by Beth Heller, MS RYT
Pulling Down the Moon Co-Founder
There’s really no better time to start yoga than summer in Chicago. We all know that the summer and fall are the pay-off months: the long, warm days and amazing festivities make up for the chill wind, the snow and the salt stains that define Chicago living the rest of the year. Yet despite the upside, buzz-killing “fertility bombs” abound – barefoot babies, preggo’s in sundresses and family-filled block parties conspire to make carefree times care-full.
Should we just chalk it up as a season lost? At Pulling Down the Moon we say absolutely not. We should use this beautiful time of year for everything it’s worth, down to the last life-affirming drop. And yoga is how it happens.
I know this from experience. My first miscarriage (the first of the five pregnancies over seven years that it took to have my two kids) occurred in July of 2000. In my mind, that July marks the loss of my innocence. If you’ve been on the infertility roller-coaster you know what I mean. That was the day when baby showers started to make me bite back tears and pregnant women started pissing me off.
It also marks the start of my yoga journey. PM (prior to the miscarriage), I had been practicing yoga quietly in my home, with a book and a mat bought from Whole Foods. AM (after the miscarriage) I sought out my first regular group class. It was on Wednesday evenings at Moksha Yoga, from 6-7:30. I can still remember the scent of warm air and how good dinner would taste after class, my heart wo light for the first time in days. Chatting with the students and the teacher at the studio, I started to connect to people again.
Almost 20 years later, these first transformative days of yoga still resonate. Why? Now that I’m a teacher, I have a few ideas. First, yoga is a rehearsal for dealing with stress. We hold tough poses, feel intense physical sensations and respond with peaceful awareness. These skills translate directly to the challenges of loss and infertility. Second, my yoga practice curbed my need for other “numbing” habits like wine, sweets, and television. When I sipped wine, I tasted it. When I ate, I enjoyed. What I watched, I saw. Yoga helped me become present.
I also think yoga helped me become pregnant. It helped me cut back on running, make changes to my diet, better manage the stress of the fertility journey, and improve my sleep.
Years later, the research we have conducted with Fertility Centers of Illinois provides structure to these hunches. In our last study, fertility specialist Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron and I found that Pulling Down the Moon’s Six Week Yoga for Fertility Program decreased both the immediate anxiety felt by fertility patients, but also lowered their overall perception of how anxious they were in general. In a preliminary analysis, we also found that an online version of the program is just as effective.
In the six week program, we teach a class that is very different from a typical yoga studio class. Each week we practice a sequence of yoga poses that encourage blood flow to the belly, help manage the side-effects of fertility meds, and release anxiety and stress. Our teachers also use discussion and concepts from yoga philosophy that help empower our students to continue to connect with the world around them, and even grow and thrive. Beyond the yoga, this is a space for laughing and chat, and the start of many lasting friendships.
So, the change in the air is calling you! See for yourself how yoga can shift your fall season…whether you are taking a break from a failed cycle or prepping for the next one!