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Trying to conceive can be a beautiful time, but it isn’t smooth sailing for every couple. It can bring feelings of pressure, anxiety or depression.
By: Sophie Leaver
Certified yoga teacher
Hormones are often running high, and emotional stress can play havoc with your body at the time when you need it to be calm, nurtured, and ready to create life!
Yoga is a tool to help nurture your mind and body, and help prepare you not only for pregnancy, but for the journey of parenthood to follow. The positive and relaxing effects of yoga have been found to improve both male and female reproductive health. Yoga has a therapeutic effect mainly by reducing stress and balancing the neurohormonal profile. It also aids circulation and helps to promote the proper functioning of the internal organs.
There are certain yoga postures that especially target the reproductive organs and the pelvic area. These asanas increase blood circulation and stimulate the energy in these areas. While the direct medical correlation between yoga practice and reproductive success is relatively unmapped, certain effect are undeniable. Using yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques can increase clarity, relaxation, and balance. Gentle movement through yoga can help to ‘reset’ the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone regulation and reproductive health. Focused breathing helps lower stress hormones like cortisol, which can impede reproductive hormone function. The relaxation can help the nervous system from a sympathetic, fight or flight state, to a parasympathetic state, which is essential for reproductive function.
Regular practice can help to maintain a quiet and stable mind and body, with benefits reaching far beyond the physical form of the poses themselves. Undergoing fertility treatments can be very testing, and yoga practice can be an escape from any emotional or psychological trauma. Many who practice yoga report feeling stronger, more powerful, and more acutely aware of and in tune with their body. What’s more, yoga can help to motivate people to follow a wholesome diet and regulate our body’s natural rhythms to promote proper sleep. Yoga is an empowering tool to build a lifestyle of abundance, energy, and balance, which will certainly help pave the way to conception.
As with any new exercise regimen, it’s important to be sensible and realistic about your plan. Diving into a new routine can be exciting, but it’s vital not to overdo it. Practicing too much, pushing yourself too hard, or testing new poses that your body isn’t ready for, can be dangerous. It’s best to err on the side of caution, adopt yoga as a therapy for your body rather than a challenge, and don’t over-exert yourself. Under the guidance of a certified yoga instructor, you can tailor the sequence to meet your unique needs, and slowly start to build up and stronger practice. Here are some of the most effective, fertility-boosting asanas to incorporate into your practice:
1. Viparita Karani- Legs up the wall
This pose releases tensions and stimulates blood flow to the pelvic area while calming the nervous system. It is a deeply relaxing pose, and can have positive effects for both partners. Start by sitting side on to a wall, then turn towards it and slowly swing your legs up against it, resting your back flat on the flow. You can add a variation by placing a bolster or folded blanket under your pelvis, raising the hips higher than the upper back. Close your eyes and let your body relax as you focus on your breathing pattern. You can stay in this pose for up to 20 minutes, and come out of it by bending one knee, slowly rolling to your side, and getting up slowly and carefully.
2. Hastapadasana- Standing forward bend
This simple pose is done by standing with the feet hip-width apart, and gently folding forward at the hips. The aim is to slide the hands under the feet, palms facing up, toes meeting the wrists. However, a more moderate approach would be to let the arms hang and the hands meet the feet, the shins or knees, or to hold on to opposite elbows. By following the breath, you can gently fold further forward with each exhale. This pose stretches all the important muscles of the back, and will stimulate the supply of blood to the pelvic region. This bend helps to relieve stress from the hamstrings, the abdomen, and even make the spinal cord more flexible.
3. Baddha Konasana- Butterfly pose
This pose helps to improve flexibility in the hips and inner thighs. It releases tension from the pelvis, abdomen and groin. It has been said that this pose assist with fertility levels and also ensures a smoother delivery if practiced till late in the pregnancy. To get into this pose, Sit with your legs straight out in front of you, raising your pelvis on a blanket if your hips or groins are tight. Exhale, bend your knees, pull your heels toward your pelvis, then drop your knees out to the sides and press the soles of your feet together. Rather than pushing the knees down, you can slowly let them drop towards the floor as your hips release. As you bend your upper body over and forward, think about keeping the spine long by drawing the chest toward the ankles rather than rounding the back.
4. Reclined Bound Angle Pose
This is one of the most powerful fertility-promoting yoga poses. Resting your torso on the bolster creates plenty of breathing room in your abdomen for the uterus and ovaries. Splaying your thighs out to the side opens the pelvis and invites more blood to flow through the area. To get into this pose, put your bolster or a couch cushion on the floor. Sit down so the cushion is a few inches away from your lower back — you want your ribcage to rest on the bolster, but not your waist. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, then let your knees open to the side. Have two rolled-up towels or yoga blocks nearby to tuck under your thighs. Then lie back so your spine, neck, and head are resting on the cushion. Place your hands on your belly, palms down, or on the floor, palms up. Stay at least 5 minutes, letting your body sink down into the props.
5. Bridge Pose
This pose stretches the psoas, the muscle that connects the upper body to the lower body, which creates more space in the low abdomen and promotes healthy reproductive organs. It also gently compresses the thyroid gland, which then gets doused in fresh blood (which delivers oxygen and nutrients), helping this hormone-producer function better. To practice the bridge pose, lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, slightly wider than hip distance apart. Next, place your arms by your sides, palms facing up. Exhale and press your lower back to the floor. Curl your tailbone under, peeling your spine away from the floor, lifting your buttocks until you come to rest on your upper back. Keep your pelvis curled under and your lower back long. Stay in the pose for 5 to 15 deep breaths. Release the pose gradually, curling your spine down to the floor slowly.
These poses will be most effective when you are feeling comfortable and relaxed. Make sure the room is warm enough, and have some extra blankets handy as when your body’s movements and breath slows down you can often feel the cold. You’ll feel most at ease in comfortable, well-fitted clothes. It’s best not to wear anything too tight, restricting, or irritating to distract you. A stretchy pair of leggings, loose vest or t-shirt, and a warm cardigan would be best. You can listen to some calming music, light candles or incense, or even use essential oils and an eye mask to help completely let go.
It’s important to focus on creating an environment that allow for you to feel as deeply relaxed and nurtured as possible. Yoga can help create a space for calm and clarity amid the emotional and physiological journey of conception.