by Angie Best-Boss, Contributing Writer
Huge needles or yoga mat? Mind-altering drugs or relaxation?
Learning to appreciate a deeper connection with your body or hating it for failing you?
While not a magic cure, yoga for pregnancy may be a good tool to add to your fertility toolbox.
Originating in India, yoga has become very popular in North America and uses different postures in order to help to improve overall muscle tone and strength. “It can also be beneficial for conceiving, helping physically by aiding in hormonal harmony, and also by infusing energy and vitality to the reproductive area. In addition, it benefits us spiritually by bringing an emotional steadiness into our lives, which in turn helps to prepare for conception, explains Monica Morrell, PhD, a holistic consultant and preconception yoga teacher in Boston.
Benefits – Connecting with your body
Actress Brenda Strong was a yoga instructor who used yoga to help her conceive when she was trying for her second child. The benefits, she said, were clear. “With infertility you get to hate your body. You begin to feel angry and betrayed that your body isn’t functioning,” she says. “Yoga gives you a sense of pleasure. You’re opening your body and stretching and making it feel good—and you start to notice you have a little more control over your relaxation response when you’re waiting for egg retrieval for IVF or whatever it is. You learn to calm yourself and that gives you empowerment.”
Besides, a yoga class is a positive place for women to regroup, she adds. “Community is crucial because so many women [experiencing infertility] feel alone,” she says. “The women couldn’t talk to the people they would normally talk to…it becomes depressing and you can’t speak about your feelings. Studies show that people who are isolated actually become more depressed,” explains Strong in an interview with Fertility Today Magazine.
Benefits – Relaxation
Chronic stress has been shown to adversely affect fertility, and yoga is a well-recognized stress-reducer. Clinical studies have indicated positive effects of yoga for infertile women. In 2000, Harvard Medical School researcher Alice Domar, Ph.D., published the results of a study in Fertility and Sterility (Vol. 73, No. 4) that showed women who participated in her program, which included relaxation and yoga, were almost three times more likely to get pregnant than women who didn’t.
Benefits – Better overall health
“Yoga tones and strengthens the muscles that support reproductive organs and improves spinal alignment, enabling better circulation and improved capacity and quality of respiration,” says Julie Cade Bon, certified yoga teacher and owner of Partnership for Pregnancy, a company that offers retreats for couples dealing with infertility. She also believes women who are taking infertility drugs can improve their breathing with yoga so they can help the body fight off the toxic effects of those drugs.
Try a class, or read a book on yoga to get started on basic poses. Monia Morrell and Brenda Strong bother offer DVD’s on yoga and fertility.
Morrell suggests this as a beginning step for yoga for pregnancy:
“To assist in preconception, practice Frog pose. Come onto your knees. Straddle your knees out as wide as possible. Turn your feet out so that they are at a 90-degree angle (like a frog). Come down onto your forearms. Draw your shoulders forward so that they are directly above your elbows. Place your hands and forearms firmly on the floor, shoulder-width apart, releasing your hips and back. Gently gaze at a spot between your thumbs. This quiet, yet powerful, pose helps to release muscles and tissues found deep within the reproductive area. It is a restorative, invigorating pose held for 15 to 25 deep breaths. It helps heal and release, clearing the way for our bodies to conceive.”
More advanced poses
Yoga Journal Magazine recommends yoga poses like these to aid in conception:
• Salamba Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose, done with the sacrum on a bolster and the knees bent)
• Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose) help to gently stimulate apana energy, as well as increase micro-circulation in the reproductive tract.
• Women in Salamba Baddha Konasana (Supported Bound Angle Pose)
• Savasana (Corpse Pose) to pay special attention to the belly and pelvic region.