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  • How Stage IV Endometriosis forced me to find my voice

    My first period came in January 1998. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in eighth grade and I remember saying the cruelest thing I have EVER said to my Mom. I cursed her for making me be born a girl. I still to this day feel awful for those words having left my mouth, as my Mom is the most amazing mother in the world. 

    In high school and college, I would pass out from the debilitating pain and friends, roommates, and loved ones many times would find me in the fetal position just trying to breathe through the pain. What I learned from an early age from classmates, girlfriends, and women in my life is that we as women experience painful periods and it’s just part of being a woman. We (women) all experience this excruciating pain. 

    I went on for the next 20 years thinking it was completely normal to feel stabbing pain for 2-4 days every 28 days. I learned quickly that heating pads and Ibuprofen were my best friend. I always felt that this pain was not normal, but nobody outside of my Mom truly understood and believed me. It was in college where I first learned about Endometriosis and thought, hey I think this is what this pain is all about. 

    From 2007-2018, I saw nine doctors. Most of the doctors I saw, all said similar things, “We’re women, we’re used to dealing with pain. Every woman has painful periods.” Unfortunately, there were only two doctors who truly listened and believed me when I said I think I have Endometriosis. I felt defeated and crazy. I thought all these doctors are telling me this is normal that I feel like I am being stabbed in my uterus each month. I must be making this pain up. I was just surviving month-to-month and most definitely not thriving. As women we have an incredible gift of intuition, so trust that, trust that you know your body better than anyone else. Don’t be afraid to speak up!

    My husband and I began our fertility journey 6 years ago. We tried naturally for 1½ years with no success. After 4 failed IUIs, 4 failed IVF transfers, and 3 miscarriages, I asked my doctor for more answers. She suggested two things: first was to do the Yoga for Fertility program with Beth Heller at Pulling Down the Moon. This was the first time I had been shown how to tune in and listen to my body in a supportive female community. I had never been so seen and loved within the fertility community. I have friends for life from that Yoga for Fertility program.

    Second, my doctor suggested I see an Endometriosis specialist. I had excision surgery in November 2018. My surgery should have taken a max of 1-2 hours, instead I woke up 6 hours later to hearing news from my husband. My husband said “I have good and bad news, which would you like to hear first?” I said, “I want the good news first”. He said, “you were right, you have stage IV Endometriosis and bad news it was so extensive they removed your left fallopian tube.” Even though this news was the worst case scenario with Endometriosis, it was a blessing in disguise. 

    Hearing I was right and in fact did have Endometriosis, was the best news I had received in 20 years. I had finally felt heard, seen, and my opinions were valued. This new information changed everything for me and my fertility doctors. My doctors could now move forward with adjusting my fertility medications and procedure process based on my Endometriosis diagnosis. 

    I know many would be angry having a body that made you feel debilitating pain every 28 days. However, I am incredibly grateful for my Endometriosis journey because it has forced me to find my voice and learn how to advocate for myself and my body. I have also been able to share this information with my nutritionist who can better assist me. It takes practice and time in silence to tune in with our bodies and listen to what it needs and craves. Remember, you are the ONLY one who knows your body inside and out and no one else will advocate as fiercely for you or your body the way that YOU can.

    About the author: Kasia has been a part of the PDTM community since March 2016. She has been trying to conceive for 6+ years, has had 5 failed IUIs, 7 failed IVF transfers, experienced 4 miscarriages, and has Stage IV Endometriosis. She is in the midst of her last and final IVF retrieval and transfer AND beginning her adoption and possible surrogacy journey. She is thriving as a Fertility Coach by empowering, supporting, and inspiring women on their fertility journeys. You can find her blog and contact information over at www.CoachingwithKasia.com

    Learn how Pulling Down the Moon can provide community and support on your journey!  Check our calendar for events today!

    Photograph by Anna Stidham

    Kasia S. McGuire

    Fertility Coach

    www.CoachingwithKasia.com

    Instagram: @KasiaSMcGuire

    Mobile: (773) 844-2117

    Email: CoachingwithKasia@gmail.com

  • Yoga for Holiday Stress

    by Christina Thompson Olson RYT RPYT

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? But if the onslaught of holiday parties, shopping, and family gatherings has you feeling a bit stressed out, you’re not alone. How many more times is Aunt Ginny going to ask when you’ll be having a baby? Before you snap or find yourself making up stories to distract from your fertility situation, try these simple yoga techniques to stay grounded and let all that chatter melt away.

    Get into your breath

    Before reacting to someone or something, check in with your breathing and see if you can allow it to slow down. Try Samavritti pranayama, or equal breath to help calm your mind and relax your body. Start by bringing your attention to the tip of your nose, inhaling and exhaling through your nose if comfortable. Notice the length of your inhale and exhale, and work towards equal breathing by silently counting to four on your inhale and exhale: “In-2-3-4, Out-2-3-4”. Let your breath move deeply through your abdomen, expanding your diaphragm as you inhale and gently drawing in as you exhale, working towards twelve rounds of breath.

    Gently move your body

    Try some easy yoga poses to relieve stress, even if you’re in the restroom at a holiday party! One of my favorite moves to ease tension in the mind and body is the forward fold, which can be done in a variety of ways. Try a halfway forward fold or L-shape, walking your hands down a wall (or on a countertop) as you take your feet hip-width distance and create an L-shape with your body. Take 4-5 deep breaths to relax your shoulders, lengthen your spine, and send your sitting bones back evenly behind you. Then take your feet wider and find a dynamic squat-forward fold by bending your knees as you exhale and returning to the forward fold with an inhale for another five rounds of breath. 

    From this wide leg forward fold, with hands either supported by a wall or on blocks, take a gentle open twist by bringing your left hand under your face and lifting your right hand up towards the sky, or to your right hip. Breathe deeply for several rounds of breath to gently massage your digestive organs in this twist, and then repeat on your left side. Take one more symmetrical forward fold of your choice, coming up slowly when you’re finished, and hopefully you’ll return to your holiday season feeling a bit more at ease in your body.

    Beat the Winter Blues in the New Year with a FREE Yoga for Fertility Community Class (with me!) in Chicago or in Highland Park with Cassie on January 11th at noon!

    Did you know Yoga for Fertility can reduce anxiety by 20% or more in just six weeks? Join my next series in the New Year to support your journey starting on Saturday, January 25th at noon!

  • Awaken your Yoga Practice this Spring

    by Alison Lautz RYT

    Is it over! Winter? Have we made it out of the trenches or is it going to snow again in May? One will never know in this city! Flowers and vegetation will start to grow (we hope), the birds MAY sing, and Chicagoans will start to strip off their boots and puffy coats. Spring is in the air! Now how can we bring spring and a new vibe into our yoga practice? I love spring…. it signifies a time of letting go of our old tired way to make room for the new and another chance to re-start, like a second chance on new year’s resolutions or intentions that we made four months ago.  The spring energy is all around us, and these four tips will help you awaken the spirit of spring in your yoga practice.

    Awaken new vibrations

    Spring is full of spiritual energy and more energy vibrations than any other season. This may be because the earth is working to shed the drab of winter and cultivate a more lively state of being. You may find that this is contagious, like when you see a coworker putting some colors into their outfit, you may want to do the same. Open up your energy to the season by having an open mind to any positive changes or the opportunity to try something new outside of your comfort zone.  Try Journaling for the Journey!

    Practice outside

    Let’s celebrate the fact that we can roll our mats outside of the four walls that we spend most of our days within. It does not matter if it’s in your backyard, on a roof deck, or on a small balcony in a city high rise. Any of these options presents a great chance to connect to nature. Breathe in the fresh air and celebrate the ability to get out of the house. My favorite pose to do outside is Vrkasana (Tree Pose). I truly feel how rooted I am to the earth in this pose from my feet to the crown of my head. Learn more about how to use your breath to reduce stress with this FREE Prana webinar!

    Detox your gut

    April and May are the perfect time for some big spring cleaning. Most of us hold our old habits, negative emotions, and holiday/winter vacation indulgences in our gut. Try some twists in your yoga practice. Change your diet around a little bit. Drink more water with lemon, try some kombucha…and as always EAT MORE GREENS.

    Be playful

    During spring, joy and fun are all around as new life begins. Watch the birds above or lay with your dog or cat in the grass! New life inspires a sense of playfulness that we can embrace in yoga practice as well. Embody playfulness in your practice by going for poses you normally skip and try some laughing instead of cringing whenever you fall out of a pose. Take everything even the TTC journey a little less seriously because we will all get through this. Come check out Yoga for Fertility at Pulling Down the Moon to work on some serious spring awakening. Meet new friends and a whole community of other women working on conceiving! Join the next Yoga for Fertility series on Wednesday, April 24th at 7pm or online starting on Monday, April 29th at 6pm! During National Infertility Awareness in April, try Yoga for Fertility and get 50% off!

  • How PDtM’s Online YFF Works

    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!

     

  • Start Fertility Yoga Now and Shift Your Season

    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!

    Register for the Chicago series! or register for the Highland Park series!

    **Start this season with the with one of our Summer Passports and save 20% off our new Chicago and Highland Park in-center sessions!