A ROOT Awakening: Yoga Therapy and Fertility: Empowerment Along The Fertility Journey
A big thanks to Wendy for sharing her personal story and how fertility yoga can help your fertility journey! Check out her bio below and learn about Soulful Conceptions™ programs, classes, and workshops at soulfulconceptions.com.
Wendy is offering a FREE 15 -minute phone or Skype consultations for readers of our blog: A Root Awakening. Additionally, if you are local to LA and want to check out the weekly class, you can join the first class for 50% off. You must pre-register online and use the code: ROOT50. This offer expires January 13, 2018.
Why I got into fertility yoga and what it does
Did I always want to teach something as specific as fertility yoga? No. At age 30, it kind of dropped in my lap at a time that I was pretty certain I never wanted to have children. Irony at its best, right?! However, I honestly fell in love with the comprehensive nature of the Soulful Conceptions™ approach and practice that combines yoga postures, breath work, meditation, Ayurveda (the sister science to Yoga) and acupressure.
It wasn’t long before I recognized that this methodology and these tools were, at the end of the day, geared towards overall health, well-being and hormonal balance. After all, being “fertile” isn’t just about having a baby. And, that whether I was going to have a child or not, these practices would prepare and inform my body to be the healthiest it could be — no matter where my path led me.
My own fertility journey
Fast forward to age 38. After having integrated this fertility yoga and mind-body practice in my life for many years, I got pregnant naturally. I then miscarried at 3 months because of a chromosomal abnormality. Needless to say, my husband and I were devastated. And boom! There I found myself navigating an experience often shared by my clients, and all too familiar. Another pregnancy loss 5 months later. And then finally, 7 months after that, I was pregnant a third time with my now amazing 3-year-old. My pregnancy with him was not without its challenges, but by the end I was lucky to have my ideal childbirth and delivery at age 40 — even while managing a “severe” disc herniation in my lumbar spine that was diagnosed years prior to pregnancy. I owe much of my ability to stay calm and trusting of my body to my fertility yoga practice.
Fears with fertility
There are many not-so-welcomed scenarios an individual or couple may face in regards to their fertility. Unexplained Infertility is an umbrella diagnosis assigned to many couples once both partners have undergone a battery of tests to find out there’s “nothing conclusive.” However, many folks do have specific hurdles that are black and white regarding their fertility challenges (i.e. uterine septum, endometriosis, low ovarian reserve, low sperm count, issues with morphology and motility, etc.).
In either case, learning certain valid or invalid truths about our fertility is difficult; no one wants to hear there are issues with their chances of having their own biological child. After all, this is our primal birthright as human beings! Having that stripped away can make us feel broken, isolated and hopeless.
Published data from the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics assessed and evaluated the relationship between stress and impaired reproduction. It was determined that chronic stress leads to chronic elevation of stress hormones, which can impact reproductive function in the following ways:
- Elevated stress hormones can interfere with the timing of ovulation.
- Elevated stress hormones may suppress progesterone production and/or speed metabolism of progesterone leading to a shortened luteal phase.
- Elevated stress hormones may create a “blighted uterine environment” by promoting an inflammatory response that is hostile to a developing embryo.
How fertility yoga can help
This is where fertility yoga can help as it focuses on reducing the impacts and presence of chronic stress and optimizing one’s fertility naturally. The comprehensive method – combining yoga, acupressure, etc. – partnered with my favorite product called the Fertility Ball Method®, has been transformative for me and so many of my clients.
The physical practice focuses on improving blood flow and circulation to the low back (sacral plexus), hips, groin, and pelvis, which can aid in healthier gynecological function and help nourish the neuroendocrine system. I also educate individuals about which postures are safe depending on where you are in your cycle and your process of fertility treatments. Additionally, this unique approach provides stress reduction tools as it addresses the complex emotional components that often accompany the fertility journey.
The fertility journey itself can feel like a rollercoaster ride that, in some cases, drags on for years. This can be both a physically and emotionally fragile time often placing negative pressure on a couple’s intimacy, not to mention their finances.
I strive to help guide those on the fertility journey towards empowerment, proactivity, learning to soften and surrender into the immense intelligence of the body, and to trust the process. The sugar on top? This fertility yoga program is a safe and complementary practice to any Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). It can be practiced no matter where you are in the process. In all my years teaching, I’m thrilled to say I have witnessed many, many women and couples’ dreams of having children come to fruition.
Wherever you are in your fertility journey, the following suggestions can help you begin feel more empowered about your path ahead. It’s also important to note that these techniques are useful both for the person trying to get pregnant and their respective partner and/or support community.
Notice your breath. Conscious breathing is one of the fastest and most powerful tools to help refocus the mind, soften the bodyand elicit the parasympathetic nervous system,
which is the relaxation response. I suggest taking 9 full rounds of breaths every hour on the hour. If you practice Ujjayi Pranayama, or Victorious Breathing, the yogic diaphragmatic breathing technique, that is a fantastic breath work to use. Otherwise, just regular, full breaths will work!
Notice your Thoughts. During the course of your day begin to observe your thoughts as separate from you (this brings us to the concept of Equanimity). Note any thoughts that seem to bring up anger, worry, anxiety or fear and take a moment to use Ujjayi Breath/conscious breathing to create some space and relaxation during those times. Replace those anxious thoughts with a better feeling or more helpful thought. If that feels difficult in that moment, consider a Loving Kindness meditation. You could simply say or think to yourself:
“May I be filled with Loving Kindness.
May I be at peace and at ease.
May I be free from inner and outer harm.
May I be surrounded by Love.”
Take Back Control. As there is so much out of our control, focus on the things you can control. Educate yourself on healthy beauty products and cosmetics to be sure you aren’t taxing your system with extra toxins that could also impede reproductive health. For example, go to www.safecosmetics.org and input your personal care products to ascertain their levels of toxicity. Clean your cabinets and make-up bag of any items that may have higher levels. Look for non-toxic cleaners for your home at the local natural market (i.e. enzyme-based cleaners). Use a canteen or other non-plastic (i.e. glass, food grade stainless steel) container for your water for your home and car. Be aware of the amounts of plastic when you shop. Even look around your own kitchen at plastic containers you may be using to store foods, etc. Download the EWG’s Healthy Living App on your phone to use in your day-to-day shopping. From food to shampoo, it has you covered!
Find Your Tribe and Support System. If you are experiencing stress and feelings of isolation, you need to know you are not alone. There are support groups and organizations in place to help you navigate all you may be feeling. Even the most loving, attentive and supportive partner cannot witness you in the same way that those who have or are going through it can.
Remember, it is important to acknowledge that each of us is different, and thereby our fertility journeys will be different. Two women may be the same age, have similar blood work numbers, embark on the same treatments, etc., but how, when or if you get pregnant can be very different because it is a multi-factorial mind/body/spirit process.
Some support groups and resources include:
- Soulful Conceptions™ Weekly Support Group and Fertility Yoga Class (local LA)
- Soulful Conceptions™ Closed, private FB page (global). Request to be a member: http://livinglela.com/services/ — scroll down to the button that says “Join Our Group.”
- Strong; StrongYoga®4Fertility – Training Manual (2009) 4
- Nakamura K er al. J Assist Reprod Genet (2008) 25: 47-62
- Google dictionary of Equanimity
Wendy Obstler, C-IAYT, E-RYT, is a Los Angeles based certified yoga therapist specializing in fertility, pre-natal and postpartum yoga. She is the co-founder of Living Lēla, the home to Soulful Conceptions™. Wendy is also the resident yoga therapist in a Beverly Hills rehabilitation center working daily to serve individuals with an array of musculoskeletal issues. Wendy attended the Yoga Therapy Rx program at Loyola Marymount University. Immediately following, she completed her 14-month clinical internship at Tensegrity Center for Yoga Therapy in Santa Monica, CA, under the brilliant guides of Sherry Brourman, PT, E-RYT500 and Leslie Kazadi, C-IAYT, E-RYT500. You can find Wendy online at livinglela.com, as well as on Instagram @living_lela, and Facebook @livinglela. Her weekly teaching schedule and other offerings/information about non–fertility yoga therapy can be found at divinesparkyoga.com.