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There are a plethora of natural, alternative things to try in tandem with traditional medical treatment trying to conceive. One of the great things about the gorgeous area of Southern California is that we don't have to go looking too far to find them.
If you are living in Los Angeles, chances are you have at one point been to a yoga class. If you haven't, chances are you know at least one person who goes religiously and has been changed for the better because of it. So whether you're a person who does not feel the day has officially started without a downward dog, or a person who has just been casually flirting with the idea of yoga for awhile, here's something you may not know about: Fertility Yoga.
To answer some of my basic questions about what Fertility Yoga is and how it helps, I spoke to Wendy Obstler. Wendy is a Certified Yoga Therapist and Lead Teacher for Strong Yoga® 4Fertility, which is "a comprehensive methodology that includes Yoga asanas (poses), pranayama (breathing techniques), meditation & visualization techniques, as well as education on diet, nutrition and environmental impacts on fertility. “Strong Yoga” was created by Brenda Strong (National Spokesperson for The American Fertility Association) after she experienced secondary infertility and through her teaching and research over the last 18+ years."
So. How exactly does fertility yoga help in trying to conceive?
"For one, it decreases stress," Wendy says. "We know stress is a main culprit in creating disease in our bodies, including the impact on the reproductive organs’ optimal functioning. Increasing blood flow and circulation into the area of the reproductive organs increases nutrients, rids the body of toxins and elicits the relaxation response - all of which help the organs function better. The combined practices of Strong Yoga® also enable students to understand the innate connection between the mind and body as they learn specific coping techniques that will help them shift away from fear, anxiety, guilt, shame and feeling loss of control to an empowered presence. It gives individuals the ability to embrace their inherent capacity to receive Life, in all its forms."
I don't know about you, but anything that helps de-stress the anxiety, fear and guilt that go along with fertility struggles is worth trying in my book. But is there really a difference, in terms of de-stressing, between fertility yoga and just yoga?
"Not all types of yoga are ideal for fertility," Wendy says."Classes are specific to the fertility journey and honor a woman’s natural cycle. The classes are unique because they are taught by certified Strong Yoga® 4Fertility instructors, which offer participants expert instruction, including knowledge in reproductive endocrinology, which gives our students peace of mind. Any person undergoing any fertility treatment and at any stage within that treatment process can walk into a class and know they are in the safe hands of instructors who understand -- on the physical & emotional level, as well as from a medical perspective, as to what is safe to do and when."
To compare it to other yoga classes, she adds, "All yoga is going to increase blood flow in the body, but some of the hot yoga and power yoga classes can be contraindicated for a woman when trying to conceive because for one they can cause the body to overheat with a potential for dehydration, which is the last thing we want in pregnancy".
Whether or not you're familiar with other types of yoga, it's important to note that fertility yoga utilizes different methods and types of movement.
"Our methodology uses the Strong Yoga® Fertility Ball Method, which is unique to any other fertility yoga practice. The fertility ball method targets acupressure points for fertility and is a way for women to empower themselves to: Stimulate Circulation/Blood Flow; Massage Internal Organs; Help to Regulate Gynecological Function; Detoxify and Cleanse; Decrease Stress; and Open Connective Tissue/Fascia in the pelvic region and belly. Plus, it helps to elicit the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the relaxation response, so it feels great!"
Those of us who are going through fertility treatments may not feel like our most graceful, coordinated selves. Mental and/or physical balance may be something we lust after, but as a result of stress or side effects, may not come as easy as it used to.
On what kind of vibe a person can expect from a Fertility Yoga class, Wendy says, "the Strong Yoga® 4Fertility classes offer a safe and serene environment where women can gather together to support each other in their journey while facing the often unpredictable path of fertility treatments. This offers a sense of community and negates the feelings of being isolated and alone, which are often experienced when going through fertility challenges. Additionally, the practice is specific and accessible to all levels, even those who have never practiced yoga or feel they are out of shape."
So fertility yoga is not necessarily for people who can balance on their heads, or even people who have ever even been to a regular yoga class. It's a community-oriented form of body-therapy whose basic goal is to help with the ever-elusive quest for peace of body and mind when trying to conceive. Anything that can help us balance ourselves even just a little bit during a time that feels so unsteady is certainly worth a try.