Anyone who has had difficulty trying to conceive knows that it can be an exhausting and stressful time in your life. I know this firsthand because it took my husband and me a year to conceive our son. Looking back, a year really isn’t that long, but when you are in midst of trying it.feels.like.forever! As each month passed, I became more stressed about it (even though I told myself I wasn’t stressing). After 10 months I decided I needed to find something new to focus my energy on, something relaxing.
I found yoga! I was fortunate that the place we were living was directly across the street from a great yoga studio. I purchased an unlimited monthly pass and went 4-5 times a week for 2 months straight. Up until that point, I had taken only a few sporadic yoga classes and didn’t think much of it. Once I started going more frequently though I found a love for it. It made me feel SO RELAXED and I became addicted to it.
I have no idea if it was a coincidence that we became pregnant shortly after I started yoga, but I do feel strongly that it had something to do with it. Since then I have wondered, how can yoga help for couples trying to conceive?
Meet Lela Beem who I had the pleasure to interview on the subject.
Lela is the co-owner of Grateful Yoga in Evanston, IL. She is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher, certified ParaYoga Instructor and a Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher. She also co-founded The Amala School of Prenatal Yoga that trains teachers to specialize in prenatal and postnatal yoga in addition to providing childbirth education and mentorship. She has been teaching prenatal yoga classes for 10 years and has taught privately to many women trying to conceive. Below are the questions I asked her during the interview and a summary of her responses.
- How can yoga be beneficial for women trying to conceive (TTC)? – Trying to conceive can be tiring and stressful. In this day and age, it is common for women (and men) to spread themselves thin. Stress has an effect on everything. It is important to slow down and replenish the well. Yoga can be a time for women to step outside of their lives and practice relaxation. While TTC, women can become hateful toward themselves and their menstrual cycle and feel like their body is failing them. Yoga can give women an opportunity to connect with their bodies in a positive way.
- Are there any specific concepts of yoga that can help boost fertility? – Yoga is not just about the physical movement, it is also about the breath. One of the most important concepts to grasp in yoga is your breathing. Instead of the shallow breaths associated with anxiety, letting your abdomen move and soften when you breathe is more helpful. Bringing more consciousness and ease to your breath will help you change your response to stress. This is a concept that can be applied on the mat and also in your everyday life. We need to practice relaxation in a systematic way. In yoga we call this yoga nidra, which is the basics of what everyone is guided into at the end of class in savasana. It is a skill that helps you soften your body, breath and mind, helping you feel more open to transformation. When stress and tension has accumulated in the body, it creates tightness and restriction around the breath and the pelvis. Yoga and yoga nidra helps us soften into being, and helps us be more okay with ourselves as we are. From there, we can create intentions to make changes.
- Can yoga help balance your reproductive system? – Deep, relaxed breathing can help reduce cortisol levels in your body and bring more oxygen to your reproductive organs. Cortisol is a hormone that is released in the body in response to stress. Increased levels of cortisol in your body can have an effect on your menstrual cycle and possibly cause delayed ovulation. Practicing relaxation and deep breathing in your yoga practice can help keep your cycle normal and your reproductive organs healthy.
- Are there any specific poses that can help boost fertility? – In general, increasing movement in the body is beneficial. Twisting and bending increases blood flow to your reproductive organs which is important for their health. Legs up the wall and Cat/Cow poses help increase blood flow to your reproductive organs. I don’t recommend a yoga practice that feels taxing or depleting to you- nothing too vigorous or heated. In Ayurveda, the lifestyle and diet companion to yoga, we say that trying to conceive is a time of building up your reserves- eat foods that are warm and nourishing and high in healthy fats, have a healthy sleeping and eating routine, say no to excess stressors, spend time in nature, and do a yoga practice that helps you feel more at ease and happier in your body. I recommend restorative or gentle yoga if you are under a lot of stress.
- How often should one practice yoga for the best results? – Ideally for 10 minutes in the morning and in the evening every day. The morning session would be focused on activation and invigoration and the evening session would be focused on relaxation. It is also great to mix in yoga classes when your schedule allows.
- Can yoga also be beneficial for men while trying to conceive? – It is also important for men to manage their response to stress. Sperm health is affected by stress levels. Hot yoga is not recommended for men while trying to conceive.