by Beth Heller, MS RYT
Pulling Down the Moon began as a yoga class for women trying who wanted to improve their chances of conception. As our classes grew in popularity we added acupuncture, massage and nutrition counseling to our specialty programming. I had a recent experience with a private yoga student that draws me back to these yoga roots and is prompting this blog. Yoga can be so helpful for fertility – in the community and teachings that are part of our classes – but also as a one-on-one therapeutic experience.
So, how do we approach a private yoga session? First, the instructor will check if the client is involved in any of the other treatments we offer at Pulling Down the Moon. If so, she will touch base with the practitioners who have treated the client and get as much information about the treatment plan as possible. Next we speak with the client directly to get their input on their objectives for practice. Once we have all the information in hand we will put together a yoga practice that takes all of this information in to consideration.
A typical private yoga practice includes three key things: 1) pranayama (breathing techniques) 2) asana (postures) and 3) intention. Here is an example of a recent session.
The client, who I will call Annie, is a regular acupuncture patient who was nearing IVF egg retrieval. She was responding well to meds and had a good number of nearly mature follicles. The concern was her uterine lining, which had been thin in the past, and was measuring at about 5 mm. When I spoke to her TCM practitioner I learned that this client would benefit from further work to harmonize the energy flow in the upper and lower sections of the body. Annie’s objective was to support the uterine lining and to reduce anxiety about her upcoming cycle.
From a yoga perspective this is something we commonly see in women who are struggling to conceive. It can be read in the body as an imbalance between apana and prana energy vayus, two of the mail energy currents in the body. Prana vayu is located in the area of the lungs and heart and provides us with energy, speed and motivation. It can become unbalanced when we are “obsessed” with something, anxious or mentally overactive. Apana vayu is a downward current of energy that is important for optimal function of the reproductive organs as well as the ability to release waste from the body. It was possible for me to choose breathing and postures that could help to harmonize these forces.
At Annie’s session we began with breathing exercises to help her become aware of the anatomy of her breathing and how breathing into different parts of the abdomen elicited different physiological and emotional responses. We then moved on to a gentle posture practice that first gently stretched her shoulders and chest to release anxiety and then moved on to deeper hip opening postures to help move energy downward towards her feet. Throughout the practice I would explain to her the intention of each posture. At Pulling Down the Moon we say energy follows intention and adds to the efficacy of the work. At the end of the session we talked a bit about what came up during practice, how she felt and how she could use this practice in the days leading up to transfer. Annie left with stretches she could do on her own in the days leading to her retrieval as well as some practical suggestions such as heating her feet with a hot water bottle each night.
I was thrilled when Annie came in for treatment 3 days later and shared that her lining had increased to 8+mm. While we can’t know for sure that yoga contributed to the difference it was still very exciting news. While our Yoga for Fertility classes bring many benefits as well as engage a healing community private yoga is specific and therapeutic – what we do with one woman is very different from what we would do with the next, and practice can also change in response to your ART cycle. If you are curious about how private yoga can be integrated into your fertility treatment plan please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 312-321-0004 (Chicago) or 301-610-7755 (DC Metro).