Most of us have a car (or something similar) to take care of. With that responsibility comes maintenance and care. We do this to ensure our car is reliable and available for use. Yet it might still break down. That dreadful red engine light comes on and flashes its ugly light annoyingly in our face. Our heads fall back against the seat and maybe like me, you’ve thought “Why? I don’t have time for this! I just took my car in, everything was fine!” We do everything right and yet, it doesn’t run as expected. Car maintenance is akin to our fertility journey. We maintain and care for our bodies by eating right, exercising, lowering stressors, following doctors’ orders, and taking vitamins, just to name a few. Yet our bodies don’t perform as expected. So instead of getting that red warning light, we get negative pregnancy tests. While we don’t have control over the results of our maintenance, we do have control over our reaction to the “news”. You might not be ready to consider Plan B, but be aware of your attachment to the results of Plan A. We keep maintaining, expecting different results, yet we get more of the same. F@@k! This isn’t what was supposed to happen. We are so tied to “Plan A”, that we can’t or are not ready to consider other options. Instead of holding so tightly to Plan A, can we open ourselves to Plan B? With the ultimate goal of becoming parents, regardless of how we get there.
If you always looked at your car as broken and unreliable, it’s not a stretch to say you might think of it negatively. Possibly referring to it as “Old Unreliable” or “That Car.” In time you might grow to resent it. The same goes for our fertility and our body. We can choose to go through this journey broken and sad, coloring our fertility black or instead we go through it hopeful and optimistic. Which would you rather choose? Unlike the car we are not broken, yet it feels like it. The next time you get unexpected fertility news, take a deep breath and step off the emotional roller coaster. That isn’t to say not to have your emotion, by all means have it, but then step back and decide how to move forward. It’s when we get off the emotional roller coaster that we can reassert control of the process. One way we can reassert this control is through breath-work, yoga, and mediation. Add these to your treatment plan today!
By Beth Heller MS RYT, co-founder of Pulling Down the Moon and Online YFF instructor
Much more than a typical yoga class, this six-week Yoga for Fertility program, created by Pulling Down the Moon, helps students develop skills to manage the stress and anxiety of fertility treatment, as well as learn a yoga posture practice that promotes blood flow, supports hormonal balance through stress reduction and calms and relaxes the nervous system. Two separate clinical studies have shown this study to reduce fertility patients’ anxiety by more than 20% over the course of six weeks, for both online and in-person groups! We are also following our study groups to see whether yoga has impact on conception rates.
Unlike heated, vigorous vinyasa and power yoga classes, Yoga for Fertility is safe during medicated fertility treatment. Click here to register for class starting 9/23!
Online Class Format
Our online class uses a webinar format to replicate the group interaction and discussion portion of the class and uses Pulling Down the Moon’s Fully Fertile Yoga Companion videos to direct your individual home practice. In addition, participants are provided with links to different practices, including our Moon Salutes, Hip and Heart Opening, Hormonal Regulation/Digestion Practice and Mood Elevating Practice. The goal is practice 3-4 times per week on their own.
While you may initially shy away from the discussion part of the class, it may be this point of connection (which in yoga we call sangha) that creates the greatest shift in our body and mind. Research suggests that women have an additional defense against stressors, called the “tend and befriend” response. What this means is that in addition to the fight, flight or response to stress, women who seek out female companionship during times of stress may activate another defense against stress that helps to physically induce relaxation.
Why Yoga for Fertility?
*Yoga balances the nervous system. Unlike intense, high impact cardiovascular exercise, which places considerable strain on the body, yoga uses deep breathing, mindful movement and unique stretches to stimulate the body’s relaxation response.
*Yoga massages and stimulates our internal organs, promoting blood flow and oxygenation. Unlike exercises like weight lifting, cycling and running, which direct blood into the large skeletal muscles and are largely two-dimensional, yoga uses subtle multi-dimensional movements like twists and folds, inversions and backbends. This gentle action stretches and massages internal tissues and organs, promoting not only blood flow but the movement of lymph.
*Yoga trains your “letting go muscles.” Women in the thick of their fertility need tools to manage stress and anxiety in the here and now. Learning to hold a challenging standing pose or sensation-filled stretch, while staying calm and breathing deeply, is rehearsal for staying calm in stressful life situations.
*Yoga for Fertility classes create “sangha,” the yoga word for a like-minded and supportive community. Everyone on the fertility journey needs a positive environment and a place they can go to feel safe and understood. Struggling to conceive can turn a woman’s social network upside down. With girlfriends on the mommy-track, family get-togethers feeling like minefields, and ordinary interactions can become excruciatingly painful, our Yoga for Fertility class creates a safe haven – and most women don’t realize how much they needed one until they join a group!
Try Online YFF and another service to save in September with the You Pick Two promotion! Call us if you have any questions about this class, promotion, or scheduling at: 312-321-0004 today!
The psoas muscle, the largest muscle in the group of muscles that make up the hip flexor, is arguably the most important muscle in your body. Without this vital muscle you’d never be able to get up off the floor! Reaching from the 12th thoracic vertebrae to the 5th lumbar vertebrae, traveling down the pelvis to the femur, it is the primary connector between your torso and your legs The only muscle in your body that connected your legs to your spine, It affects your posture and stabilizes your vertebrae.
A weak or tight psoas is known as a hidden cause of low back pain. But low back pain isn’t the only mysterious symptom associated with an imbalanced psoas. Another frequent symptom is stress, which both causes the psoas to contract and can also be caused by a contracted psoas. Anatomically linked to your breath, it connects to the diaphragm through connective tissue and diaphragmatic ligaments. Stress not only signals the psoas to contract which creates tension in the diaphragm, it also signals shallow, pant-like breathing which doesn’t engage the diaphragm. Both of these factors signal an ancient fight or flight response in the body, activating stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Your psoas muscles also create a muscular shelf that your kidneys and adrenals rest on. As you breathe deeply your diaphragm moves and your psoas muscles gently massage these organs, stimulating blood circulation. But when deep breathing doesn’t occur or the psoas muscles become imbalanced, the adrenals and kidneys don’t receive the stimulation they need, and the feeling of exhaustion can become a way of life. In fact, according to Liz Koch, author of The Psoas Book, “The psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, that a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.”
The kidneys and adrenals aren’t the only organ affected: as the psoas travels through the pelvis it supports your organs and works like a hydraulic pump pushing lymph and blood into and out of your cells. When psoas becomes tight or imbalanced, overall abdominal stagnation can occur. And if all that weren’t enough, a tight psoas can directly impact a woman’s reproductive system. The nerves of the reproductive organs embed throughout iliopsoas, and a tight psoas may pin down the uterus, creating painful menstrual cramps. The ovaries, which can double in size during ovulation, also sit close to the psoas, especially if the uterus is retrograde. A tight psoas can cause pain in the ovaries, restrict blood flow, and impinge reproductive nerves.
So how can you tell if you have a tight, weak, or overstrained psoas?
Here are some symptoms of an imbalanced psoas:
pain in the low back/hips
leg length discrepancy
postural problems (especially a low back that has a more extreme ‘C’ curve, or one that has almost no curve
severe menstrual cramps
chronic chest breathing
If you’ve identified that your psoas might be tight or over-strained, there are things you can do to help support it.
try a runner’s stretch or warrior pose; hold all stretches for at least 30 seconds so the body will ‘remember’ the new length
put a small cushion or support behind your low back while seated (for instance, while you’re driving your car or sitting at your desk
The fertility and pregnancy journey can often be riddled with anxiety, fear, and doubt. Our yoga instructor Kellie Greene draws on more than ten years of experience to give you a brief overview on why adding mantras to your coping toolbox can be beneficial at any point on your journey with Pulling Down the Moon.
What is a mantra?
Mantras are something we discuss in both the Yoga for Fertility and Prenatal classes. They can be useful in yoga postures that are held for a longer period of time, or doctors appointments, waiting for test results, and daily encouragement. It can be helpful to disrupt the stress hormone cycle, and boost the beneficial hormone oxytocin. It also gives parents something they can control. A mantra can be a simple phrase, a word, a prayer, or an intention. It is typically repeated several times in a row during a challenging experience, or several times throughout the day.
Why choose to use mantras?
The fertility and childbearing experience is one of great stress. That may present as anxiety, difficulty making decisions, depression, fear, or passing physical symptoms. A mantra is a tool meant to bring some level of calm. It can be helpful to remind yourself of a feeling you wish to evoke to replace the stress response. Or, it can be helpful to remind yourself that this part of your journey is temporary. Regardless of why your have chosen to try a mantra it can give you something you can control, or allow you to shift your focus intentionally on to something positive.
Common fertility mantras-
This is temporary One day at a time
I will be a parent It will happen for me
I am healthy, I am whole I can do this
I am not alone I will stay patient and trust
Common Prenatal mantras –
My baby is healthy and happy in this moment.
The information I have tells me baby is fine
My body is doing exactly what it needs to be doing in this moment
My baby is safe
I trust my body
Today I am pregnant
The fertility and pregnancy can be lonely, and filled with many emotions. It’s ok to be your own loudest cheerleader. Each day can be a new mantra. You can use it once or a 100 times.
If you would like help choosing a mantra that is right for your situation talk to one of our yoga instructors before or after class. Check our schedule for a time and location that is right for you.
Over dinner a few weeks ago, a friend and I chatted about her attendance at the Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Chicago. I unfortunately had not been able to make it which was a big bummer. My girlfriend had recently been through some big, not so great, life changes and had said that spending the day at the yoga festival was very healing for her. She shared a quote with me that one of the Wanderlust teachers had started their class with that really resonated for her life and current situation. The quote by an unknown author read “It was never mine carry, so today I lay it down”.
This is where the beautifully simple, yet abstract and often elusive idea of “letting go” comes in. As a yoga teacher, I use this phase often during my classes and for many of us, hearing the words “let it all go,” may be one of the reasons why we step on our mats. These comforting and supportive words ease our minds both off and on the mat. Fully letting go to create more space takes courage, trust, and faith. This 100% translates to life off of our mats and igniting the strength to tackle head on whatever struggles we are facing.
As we practice yoga, we connect with our divine nature and our higher selves. Letting go may feel different each day. Sometimes it feels active and moves forward into more knowledge. Other times letting go feels like acceptance, sometimes it feels like a release. It can mean a celebration, while other times it feels like surrender or a rest. However it feels to you, it is important to remember that this practice of letting go evolves and grows deeper the more you do it. It’s a practice and it’s not meant to be perfect right off the bat and you can’t expect it to be.
The lack of control that we have while trying conceive can seem very unfair. The waiting game is frustrating, isolating, tiring, unpredictable, expensive, and lengthy. Increased ease through our fertility journeys can be found if we work on and practice ‘letting go’. Once we start to channel our ability to ‘let go’, we find that we can transfer this skill to be useful in other parts of our worlds; work stresses, relationship issues, time management, parenting, financial fears, and health management, just to name a few. Come check out Yoga for Fertility or the Two Week Walk to work on ‘letting go’.
“It was never mine to carry, so today I lay it down.”
by Alison Lautz, LCSW, RYT
Join Ali in her new series of Yoga for Fertility on Mondays at 5:30pm! Questions? Call us at: 312-321-0004.
June marks the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. All things nature are in full swing of growth and the heat of summer starts blessing us for the first time since September last year. Frankly, it’s my favorite time of the year! For most the agendas at work start to slow down, schools are out of session and people begin to take vacations. It’s truly the perfect time to allow yourself time to pull back from the consistent go-go-go and take in nature’s beauty. Which can also means taking your yoga practice outside!
I find in the warmer months my yoga practice not only gets outside more, it changes as I find myself outside more doing outdoor activities (walking, biking, swimming, and gardening) and due to the summer heat, I find a vigorous practice/exercise is not what I need as it tends to exhaust me rather than my intent to feel nourished after my exercise, especially while trying to conceive. So if I’m limited on time or energy due to other summer activities my go-to pose is Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
I chose this pose because it’s a pose that’s a one stop shop, it stretches my shoulders, hamstrings, calves, feet and hands. It strengthens my arms, legs, wrists, belly and muscles along my spine. It energizes my body, mind and often my digestion if it’s stagnant.
If you’re new to yoga or this pose you can modify the pose by placing your hands at the wall until you build more strength in your body. Click on hyperlink link above for video instructions of the pose.
Lastly, when your body temperature is up from the summer heat or maybe your flushed with anxiety or anger and need some settling in your body and mind. Try out Sitali Breath (cooling breath) below.
How to practice Sitali:
Start seated comfortably with a head, neck and spine in alignment;
Close your eyes and take a few natural breaths in and out of the nose;
Make an “O” space with your mouth;
If you can curl the tongue into itself and stick it out of the mouth (no worries if you cannot, not everyone is able);
Inhale deeply like drinking through a straw (bring in the cooler air through the tongue as your belly, ribs and chest fill up);
Exhale completely through the nose, closing the mouth.
You can practice this for 2-3 minutes. Come back to the natural breath and try again if needed.
Depending on where you are in motherhood journey, Mothers Day can raise a dichotomy of emotions. Those of us who find ourselves lost in thought on this day or for any of us who want to spend less time in our heads, finding a yoga practice that focuses on grounding your root chakra, muladhara, will take you out of your head and guide you to reconnect with the earth and find peace from within. When this chakra or energy center is open and flowing freely we feel connected to something greater than ourselves, more secure and well… grounded.
Now that spring finally feels like spring (thank you, Chicago weather!) you can take your practice outside and get down and grounded with the earth. Little else will ground you as fast as standing barefoot on the ground; no mat, no shoes, and a fresh pedicure. Do not despair if this is not an option, a quiet location inside will do just fine, but consider removing your mat, aka barrier between you and the earth. This practice need not be difficult, look for asanas that keep your feet or bum (it is right next to your root chakra after all!) secure on the ground.
Try the following – Sukasana (easy pose). Upavistha Konasana (wide angle seated forward bend). Tadasana (mountain). Virabradasana (warrior) I and II. Prasarita Padottanasana (wide angle forward bend). During your practice focus on the points that are contact with the ground, this will help you feel a deeper connection to it. Now breathe… Obvious right? Not really, our attachments to our devices or need to be in control tends to leave our minds tight from took much thinking. Finding your breath is the quickest way to send the all clear signal to the brain and the body will quickly follow suit. Try not to fly though your yoga practice and instead slow down and be mindful of each posture, holding each for several breaths; focusing on being calm and steady, soon you will begin to take on those qualities. Making this practice a daily practice will have long lasting effects.
I hope your feet land on the ground this Mother’s Day. Let us take care of you this holiday with special events just for you including a FREE yoga class in Chicago or virtual wine sip webinar. New yoga classes are also available!
A therapist once told me to write down all my thoughts with my left hang (I’m right handed) and not worry about what I wrote. I was to write whatever entered my mind onto paper. This request sent me into a tailspin of excuses. I can’t, my journal is full. To write with my left hand would be sinister. The pen store is out of pens. I went on and on.
When I finally committed to this drudgery, my eyes were opened or better yet my mind. What I learned from this exercise is that when I wrote with my dominant hand my tendency was to get caught up in self-judgment and criticism of my grammar, handwriting, and words. However, when I wrote with my left hand all that went away. My mind felt clear and quiet and this was before I started the exercise! Only my thoughts remained. What happened next was profound; the worry left with the ink. My hand couldn’t keep up, but that wasn’t important, as it wasn’t legible anyway! I let it all go. I could hear my breath, the space around me and found myself unconsciously being present. The “sound” from my citta (incessant monkey brain thoughts), was deafening, it drowned out the world around me and kept me from hearing my true self. I leave you with this, the fertility journey is tough enough and it might leave you felling depleted and out of control. I challenge you to take five minuets today (not tomorrow), set excuses aside, and chicken scratch onto paper (or that napkin below your coffee) whatever’s on your mind, whatever is troubling you.
There is no right or wrong here. Just imagine who you would you be without your citta.
Let us help you calm your mind and reduce your anxiety by 20% or more in just six weeks with our Yoga for Fertility series ! Available in Chicago on Tuesdays at 5:30pm and Saturdays at 8:30am along with Highland Park on Mondays at 5:45pm. Pair it with Acupuncture, Nutrition, or Fertility Enhancing Massage this month and save with You Pick Two for $199 . We also have special FREE events this month to take care during National Infertility Awareness . Call us to learn more at: 312-321-0004.
Our bodies are hard-wired to react to stress. Back in the day, face to face with a sabre-tooth tiger, our stress response provided a huge survival edge. We were able to fight, or flee, or even freeze until the danger passed. Once safe (or eaten) the stress response could subside and our we could get on with things.
The nature of our stressors, however, has evolved. Now instead of cave bears, we’re carrying smartphones. We have social media to remind us constantly where we’re measuring up, and where we’re falling behind. Our fertility journey creates a series of painful unknowns, worst- and best-case scenarios to our minds that shake us to our core. And to make matters worse, we know that stress isn’t healthy – it’s harder to sleep, have sex, eat healthy and exercise when we’re living in fight/flight/freeze mode.
Enter mindfulness. We know that taking a deep breath or stretching tense muscles can provide relief when we’re stressed and anxious. Mindfulness is a practice: a series of techniques designed to short-circuit our instinctual response to stress. We learn – through body awareness, breathing and simple meditation techniques – to pay attention to what is happening in the moment and respond skillfully rather than reactively. When we short-circuit, our stress response good things happen. On a hormonal level, our body can enjoy the benefits of stress’s alter-ego, the relaxation response – better sleep, improved blood flow to our internal organs, improved digestion, less anxiety symptoms. Emotionally, mindfulness creates space for insight, or choice, as we respond differently to stressful situations.
And, mindfulness is more than meditation. At the Moon, we work with a model that teaches simple practices to connect with five “access points” for mindfulness: body, breath, thoughts, awareness and flow. Using these points of practice, mindfulness can infuse daily life.
If you’re interested in learning more, come join us for our Online Mindfulness program . Available as a drop-in or series, this class will lead you through this five-point system and help you develop a personal mindfulness practice that will help heal your body and mind, and create a resilience in the face of stress.