Yoga as a practice can be very helpful for people dealing with anxiety and stress; however, today it’s believed that yoga could also be a helpful tool for women who are struggling to get pregnant. It’s believed that one out of every six couples are affected by infertility, and more and more we’re seeing how yoga can help. Obviously, yoga provides no guarantee that any woman will be able to achieve a pregnancy; however, yoga can smooth out the sometimes-difficult road to conception as well as increasing the success of any required medical procedures.
Stress, for most people, is a normal part of everyday life, but for couples trying to conceive stress and anxiety can negatively affect fertility and their chances of having a baby. And this is where yoga can help. When yoga is incorporated into a comprehensive mind-body program that includes lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques, and cognitive approaches, it appears that pregnancy rates increase significantly.
How Does Stress Affect Conception?
During a very stressful situation your body will automatically go into ‘fight-or-flight’ mode’. A hormone known as cortisol is immediately released to assist your muscles, heart, and lungs get ready should you need to fight or run away from a threat. Then, cortisol levels go down when the stress is over, and your body returns to normal. The problem arises when the stress is sustained – it never goes away. You may be stressed in your relationship, you could be stressed at work, or you could consistently worry about the lack of money, which means that your body is permanently in ‘fight-or-flight’ mode’. The permanent presence of cortisol can cause longer-term changes in your body.
Stress Can Affect Ovulation
Long-term stress in women can have very negative effects on ovulation. Irregular periods, the length of monthly cycle, ovulating later in cycle than thought, or even not ovulating at all; these issues can all be brought about by long-term stress. Long-term stress can also affect men: it can adversely affect how a man’s body produces sperm, and how sperm grows and develops. Impotence in men can also be caused by long term stress.
When couples are stressed about conceiving, it’s sometimes difficult to know whether the stress is creating the fertility problem, or whether the problem in conceiving is creating the stress. Certainly, any couple undergoing fertility treatment like IVF will typically find it a very stressful experience.
The Benefits of Yoga
Originating in ancient India, yoga is a combination of mental, physical, and spiritual disciplines or practices. The focus is on breathing, strength, and flexibility in order to promote improved mental and physical well-being. Originally, it was believed that practising yoga would achieve harmony between the heart and soul as we move toward divine enlightenment. Today, we know that yoga has many practical benefits, and can assist in curing diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes and reduce (sometimes even alleviate) chronic pain and physical injuries. It is now used in the West to assist with coping with stress and helping certain ailments.
Scientific studies have found that yoga reduces high blood pressure, chronic pain, depression, and it also improves muscle strength, cardiac function, and circulation. A calming practice, yoga helps develop flexibility and strength whilst helping with relaxation and stress. Many people say that yoga provides them with a great sense of mental and physical well-being, and there are others who believe that yoga helped them to conceive. It can certainly be effective in coping with the stress of undergoing fertility treatment.
Scientists suggest that just 45 minutes of yoga each week could teach women how to relax, thus increasing their chances of having a baby. (Our recent blog posted outlined a number of great Yoga Poses For Increasing Fertility Naturally)
Some of the Fertility Benefits of Yoga Include –
- Reducing stress;
- Strengthening the endocrine system;
- Increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs;
- Encouraging a more positive mindset; and
- Increasing libido.
Of course, there are many types of yoga; however, Hatha yoga is the most widely taught type of yoga in the United Kingdom. Hatha yoga is suitable for everyone, regardless of their ability. Classes involve simple breathing exercises, slow stretching, and meditation; and it’s the ideal yoga if you’re a beginner.
If you’re considering trying yoga to assist with fertility, make sure that the class you choose is being run by someone who is qualified, well-trained, and insured. The British Wheel of Yoga is the governing body of yoga in the United Kingdom. Here you will find a list of qualified teachers and classes near you.
Gentle Morning Yoga For Infertility and Conceiving
If you can’t get to a class, you can always try looking on YouTube for free resources that will help you to get into Yoga. Brett Larkin has a fantastic channel devoted to Yoga and has even put together a 15 minute routine that can help you along when trying to conceive. Why not give it a go?
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2018.