. Rahul Sachdev, M.D., a specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey has no doubt that stress can lead to infertility and with one study showing that “the stress levels of an infertile woman are actually similar to those of someone just told they have HIV” demonstrates the importance of reducing these levels of stress associated with infertility, which in turn will increase the chances of conception.
In terms of yoga asanas in the class, balancing poses, in addition to challenging our core, require focus and help to clear the mind of negative thought.
The breathing techniques associated with yoga can also help lower the stress hormone cortisol in the body. By reducing stress levels, we increase chances of conceiving, naturally or through ART. Reduced stress can also improve sleep, essential to the balancing of hormones and a healthy, happy body and mind. With this in mind, each fertility yoga class includes time for meditation and/or breathing techniques as part of the relaxation.
A whole-body approach
At the start of a fertility yoga practice, it is likely that your focus will be on the physical asanas and the management and reduction of the associated stress. However, you may find that as your body and mind reap the benefits of a yoga practice that you naturally move towards making additional changes to your lifestyle such as a healthier diet, reducing stress levels, practicing mindfulness or relaxing more in your spare time, promoting better immunity and overall health.
Practicing yoga can also help to establish a more loving connection with your body at a time when you may feel angry at it for “failing“ you (this is certainly how I felt at the time of my struggles).
I truly believe that to give our bodies the best chance of conceiving, we need to nourish the body, mind and soul, with yoga playing a key part.