My second round of Yoga for Fertility classes at the Reproductive Medical Associates have begun. About 10 percent of reproductive age couples have trouble getting pregnant; and I have to imagine that number is even higher. Many women are waiting to have children later in life due to building their own careers or taking more time before tying the knot. After the age of 35, the decline in fertility starts to accelerate.
In addition to age, stress and diet play a huge role in fertility. One of my favorite acupuncturists, Jill Blakeway, founder of the Yin Ova Center, nails it on the head when she says, “In times of War and Famine, women’s bodies shut down as a means of survival”. So many women these days are at War (daily stress, work issues, busier schedules, etc) and undernourished (either through poor food choices, too few calories or too many of the “wrong” type of calories).
Eating a balanced and nutritious diet is important and it varies from one person to the next. Some women may need more healthy fats in their diets (even some saturated fats, animal proteins and full fat dairy have helped in certain cases), others may need more leafy greens and less caffeine. As far as diet is concerned, it’s best to work with a good nutritionist and find out what is right for each individual case.
I personally think stress reduction is the most important part of the puzzle when it comes to fertility. As women, we can be so hard on ourselves, yet it is crucial for us to nurture and care for our bodies, minds and spirits, in order to care for another. We start to blame ourselves, and our bodies for not responding or doing what we want them to do. The whole process of going through fertility treatments can be scary, overwhelming and stressful.
I truly believe yoga can be an incredible complementary care method for aiding women along the process to getting pregnant. Yoga connects us back to our source and helps us find a calm, centered place where we can slow down, breathe and be kind to ourselves. We start to respect our bodies and do the best we can for them while also learning that some things are just not in our control. We can’t force our body to always do things biologically but we can work on how we react to certain life circumstances and upsetting processes and experiences.
Slow flow Vinyasa, Yin yoga, Iyengar and Restorative yoga are all great forms to practice. They are gentle enough (for women going through treatments or trying to get pregnant strenuous exercise is usually not the best); yet also get the blood flowing to key areas in the body and help build strength, stamina, flexibility and security. I teach a combination of all of the above at the RMA. I also open and close with meditation that helps each woman align herself with her own potential energy and the energy of the universe. It’s amazing how after class, all the women open up and start to share their experiences and what they are each going through.
The yoga practice creates a safe environment for everyone to let down their guards and vent about their experience. Morning monitoring hours (going in every morning or every other morning for bloodwork, ultrasounds, etc.), they say, are horrible. No one looks at or talks to each other, it’s like standing in a crowded rush hour subway. I’m always so blown away at how yoga can create a community so easily and unite a group in a way nothing else can. I will continue to do what I can to help these women relax and form a loving relationship with themselves no matter what.
Here is a brief sequence everyone can benefit from; but I love it especially for my female clients who are trying to conceive naturally or with treatments.
The Fertility Flow Sequence opens up lungs, stretches the hips, waist and back, brings blood flow to the pelvic floor region, and is deeply soothing and relaxing. It stays low to the ground connecting to the energy of Mother Earth and it eliminates the rajastic, masculine chaturangas. You can end the sequence in Goddess, Legs up the Wall or asupported backbend or shoulderstand with the hips on the block.
Cat/Cow - Go through 5 to 8 cycles linking breath and movement
Crescent Lunge - Step right foot through lengthen left knee back and lift the chest hold 5 to 8 breaths return to all fours and switch sides.
Pigeon - From all fours slide your right knee forward and parallel to the front of the mat as you slide your left leg back. Recline forward if you want stay 8-10 breaths then switch sides.
Child’s Pose - Recline back to your heels, open your knees out to the sides if you need to. Stay for 8-10 breaths.
Mermaid - Roll up to your knees sit to one side and stretch the top arm over your ear, stay 5-8 breaths. Come back to your kneeling position and switch to the other side.
Revolved Janu Sirsasana - From mermaid swing your legs forward, fold one leg back open ninety degrees then side bend towards the straight leg. Hold 5-8 breaths then fold forward in to Janu Sirasana. Afterwards repeat both on the opposites side.
Stretch both legs forward then lie down and take Goddess Pose or Rest in Final Relaxation. Keep your hands on your belly if you’d like and imagine loving kindness in that region and envision a new life growing inside of you.
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga pilates instructor (RYT-500), ACE certified personal trainer, and trusted wellness expert. She began her career in wellness after graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and has worked with LeAnn Rimes Cibrian, Emilia Clarke, Tina Fey, Bethenny Frankel, Savannah Guthrie, Steve Martin, and Christine Taylor Stiller. She has been featured in over 100 yoga and pilates videos, is the author of Chair Yoga: Sit, Stretch, and Strengthen Your Way to a Happier, Healthier You, and has appeared on Access Hollywood, CNN, Fox, Good Morning America, The Early Show, and the Today Show.