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Yoga for Fertility
I can remember so clearly the moment I first realized I was pregnant. I was driving, heading back to Brooklyn after visiting a friend in Philadelphia, when I felt that telltale pang (called mittleschmertz) of ovulation. My husband and I had just started trying, and I thought to myself, “Here we go!”
My boobs were sore within 36 hours. I knew in my bones that I was pregnant.
About a week later, a home pregnancy test confirmed my intuition. In yoga class, I didn’t mention anything to my teachers, but I did subtly start adjusting my practice — standing with feet hips’ distance in Mountain Pose, for instance, and avoiding twists. And then, about 10 days later, I miscarried.
It was very early, and our first time out. Still, it stung.
There were a lot of Corpse Poses where tears leaked out of my eyes in the weeks that followed. Sticking with my yoga practice during that time gave me an outlet for my emotions, and it helped me stay in a friendly relationship with my body when I could have easily felt betrayed. It also gave me tools to send extra love (in the form of freshly oxygenated blood and energy) to my reproductive organs. A few months later, I was pregnant again, with our now-almost-six-year-old daughter.
How yoga helps when you’re trying to get pregnant
Yoga tones and nourishes your reproductive organs by systematically squeezing and then releasing them, which encourages them to function optimally. And it gives you a way to stay connected to your body at a time when it can feel like you’re not on the same page.
But the most important thing yoga can do for you when you’re trying to have a baby is help you calm the stress response. Cooling your chronic flight-or-fight helps balance your hormones and makes your body a more inviting environment for a baby and makes it that much easier to conceive.
I’m not talking power yoga, hot yoga, or even vinyasa yoga. If fertility is truly your main priority for your yoga practice (and whether you’ve been practicing yoga for years or are brand new to it), focus on some easy-does-it yoga. If you’re looking for a class, some of the styles to look for on a studio schedule are:
- Stretch and Breathe
This is the mother of all fertility-promoting yoga poses. Resting your torso on the bolster creates plenty of breathing room — literally — in your abdomen for the uterus and ovaries. Splaying your thighs out to the side opens the pelvis and invites more blood and breath to flow through the area.
To do it, put your bolster or a couch cushion on the floor. Sit down so the cushion is a few inches away from your lower back — you want your ribcage to rest on the bolster, but not your waist. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, then let your knees open to the side. Have two rolled-up towels or yoga blocks nearby to tuck under your thighs. Then lie back so your spine, neck, and head are resting on the cushion. Place your hands on your belly, palms down, or on the floor, palms up. Stay at least 5 minutes, letting your body sink down into your props. No effort allowed! Just be.
This pose really opens the hips and gets the blood flowing through your pelvis.
Sitting up tall, open your legs wide. Keep your knees and toes pointing straight up at the ceiling. Stay sitting up tall, your fingertips on the floor just behind your thighs to help you reach your spine away from your hips, for five breaths. Then fold forward as far as you can comfortably go. Rest your head on a bolster, coffee table, or hard chair and stay here 1-2 minutes.
The slight twist in this seated version of Tree Pose is like a massage for your uterus and ovaries.
Sit on the floor with both legs straight. Bend your right knee and bring the sole of your right foot up high on the left inner thigh. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your left knee, and use the leverage of your hands pressing in to the floor to spin your belly button so it’s in line with your left knee. Then walk your hands toward your left foot, keeping the spine long. When you’ve gone as far as you can, use a bolster, rolled-up blanket, or even a chair to rest your forehead on. Stay a minute or two, then switch legs.
Yet another massage for the ole uterus. (Speaking of, have you booked a massage for your whole body lately?
Sitting cross-legged with a tall spine, rotate your torso to the left. Bring your left hand to the floor just behind your left buttock and your right hand to your left knee. Take 10 breaths here, lifting your spine a titch taller with each inhale, and twisting a hair further to the left with each exhale. Then repeat to the right.
This pose stretches the psoas — the muscle that connects the upper body to the lower body — which creates more space in the low abdomen for your organs to do their thing. It also gently compresses the thyroid gland, which then gets doused in fresh blood (which delivers oxygen and nutrients), helping this hormone-producer function better.
To do it, you need two yoga blocks, or two short stacks of books or magazines. Place one block against a wall. Lie on your back and put your feet on the block so your soles are flat against the wall. Then press in to the wall and lift your hips up, sliding the other block under your sacrum — the triangular bone at the base of your spine. Roll on to the outside edges of your upper arms and drop your chin down toward your chest and back toward the floor slightly. Stay one or two minutes.
6. Corpse Pose
This is where the relaxation really kicks in.
To up the comfort level, rest your torso on a bolster or couch cushion, or roll up a blanket to put under your knees, or rest just your calves on a coffee table. Really give it up to gravity and imagine the floor rising up to support you, so that all that’s left for you to do is sink and release into the floor.