I’ve been interested in the subject of fertility for some time and have looked into various DVD’s and books on fertility and yoga. In terms of practice often a soft, flowing approach integrating poses that stimulate the reproductive system and balance hormones are usually included with a focus on relaxing and releasing any feelings of stress. Of course it takes two to make a baby and my guidelines below are written with a female focus, but the most interesting and useful thing I learnt with regards to the male reproductive system is that it takes 70 days for a new sperm to develop into a mature swimmer. Any changes a man makes to his diet or lifestyle today will not be seen until three months from now. So think ahead at least three months when you are making these adjustments.
From the female standpoint in my own practice (and with private students) I like to connect at an individual level creating sequences that focus on nurturing fertility throughout the whole cycle. Having a tangible aim to maximize a fertile state in the body is also helpful rather than the goal “to have a baby”, which in itself can bring up anxiety, stress and disappointment. None of us have the power to control the result, but what we can do is take care of ourselves and maximize our chances. Hopefully the few tips I have written below will help you adapt your yoga practice according to your own monthly cycle.
Day 1-5: When you are menstruating the energy that reflects this downward flow in yoga is referred to as apana. It’s a powerful downward releasing force with a purpose. Harmonize with this energetic pull by concentrating on building the foundation of your poses, avoid inversions, stay grounded and hold postures rather than moving too quickly through. If you find yourself in a fast paced somewhat acrobatic yoga class then adapt your practice by concentrating on your breath, resting in child’s pose when you need and focus more on the postures that ground you. Alternatively chose a restorative based class.
Day 4/5 to pre-ovulation: If you have a short period and by day 4 or 5 you have stopped bleeding, you can focus on stimulating your hypothalamus and pituitary gland with inversions such as headstand and handstand. This way fresh oxygen and blood can increase the flow in these important areas. If however you are still bleeding or you decide to stimulate these glands from the beginning of your cycle when they become active, go for plenty of downward facing dogs and standing forward bends as an alternative. Guided visualizations either with a teacher or with a CD can be another tool to incorporate. Focusing particularly on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Check this website for some hypnotherapy resources. Here, you can also have a personalized CD specifically designed for you and your particular fertility needs. http://www.thefertilebody.com/Shop/Personalised_CD
As the lining of the womb thickens with fresh blood make sure to include poses like baddha konasana, upavishta konasa, and forward bends to stimulate the blood flow to this area. The ‘fertile garden’ visualization picturing your womb as a garden that you are preparing with fertile soil, nutrients and great care to receive and welcome in a new seed can be used here. If you have no hypnotherapy resources to support this try writing a detailed description instead of how it looks and feels, colours, textures, how and what you have done to prepare it etc.
Prior to ovulation (which will vary from cycle to cycle) continue to stimulate the pituitary gland with plenty of inversions as it releases the LH hormone to trigger ovulation. Try and accurately pinpoint the exact day you ovulate by monitoring fertility signs (read more about these here) or by using tests available on the market to help. At this time you may feel strong, energized and have a natural increase in your sex drive. A stimulating varied yoga practice may suit with a wide range of poses including back bends, hormone balancing bridge pose and shoulder-stand, twists and strengthening inversions.
OVULATION: No harm in swapping your mat for your mattress for a couple days 🙂
AFTER OVULATION TO NEXT MENSTRUAL CYCLE OR POSSIBLE PREGNANCY: This is when I would suggest taking it easy and adapt a strong dynamic practice to more of a pregnancy practice. Continue to practice poses that stimulate blood flow to the uterus such as above. Step back rather than jump in sun salutations, avoid twisting too deeply, and go easy on abdominal exercises, don’t hold the breath and generally protect the whole area of your womb. However microscopic a sign of life may be hold the intention to protect and nurture any signs of possible life. Of course none of the actions above of a usual dynamic practice will I doubt damage a microscopic ball of cells, but this shift in approach is a suggestion and in my own experience just feels right.
The last two weeks of your cycle can be a tough time and a long wait. You have no idea whether you have conceived or not and you are full of hope and perhaps some fear. Anxieties can creep in, and if they do, the focus in your yoga practice and pranayama should be to bring balance and slow down the breath with ujaii breathing, nadhi shodhana, and connect to the stillness. Yoga can bring great calm and peace of mind if you can stay present in your practice.
IDENTIFY LIMITING BELIEFS AND STRESS TRIGGERS: I’ve always been incredibly inspired by Pema Chodran’s approach to the unwanted thoughts that play themselves out in our minds. Rather than block them telling your self over and over I must think positively, I must ignore all negative thoughts, she suggests opening the door and welcoming them in. Invite them, get to know them and identify who is there. Some may have been lurking in the shadows and hard to actually see. Deep underlying limiting beliefs or triggers you may have regarding your fertility may come to the fore. Some you may know very well, others you may not have even noticed before. By acknowledging them you have something to work with and with this knowledge you have the power to change your inner dialogue. One of the reasons yoga resonates with me is it’s a way to physically, mentally and emotionally release stuff. Hypnotherapy and visualizations can also be powerful tools to help you.
INDULGE AND PAMPER: If you and your partner have made some big sacrifices to try for a child, such as giving up alcohol, coffee, smoking and what can feel like some of life’s little pleasures, then in these two weeks is the time to create your top ten pamper list and indulge! Shopping, good food, outings, fun, quality time and intimacy with a non baby making focus!
MAKE THE MOST OF WHERE YOU ARE: If a couple of weeks later it turns out that this is not to be the month it can be tough as the hope transfers to disappointment. Take care and avoid if you can any blame that may surface. Instead make the most of what you do have and perhaps treat yourself to something you couldn’t do if you were pregnant. For me it was a handstand class at circus space! For another it may be indulging in a round of camembert, a skydive followed by a good old hot sauna and steam, a sushi snack, melted gorgonzola, or a bumper car ride at the fun fair! Most of all nourish your self through this time. Nothing is permanent, nature is always changing and we have the power to adapt in the best way we can.
Stay tuned for more info and findings on this subject in the future.