by: Kate Potvin
Yoga has so many benefits for both your mind and body. It can help improve flexibility and strength, plus it can boost mindfulness and release tension. On top of that, it also has some major benefits if you’re trying to get pregnant.
Nearly 1 in 8 couples in the United States will struggle to get pregnant at some point, and infertility can take a huge toll on women’s bodies, emotions and relationships. It’s not an easy journey, but yoga can play a positive role in helping women, and couples, manage the ups and downs. Whether you’ve just started trying or have been struggling to conceive for some time, here are 5 ways yoga can support your fertility:
Yoga is a great way to connect with your physical body. Many of us spend our days sitting at desks, and occupied by what’s happening in our heads without paying a lot of attention to our physical bodies. As a result, we become disconnected. We forget to pay attention to the subtle cues our bodies give us about how they feel and what they need.
For women struggling to conceive, this disconnect can become even greater. When our bodies don’t do what we want them to, we often feel betrayed and start to disconnect even more. Yoga is a way to rebuild that connection. It’s a time to step away from everything else and focus on our bodies and our breath, and turn our attention inward. We slowly learn to notice subtle shifts and sensations, and to appreciate the messages our bodies send us. Yoga helps us connect our breath with movement, tune in with our bodies and their rhythms, and to notice physical sensations - all in a safe and supportive environment.
Learning to listen and work with our bodies, instead of against them, is an important part of the fertility process.
The modern world is full of stressors - from work and paying the bills to relationships, most of us have plenty of stress in our lives already. When you add trying to get pregnant into the mix, it can often put us over the edge. Stress is a major factor in the fertility process and can be both a cause and effect of infertility, creating a domino effect in our bodies and throwing off our other hormones. Yoga is a great way to help us battle stress by teaching us to slow down and move mindfully.
Yoga also suppresses our “flight or fight” stress response, and instead activates our parasympathetic nervous system, which tells our bodies they are safe and sound. Reducing our stress response can go a long way when wanting to balance our bodies and hormones and optimize our fertility.
Improving blood and energy flow to our reproductive organs is essential for fertility, which yoga helps with as well! When we sit most of the day (like many of us do), we often limit the blood flow to our pelvis. Plus, many of us hold tension in our pelvic area which can also constrict blood flow. Yoga helps by opening up our hips and increasing that blood flow to our pelvic region and reproductive organs, providing them with fresh blood and the essential nutrients they need to do their job.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, stagnant energy, or “chi,” can cause reproductive issues, and movement like yoga can open those energy channels and help chi move more freely through our bodies.
Your endocrine system is a whole network of glands that produce different hormones - including your sex hormones, thyroid and adrenal hormones and more. When one piece of the system is out of whack, it can create a domino effect, causing more hormonal imbalance. Hormonal stability is essential for optimal fertility.
Most hormonal imbalance can be traced back to lifestyle factors, including stress. As mentioned earlier, yoga can improve your response to stress by calming your nervous system. When this happens, your cortisol levels decrease, which can have a balancing effect on your whole hormonal system. In the yogic Chakra system, each of the seven main chakras line up with an important endocrine gland. Many yoga poses specifically work through these areas of the body and can impact these glands, helping to balance and regulate our hormones.
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 “yin.” 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.
You can find Fertility Yoga classes on Yoga Studio App that work with your monthly cycle to support your hormones and fertility. The most important thing to remember is that your body is a beautiful, life-giving vessel. Honor and nourish it on your journey to motherhood - whatever that journey may look like.
Kate Potvin (ERYT-500) is a fertility coach and yoga teacher. You can find her fertility yoga classes on Yoga Studio App and at katepotvin.com