While Western doctors have begun to accept the benefits of complementary care in regards to fertility enhancement, many view the use of Yoga for Fertility solely as a stress reliever. I sat down with celebrity yoga instructor Kristin McGee, who was kind enough to share how yoga helps relieve stress as well as other benefits yoga can bring to the fertility journey.
Kelsey Tangel: Women have been raised to believe that bearing a child should be a natural process, but for many, it is not the case. The dissonance created can lead to stress or depression. I’ve even read it can be likened to the stress of a serious illness. This is troublesome for women trying to conceive who must keep their stress levels low. Yoga helps; correct?
Kristin McGee: Yoga is going to help with stress reduction because it calms the parasympathetic nervous system through the use of the ujjayi breath and other breathing techniques. Scientists have found that the pre-frontal cortex of people who meditate is larger. If women can start to bring the expansiveness of yoga practice into their lives it will help them feel less scared, rigid, tight, and anxious.
Understanding and developing on the idea that a woman’s body and mind can become rigid when experiencing infertility, Kristin explains other areas where Yoga for Fertility will help on the journey towards fertility.
Women undergoing an IVF or IUI treatment are advised not to engage in extreme physical exercise due to fear of irritating enlarged ovaries. Is yoga different? Can it provide a vessel for smoother activity?
The gentle movement of yoga is good for women so they don’t get too stagnate. Hip opening postures bring blood flow to the pelvic floor, ovaries, uterus, and abdominal regions. It’s the same idea as acupuncture in that it’s trying to bring blood flow for stimulation. These areas need to be loose and open and flowing for life to evolve.
Connecting with Your Body
Many women experiencing infertility can disconnect from their bodies as a defense mechanism. Medical monitoring, painful injections, lack of exercise, task-driven sex, and monthly “failures” are common trails women face. Although the human psyche can only withstand so much, shouldn’t we be most connected and aware of our female form when trying to welcome new life?
Yoga means union, uniting your mind and body through the breath will bring about a connected awareness. Starting with the breath, yoga brings our attention inward allowing us to feel our body sensations as we move through the postures, reconnecting us with our divine self in a place of love.
Women going through IVF or IUI treatment often complain about weight gain. This can be attributed to altered hormones, “comfort eating”, lack of exercise, and mind-body disconnect.
Yoga helps balance hormone and cortisone levels by aiding in keeping blood sugar more steady, leading us to make connected food choices. You’ll start listening to your body, not just eating out of emotional distress.
The addition of hormones such as estrogen and progestin in a women’s body during an IVF or IUI cycle can mess with their circuiting rhymes affecting their ability to fall and stay asleep. Yoga can help balance the body by releasing some bent up energy. What is your advice on this?
If you’re not moving your body it’s difficult to sleep because you haven’t exerted enough energy and your body is too tight and contracted to relax enough to fall asleep.
How can yoga help us beyond the physical? How can it help us to open up other aspects of life like emotions or communications with others?
Yoga helps build a community. It first builds that connection inside that then helps build that connection with others. It allows people to relate to others going through the same experience.
I’ll be teaching, then the next thing you know women wake up out of final relaxation, and everyone is really open to conversing and sharing their stories and insights and helping each other out. The less stress and more positive you feel the more you’re able to say “Okay, I can get through this.”
Breathing Through Discomfort
Kristin says “You’re put in an uncomfortable pose on the yoga mat but you learn to breathe through them and let go of the pain. The breath kind of massages your muscles to relax. Learning how to deal with discomfort on your mat will help you deal with discomfort off the mat. The fertility process is going to feel uncomfortable so learning to breathe pass it and having confidence in your ability to get through the pain is probably one of the best lessons you have wean from a yoga practice.”
Experiencing infertility can lead even the happiest of people into a depressed state. It has been proven that practicing yoga releases endorphins, the natural “feel good” chemical, into the body. Having positive energy flowing through the body will help the mind think more optimistically about the future. What advice do you have for those looking to turn their outlook around?
Try thinking of it as just being something your body’s not doing right now. It doesn’t mean it wouldn’t do it naturally at some point or it could just be that at this point in life you just need a little medical assistance. There is nothing wrong with that.
Three-Part Breath Exercise from Kristin McGee
The ‘inhale’ is associated with female qualities, while the ‘exhale’ is linked to more masculine characteristics. Embracing the ‘inhale’, we calm our senses by slowing the breath and tapping into our divine femininity, leading us to find “stillness” inside. Kristen referees to this kept fullness as “the pregnant pause.”
To start: Find a comfortable seated position with you back straight and chin parallel to the ground. Close your eyes, drawing the attention inward. Place your hands on your knees with palms open to the sky. Feeling supported by Mother Earth to your South, be receptive to the gifts and grace that rains down from the North. Allow yourself to embrace this mindset as you envision the gift of a child.
Next: Once to feel grounded and aware of your internal sensations, take three slow inhales pausing briefly after each one. As you inhale feel yourself being filled up with life.
Lastly: Hold the breath for a few seconds. Remaining here full with air, feel what it would be like to be pregnant. Hold that image of a baby inside of you as you take a “pregnant pause.” Don’t rush to exhale. When you’re ready, allow the breath to gently leave the body. You may continue with this series as long as you choose.
(Adapted from Kristin McGee’s Yoga for Fertility class)