One of the biggest challenges of promoting holistic medicine is the lack
of available research on the benefits of practices like yoga, massage
and even acupuncture when compared to the research available for mainstream
medicine. This month we are excited to share that a new study, conducted
by Fertility Centers of Illinois and Pulling Down the Moon found that
our six week Yoga for Fertility program significantly lowered anxiety
rates in fertility patients. The study, which is one of the largest controlled
studies to date looking at yoga’s impact on fertility, found a 20%
reduction in anxiety in the yoga group versus just a 2% reduction in controls.
The Pulling Down the Moon yoga program consists of six consecutive sessions,
each of which is comprised of a yoga posture practice coupled with a group
discussion focused on how to apply different yoga techniques (breathing,
meditation, working with negative thoughts, etc.) to the fertility journey.
"One of the most interesting things about the recent research findings
is how quickly our program was able to create a large reduction in anxiety,"
states Pulling Down the Moon Co-Founder and Study Co-Investigator Beth
Heller. "We knew from 12 years of teaching that the class was beneficial
but seeing it in numbers is great!"
While we do not know the exact mechanism, here are some of our hypotheses:
1. Yoga is a low-intensity form of exercise that works on the physical
body, stretching and bending the spine and limbs and emphasizing deep
diaphragmatic breathing in a way that is believed to mechanically stimulate
the body's relaxation response. It is hypothesized that yoga poses
and breathing exercises mechanically stimulate the vagus nerve, a large
nerve running the length of the spine that is a key regulator of our body's
parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS in turn stimulates the relaxation response.
2. The six-week yoga program in this study included breathing and meditation
practices, which have been shown to decrease anxiety and alleviate depression
in many different conditions.
3. The yoga program in this study also included group discussion focused
on the most stressful elements of the infertility process - medical aspects,
feeling of lack of control, separation from one's usual peer group
and feelings of guilt/self-blame. The group dynamic immediately provides
a support network and reduces sense of isolation.
What the study did not look at was yoga’s impact on pregnancy outcomes
so we cannot yet say whether yoga for fertility will help you get pregnant faster.
Why look at yoga for fertility?
“As a casual yogi,” says
Study Investigator and Reproductive Endocrinologist Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron
of Fertility Centers of Illinois, “I have personally appreciated the calmness and peacefulness that yoga provides.
I was interested in learning how this simple intervention could benefit
our infertility patients; given the stress and anxiety that goes along
with the treatment process.”
When asked what they would like to examine next, these researchers hope
to conduct a larger study where patients are randomized to receive either
yoga posture practice plus the discussion session or yoga posture practice
alone to learn which component of the fertility yoga class is most beneficial.
They would also follow women longer to learn if the impacts extend to
pregnancy success and likelihood of staying in treatment long enough to
allow for lifetime success given that often patients require greater than
one cycle of therapy.
For more information about this study and the Pulling Down the Moon Yoga
for Fertility program visit
www.pullingdownthemoon.com or call 312-321-0004 in Chicago or 301-610-7755 in DC Metro.