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 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.
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!
I recently attended a presentation where the speaker said that “infertility treatments are a full-time job”. She went on to elaborate about the doctors appointments, injections, daily lab draws, ultrasounds, testing, and then with integrated holistic care you may also have acupuncture, massage, and nutritional therapy on top of that. You may feel overwhelmed and over-scheduled thinking, “How can I possibly add another thing–and is it really worth it?”
Whether you have struggled with infertility and loss to get here or found us after getting your positive test, attending a prenatal yoga class can seem like a luxury. Below I will outline 5 ways prenatal yoga can benefit your pregnancy, as well as birth, and outline what you may expect from a class at PDtM.
1. A sense of community.
Outside of your care providers office, and maybe a childbirth education class there isn’t a lot of opportunities to meet a room full of pregnant women who are pregnant at the same time. With ObGYN care protocols and products changing so quickly it can feel comforting to be around other women who are pregnant at the same time. Being with other parents who have experienced loss or struggled with fertility concerns can help with what can sometimes be a lonely path feel not so isolating.
2. Ease physical discomforts of pregnancy.
Between gaining 15-45 pounds in nine months, your organs being displaced by a rapidly growing uterus, your pelvis widening and expanding, and cartilage in your body softening ( just to name a few pregnancy changes) you are bound to feel some physical discomforts. Prenatal yoga is a gentle and safe way to ease discomfort, and learn strategies that can make your pregnancy more comfortable. Prenatal yoga has been shown to help nausea, decrease pelvic and low back pain, help ease carpal tunnel, headaches, and shortness of breath.
3. Build the connection to baby.
Women who have experienced a pregnancy loss, or used fertility treatment often report difficulty feeling connected to the pregnancy/baby. With guided meditation practices, and visualization parents can feel more connected to the baby, and the pregnancy.
4. Improve sleep
Disruptions in sleep affect every parent to be at some point in the pregnancy. Finding ways to relax, self soothe, and calm down can help. The Mayo clinic even cites improvement in sleep as one of the benefits to prenatal yoga.
5. Prepare for birth
Regardless of your birth choices prenatal yoga can prepare you to labor more comfortably, push more effectively, and recover more easily, and quickly. The breathing techniques, and upright positions can help if you are desiring an unmedicated birth. The strengthening and pelivic floor poses can be beneficial for both a surgical or vaginal birth.
Regardless of why you are choosing to attend a prenatal yoga class, odds are you will likely leave feeling physically, and mentally better. Please join us for the next drop-in class on Wednesday, May 16th at 6pm and/or the next session of the Prenatal Yoga Series beginning on Saturday, May 19th at 10:30am in Chicago . Questions? Let us help at: 312-321-0004.
Fifteen years ago, Tami and I offered our first, six-week Yoga for Fertility class in Wilmette, a suburb of Chicago. Much to our surprise, we had a large and eager group of students show up for class. It was a surprise, because yoga was just hitting the general consciousness and, while were both experienced teachers, we really didn’t know whether anyone besides us would see the benefits of this practice for enhancing odds of conception. I had recently used yoga to jump start periods that had been absent for the previous four years, and Tami’s journey raising fertility twins led her to yoga. But it’s not always easy to translate personal success into an effective group experience.
That first class? TBH, it was meh.
Yes, meh. The class format, which included a brief period of group chat followed by a fertility-friendly posture practice, kept students’ attention and approached what we were seeking to create. But while everyone walked away happy and relaxed, from Tami and my perspective it was missing something.
So, we got back to work.
We both had a clear vision of the practice we wanted to teach. More than a “doing practice,” our program would be a (to use a really geeky term) capacity-building practice , meaning a process of learning and developing skills, instincts and abilities from yoga and building the confidence to apply them outside of yoga class to the infertility journey and beyond.
The program we developed over the next 15 years is just that – a “deep dive” into yoga philosophy and practice in a condensed period of time. Through the use of our five-body model, discussion, and specific physical and mental practices, we do way more than open tight hips and improve blood flow over the course of six weeks. We reignite hope and open windows where doors have slammed. Each week we go a bit deeper, and we have fun doing so. The physical practice is challenging at times because we don’t rush, we breathe deep and we rein in our collective desire to keep running on the treadmill of infertility stress.
Fifteen years later our class, which we teach both in-person and online, has lived up to our goal. In two separate research studies, we have seen how this class impacts the toxic anxiety of the infertility journey in two distinct ways. The first is what we would have predicted – that this six week yoga program lowered the immediate feelings of anxiety in women experiencing infertility. The second is what we were hoping for – a significant decrease in what is called Trait Anxiety, or how anxious a person believes themselves to be at their core.
Some gals shy away from Yoga for Fertility because they are uncomfortable with the discussion element, others feel their weekly hot or power yoga classes are getting them to the same place. We hope that some of you will reconsider these beliefs and give our class a try. Research shows it can lower anxiety by 20% over six weeks, and make measurable changes on a deeper level of self-awareness.
Still not sure it would work for you? There’s only one way to find out. Join us to learn how our yoga practice can shift the flow of your life towards creating the life you want to live.
There’s really no better time to start yoga than fall 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, almost 17 years ago. 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!
Four Surprising Reasons Yoga Is Great for Fertility
At Pulling Down the Moon, we have offered our six-week Yoga for Fertility class form nearly 15 years and can speak with experience that yoga is simply great for you when you are trying to conceive. Read on to learn why:
Yoga balances the nervous system. Unlike intense, high impact cardiovascular exercise, which causes the body to move into “flight mode,” yoga uses deep breathing, mindful movement and unique stretches to stimulate the body’s relaxation response. Note: This does not mean that cardiovascular exercise is bad for fertility; simply that adding a gentle, hatha yoga practice is good. Moderate, low-impact cardiovascular exercise can help relieve stress and does form part of a balanced fertility fitness program. Equally, super-intense, heated power-style yoga classes can be as strenuous as a tempo run and eliminates many of the greatest benefits of yoga for fertility.
2. Yoga massages and stimulates your 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. Note: While the idea of a “cold uterus” is not well accepted in western medicine it forms the basis of many traditional medicine fertility diagnoses. In a recent study, researchers noted a significantly lower abdominal temperature in infertile vs. fertile women and hypothesized the difference may be due to poor blood perfusion of the core muscles and tissues (1). Whether this is established science or not, it makes sense that increasing blood flow to the uterus and ovaries is a good thing for fertility and pregnancy.
3. Yoga trains your “letting go muscles.” Researchers have found that a “letting go” coping mechanism for stress was related to better IVF outcomes (2). Again, while researchers debate the details, women in the think of their fertility need to manage stress and anxiety in the here and now. Holding a challenging standing pose while staying calm is rehearsal for staying calm in stressful life situations . Note: Our previous research with Fertility Centers of Illinois found that women who took our six week Yoga for Fertility class experienced a 20% decrease in anxiety vs. controls (3).
4. Yoga creates “sangha,” the yoga word for a like-minded and supportive community. Everyone on the fertility journey needs a positive environment and some place they can go to feel safe and understood. Struggling to conceive can turn a woman’s social network upside down. Girlfriends are all on the mommy-track, family get-togethers turn into minefields, and ordinary interactions can become excruciatingly painful. A yoga for fertility class creates a safe haven – and most women don’t realize how much they needed one until they join a class and experience it. Note: Our students form lasting friendships that stretch into parenthood. There’s a perception when going through fertility treatment that the world is passing you by, that relationships that mean a great deal to you are being damaged, and that you are somehow being punished. All this is situational, but deeply painful. Meeting other amazing women in the same place helps to heal these feelings and put challenges into perspective.
Relaxation and stress reduction are very important when it comes to one’s fertility journey. With all of the anticipation and constant wondering, the conception process can be trying. At Pulling Down the Moon’s we are very aware of what women go through at this time, which is why we offer a Yoga for Fertility class that is sure to provide participants with a calming environment.
Recently, Pulling Down the Moon’s six-week Yoga for Fertility session was featured in the New York Times. This article highlighted the benefits of yoga on the mind and body, as well as the support women receive throughout these classes. Although it is essential to lessen the anxiety that can come with trying to conceive, it is just as important to provide women with encouragement and positive energy during a challenging time.
So, I’m sure you are wondering how yoga can benefit you on your voyage to pregnancy?
Increases blood flow
Strengthens the immune system
May support ovarian function
Studies have shown that a mind/body program that includes yoga may increase odds of IVF success rates
Provides support and relaxation
Our very own yoga teacher Keri Hammel, turned to yoga with us during her own difficult fertility journey. It was helpful for Keri to be able to connect and share her story with the women in her class. She was so drawn to yoga, that she began teaching classes for women in her same predicament. Soon after, she was pregnant and birthed a healthy baby girl.
Keri will now be teaching Pulling Down the Moon’s $210 six-week Yoga for Fertility session starting June 10, 2014 from 8:00-9:30 pm. This session will be held at Opus Yoga in Gaithersburg, MD. If you are interested in registering for this session, visit PullingDownTheMoon.com, or give us a call at (301) 610-7755. We would love to see you become a part of the Pulling Down the Moon community!