This post is by guest blogger Lynn Jensen, E-RYT, RPYT, MBA, co-author of Yoga for Fertility: A Journey to Health and Healing. These poses are also in Nourishing Fertility: An A-to-Z Guide.
If you are trying to conceive, yoga can help support fertility, and ease the path to parenthood. I developed my Yoga for Fertility program in Seattle in 2002, as a long-time yoga practitioner and teacher who had dealt with personal fertility challenges over several years. More recently, I co-authored a book called Yoga and Fertility, A Journey to Health and Healing. Below, I suggest a few simple but powerful poses from the book that anyone can do at home.
Yoga poses, as well as breathing and meditation techniques, have multiple benefits for supporting fertility:
- increases blood flow to the reproductive organs;
- calms the central nervous system;
- reduces stress hormone levels in the bloodstream which have been shown to have a negative effect on fertility. Also, the calming effect of the poses and breathing and meditation techniques can be very helpful in dealing with the emotional ups and downs of trying to conceive.
The yoga routines offered in the book are organized around the menstrual cycle. There are poses that I recommend doing in the first half of the cycle, prior to ovulation, which will bring more blood flow and energy to the ovaries. In the latter half of the cycle, post-ovulation, it’s best to perform poses that are more supportive and less stimulating in order to support the uterine lining as well as aid in conception and implantation. Many poses are helpful throughout the cycle. The following poses can be done at any time during your cycle.
Yoga for Fertility Pose #1: CENTERING/CALMING BREATH (BELLY BREATH)
Movement: Breathe fully and deeply into your abdominal region, visualizing the prana (life force energy) filling your belly and creating the loving, open space for life. On the exhalations, visualize stress, defeating thoughts, frustration, etc. all leaving the body. On the inhalations, invite the prana into every cell of your body. Continue this breathing until you feel calm, and the breath is smooth and even. Ideally, the inhale and exhale should be either equal in length, or the exhale should be a little longer. Pause at the end of the exhale and the end of the inhale, before you start the next breath. This “space” is perhaps the most important part of the breath. Try at least 12 full inhales and exhales, but feel free to do more if your mind hasn’t calmed after 12 breaths.
Why do this? This centering/calming breathing technique helps the body and mind relax. The deep, conscious breath sends signals to the nervous system so that the muscles in the body can relax, and the mind can stop racing. Allowing the breath to expand the lower belly helps us overcome cultural conditioning to hold in the abdomen and helps to release tension in the pelvic area. Deep breathing is a wonderful way to begin your yoga practice.It can also be used on its own as a powerful relaxation technique.
Yoga for Fertility Pose #2: CAT-COW
Set-up: Come onto your hands and knees with your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Spread the fingers wide apart from each other. Your knees should be 4-6 inches apart from each other. If this position bothers your knees, you can try folding a blanket and placing it underneath your knees for extra padding.
Movement: On an inhale, tilt your tailbone up and arch your back. Look forward and draw the shoulders back away from the ears. Keep your core engaged as you arch the back. On an exhale, tilt your tailbone down toward the floor and round your spine. Press the shoulder blades up toward the ceiling. Let your head and neck feel heavy. Repeat at least 5 times, initiating each movement at the tailbone. Allow the movement to follow the breath.
Why do this? Cat-cow warms up all of the muscles in the back and allows tension in the neck and shoulders to release. It also opens the major energy channels in the front and back of the body. The pelvic movements bring blood flow and energy through the pelvis.
Yoga for Fertility Pose #3: GENTLE TWIST
Set-up: With your knees bent and feet on the floor,take the feet to the outer edges of your yoga mat. The feet will be about two feet apart. Now, take the arms out to the sides like a “T”, with your palms facing up.
Movement: Lift the hips and shift them slightly toward the left. Then allow the knees to drop over toward the right, keeping the feet touching the mat. You don’t need to keep the entire sole of the foot on the floor; it can be the edge of the foot that is still touching the floor. Turn the head to look back toward the left palm. Take 4-5 slow, even breaths. On an inhale, bring the knees back to center, and do the twist to the second side.
Why do this? Twists are cleansing and rejuvenating for the organs (such as the uterus and intestines) and glands (such as the ovaries) in the abdominal area. Twists have a calming effect on the central nervous system.
Yoga for Fertility Pose #4: RECLINED COBBLER POSE
Movement: Slowly allow your knees to open apart from each other,releasing down towards the floor. Rest your hands on your lower belly or allow them to gently rest by your sides, palms facing up. Take at least 8 slow, full breaths.
Why do this? This pose opens and relaxes the whole pelvic bowl. The organs of the pelvic bowl release tension and allow more energy and blood to flow through them. It is a great pose to do if you are having any menstrual or uterine cramping.
Yoga for Fertility Pose #5: LEGS UP THE WALL POSE
Movement: Start by sitting sideways at the wall, with your left hip just next to the wall and your knees bent. Place your right hand on the floor next to your right hip, and your left hand on the floor behind you. Lean back and take some weight onto your hands. You might even comedown onto your left elbow. Next, you will need to swing your legs up the wall so that your sitting bones end up fairly close to the wall. The hands can rest on the low belly or on either side of you about 12 inches away from the body, with the palms facing up towards the ceiling.When you are ready to come out of the pose, draw the knees into the chest and roll onto your right side with your knees bent. Rest for a few breaths, before using both hands to press up to a seated position.
Why do this? This pose is one of the most powerful fertility-supporting yoga poses that you can practice. The abdominal organs are nourished and revitalized when the blood from the feet and legs pools in the lower belly. Toxins are removed from the bloodstream, as the blood flows into the lymph glands in the groin. The central nervous system is calmed and the endocrine system is regulated. This pose should be done daily for at least 5 minutes, during every part of the cycle except when you are menstruating.
Yoga and Fertility: A Journey to Health and Healing, by Lynn Jensen and Jill Petigara, offers step-by-step basic and intermediate yoga routines to support fertility. Success stories are interwoven with information about diet, lifestyle, and other fertility tips, to help women better understand how they can optimize their fertility.