I want to welcome again, Lisa B. Minn, a fellow physical therapist, medical therapeutic yoga practitioner, and fertility patient, completing her series on fertility and yoga.
In last week’s guest post I wrote about the general benefits of yoga for women who are struggling to conceive. This week I want to address the topic of yoga for those undergoing fertility treatments.
Dealing with diminished fertility is difficult under any circumstances. For those who choose to pursue the medical path to parenthood, the extremes of emotion can be even greater. There are weeks of multiple injections, pills, patches and suppositories. You are pricked and probed, often on a daily basis. You go to the doctor with anticipation, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. Sometimes you have more follicles, eggs fertilized, or embryos growing than you expected, sometimes fewer.
The daily swings of ups and downs, highs and lows are unlike anything most of us ever experience in normal life. Another element that may be an issue, especially for those who believe in a holistic approach to health is the guilt and disappointment one can experience from having failed the ‘natural’ approach. Add to this the cost of tens of thousands of dollars and it’s no wonder the stress of medically-assisted reproduction can skyrocket.
I encourage all women, but especially those in the midst of fertility treatments, to consider practicing the most gentle forms of yoga. For example, Yoga Nidra is a deeply relaxing meditative practice that has been shown to help overcome symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD and insomnia.3 Yoga Nidra does not involve instruction in any specific postures but relaxing in a restorative posture such as supported Bound Angle Pose (baddha konasana) is a nice way to provide gentle opening in the pelvic region while being guided through the meditation.
Another resource I highly recommend are Sue Dumais’ podcasts on Yoga for Fertility.4 These are approximately one hour long and consist of a series of restorative postures combined with language that is both comforting and empowering. There are no promises of improved blood flow to the reproductive organs. There are no claims of optimization of hormone levels. Instead there is permission to feel exactly what you feel. There is encouragement to accept the journey to parenthood however difficult it may be.
Yoga for fertility is not a magic bullet. Maybe it will help you to conceive a child, maybe it won’t. But it will help you to sort through all the layers of your pain. It will help you accept where you are on your path. It will help you to make peace with your body. It will help to calm your nerves and to get through the most difficult of days. Not everyone who struggles with infertility goes on to have a child. Some have children in ways they didn’t expect, through adoption, surrogacy or egg donation.
But practicing authentic yoga during the struggle, no matter what the outcome, is sure to help us evolve in one way or another. I hope you find the practice that best suits your journey, the practice that allows you to be calm, confident and kind to yourself during your quest to give birth to a wonderful reality.
Lisa B. Minn is a licensed physical therapist and yoga enthusiast. She has been incorporating aspects of Yoga and Pilates into her physical therapy practice since 2001 and became a certified yoga instructor in 2004. Her experience ranges from working with athletes at West Point and Georgetown to instructing elderly and wheelchair-bound clients in the fundamentals of Yoga. Lisa has conducted several lectures and workshops across the US, as well as in Honduras and Peru, where she volunteered her services. Lisa currently resides in Sausalito, California, where she lives and works. She is the author of the blog The Pragmatic Yogi and can be reached at her website, Lisa B. Minn.