Sometimes, no matter how many new-fangled and expensive medical treatments are offered to an infertile couple, nothing seems to accomplish that magic state of pregnancy. There may be deep disappointment, anxiety and frustration. That's where yoga comes in. That's right, yoga.
Holistic fertility centers are offering a variety of therapies including massage, acupuncture and yoga. Fertility yoga is a gentle form of exercise that focuses on breath, achieving a state of relaxation, and learning to open the muscles that surround your hips and pelvis. Due to patient demand, and the growing interest of their physicians, fertility yoga classes are popping up all over the United States. Some of these classes are tailor-made for women with specific, diagnosed fertility issues, but in other cases, the women are just readying themselves for pregnancy.
There is very little data on whether fertility yoga promotes conception, but the data that does exist is persuasive. Yoga seems to reduce the stress of infertility and allow the body to enter a state of relaxation. There is also a sense that the accompanying yoga philosophy helps women understand that conception is one process they cannot control. There is a saying in yoga philosophy: "You can't force the river."
The yoga idea is about issuing an invitation to the river to allow its flow a pathway through your body. Once women stop fighting to get pregnant, they often conceive. It starts with the sensation of physical changes. Women who take fertility yoga classes describe an opening of the hips and a feeling that the body is now ready to accept embryos.
There is a belief that stress prevents women from conceiving and yoga is a known stress reducer. Women struggling to conceive are known to have anxiety and depression levels similar to people with serious diseases such as AIDS and cancer. This is according to a study done by Harvard Medical School. Reproductive endocrinologist Eve Feinberg, associated with the Fertility Centers of Illinois says that the stress hormone known as cortisol sometimes interferes with ovulation. Lowering stress levels and adopting a positive attitude and mood often leads to successful fertility treatment.
But there is stronger evidence supporting yoga and other stress-reducing activities as a means to conception. Alice Domar, PhD, of Harvard Medical School created a fertility program at Massachusetts General Hospital at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. Later, she opened up her own Domar Center for Mind/Body Health. In 2000, Domar discovered that 55% of her infertility patients delivered a baby within a year of participating in her program. During the 10-session program, the patients were taught meditation and yoga as well as other relaxation techniques, including acupuncture. In the control group, only 20% of the patients conceived and delivered babies.