After a year of trying to fall pregnant, woman can feel deeply disappointed, anxious and frustrated with their bodies. The journey to conception is not an easy one and watching her friends around her become mothers can be like rubbing salt in the wounds. Finding your own center and truth in the process can be an arduous task.
Although yoga can not guarantee you falling pregnant, it can be of great support during the process. 1 in 5 couples in South Africa struggles to conceive. The struggle can weigh heavy on a woman and the journey to pregnancy can take a heavy toll on her mentally, physically and emotionally not to mention the relationship. Yoga can be a useful resource and can play a positive role in helping couples and woman navigate the highs and the lows on the road to conception. Whether you’ve been trying for a while now, or just recently started, here are 5 ways in which yoga can support your fertility;
- Manage stress and anxiety
Yoga is about meeting yourself where you are on the mat. It’s about moving in a mindful way syncing the movements with your breath. This in itself helps to calm down the mental chatter which may include stories and judgment about our body and your abilities. In addition to calming the mind it also helps the body to activate the ‘rest and digest’ response in which our minds and bodies can feel safe. Our daily lives are loaded with stressors and our bodies are hence in a ‘fight or flight’ response which can create havoc in our bodies. It messes with our moods, sugar levels and hormone levels. Adding the stress of trying to conceive into the mix and you have created a snowball effect. Reducing our stress response with the help of yoga, can go a long way when it comes to balancing our hormones and optimising our wombs for conception.
- Increased blood flow and and circulation
Blood flow and good circulation plays an important role when it comes to fertility as nutrients and oxygen gets distributed through the blood. Our daily lives are (in most cases) not conducive for optimal blood flow to our pelvic areas and reproductive organs as we sit most of the time. This is either at the computer working, in the car driving, or on the coach watching TV. Yoga helps to open the hips and pelvic region, release held tension in those areas and promote blood flow, and hence oxygen and nutrients, to the reproductive system.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine we need QI or ‘chi’ to flow freely throughout our bodies. Whenever ‘Chi’ gets stuck it can cause all kinds of imbalances including infertility. With yoga and the physical part thereof, we can target the pelvic region and hips, and re-establish the flow of ‘chi’.
- Reconnect with our bodies
When we get stressed, anxious or frustrated our minds can take over control completely and tell us stories that we believe. We can completely loose touch with our bodies as our focus and energy gets redirected into the mental space. We loose touch with the subtle cues from our bodies, telling us how it’s doing and what it needs. For woman on fertility journey this disconnect can be even more prominent. Other narratives that our bodies are betraying us can also be prevalent, leading to a imbalance between mind and body.
Through the practice of yoga, including the physical part (asanas), the breathing (pranayama) and the mindfulness techniques, we re-establish our connection to our physical bodies. We make friends with our bodies and learn to love it while learning to tune into the fine nuances of sensation as our bodies communicate with us. This re-alignment to the physical becomes an ally on the journey to conception.
- Balance hormones
As we’ve mentioned before, stress can create havoc in the physical body. This includes chaos in the endocrine system, a system that comprises of all our hormonal glands and hormones. The hormones can be seen as chemicals that helps different parts of the body communicate with other parts. It also helps the body’s natural and automated functions. When the thyroid, cortisol or reproductive hormones are out of wack it can create a domino effect leading to all kinds of chemical imbalances in the body. Optimal fertility is dependent on hormonal stability.
As you’ve seen before, yoga can help reduce stress in the body directly influencing your adrenals and cortisol level. Research has shown that specific yoga practices, practised regularly, reduces cortisol levels and improves antioxidant status in the body. Antioxidants’ functions are to help our body get rid of toxins This includes excessive hormones that accumulates in the liver. In addition many yoga posses works directly into the specific hormonal glands supporting the production and secretion of hormones.
- Process challenging emotions
Yoga also offers a safe space for us to work through challenge and build resilience. It allows us to sit with discomfort by challenging us to hold a pose longer than we’d like, knowing it’s temporary. This is a valuable skill, not only for the fertility process, but it also helps prepare us for birth and parenthood (which combine discomfort, joy, and everything in between!)
Sometimes, we may discover a surge of emotional release when we practice some poses because our minds and bodies are so intricately connected. Allowing ourselves to open and release some of these challenging emotions through our yoga practice can help us process the journey of infertility and open ourselves to possibility.
Whether you’re a veteran practitioner or a beginner, yoga can offer many benefits to those trying to conceive. If you are trying to get pregnant, look for classes that may be specifically designed for fertility, such as Yoga for Fertility, or look for classes labeled “gentle,” “restorative,” or “” Many yoga classes can be heated or very vigorous, and while those are great classes, they can often be depleting to your body. Our goal when trying to get pregnant is to nourish our bodies as much as possible.
Rulene Moolman (500 RYT) is a yoga therapist specialising in fertility, pregnancy and postnatal concerns. She does private classes in person and on zoom.