Yoga and Fertility: A Path to Pregnancy
If you’ve been trying for some time to get pregnant and it’s just not happening, you may start to examine aspects of your life that could be creating obstacles to conception. You may look at your eating and drinking habits, sleep patterns or the number of hours you work in a stress-filled office environment. You may even scrutinize how you exercise.
There is no crystal ball to rely on when it comes to fertility and the ability to conceive, and there is no singular solution to infertility. For this reason, yoga instructor Jessica Ladd Lefterova and others are singing the praises of exercise routines that harmoniously combine the mind, body and breath. Lefterova specializes in pre- and post-natal fitness. She has been instrumental in implementing yoga and fitness classes at several Texas Health facilities.
“Yoga for fertility is a great resource for women seeking to optimize their ability to conceive,” Lefterova explained. “Yoga provides an important adjunct to the mind-body approach to fertility proven to reduce stress and improve mental and physical wellbeing. The reproductive organs shut down when a woman is in stress mode. That’s why I teach breath and body techniques, such as hand gestures, that help to stimulate the nerve receptors in the body.”
Fertility specialist Alfred Rodriguez, M.D., of Texas IVF and medical director of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies Department at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, is also a proponent of yoga for women who are having difficulty conceiving. “Medical research has shown that vigorous or intense workouts can negatively affect fertility and a woman’s chances of conception. Yoga is considered to be a much less strenuous and more restorative form of exercise. Any activity that involves mindfulness, breathing techniques and meditation has powerful physical, emotional and mental benefits. Yoga can be a calming antidote for any woman consumed by the desire to have a baby, the resulting stress of which can become a barrier to conception itself.”
When it comes to stress and fertility, Dr. Rodriguez added that although it is difficult to identify a threshold at which stress will interfere with a woman’s normal biology, science has established a clear relationship between high stress and the development of amenorrhea (absence of a menstrual cycle) and ultimately infertility.
How to Use Yoga in Preparing for Pregnancy
Lefterova says it’s all about the breathing, yoga techniques and living in such a way that creates a womb that is nourishing and welcoming. She offers these tips to women who may be looking for ways to lower their stress levels and boost their preparedness for pregnancy and the ability to conceive:
- Breathe deeply and connect with your breath. Practice feeling your breathing patterns down into your belly and pelvis for an all-over calming effect.
- Prepare your body like your home. Create a loving, welcoming environment. Inside your body, this means using yoga to decrease tension in the hips and throughout your body for a positive impact.
- Get some sleep. Healthy self-care practices, such as good sleep, are extremely important in enabling your nervous system to power down, your immune system to power up and your hormones to work effectively. Your hormones are a huge factor in being able to conceive. High stress levels and lack of rest fire up your body’s cortisol, which can lead to inflammation in the cell tissues. Many experts believe that inflammation at a cellular level can impede reproductive hormone function.
- Exercise right. Learn the right exercises for creating a nurturing environment for conception. Certain abdominal poses are proven to energize the belly and womb and can be especially good for promoting conception.
- Connect with your heart. Include heart-opening poses and backbends in your yoga practice to nurture compassion for yourself and for the little one you want to bring into the world.
A First on the Fertility Front
Local fertility centers may tout the benefits of yoga for conception, but none currently offer classes specifically focused on yoga and fertility. Texas Health is proud to introduce Fertility Yoga classes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area beginning April 13, 2017. The classes are designed to provide women with support, knowledge, techniques and physical postures to reduce stress and help them focus on connecting with their bodies.
“Learning to listen to the body and breathe can bring a sense of peace and connection,” said Lefterova. “Through the classes, women will hopefully begin to feel more empowered in their journey toward conception and realize they are not alone. I was diagnosed with PCOS and extremely low levels of progesterone, and I have experienced a miscarriage. Going through all of that, I noticed how lonely I felt. My purpose through yoga is to be a voice for infertility.”
“In class, we will focus on self-regulation techniques for improving restfulness and calming the mind and body from stress and anxiety. We want to turn on the body’s parasympathetic nervous system to promote relaxation and turn down the sympathetic, or fight and flight, responses. The postures practiced during class will be customized for each participant as she goes through her menstrual cycle and/or fertility procedures and will compliment and support the work of the woman’s physician,” she added.