Fertility yoga 101 – expert pointers and poses for when you’re TTC

Emma Harpham and Sarah Manning  |   26 Oct 2023

Whether you’re already a bit of a yogi or you’re feeling like you’ve exhausted your options when trying to conceive (TTC) and are looking to try something new – we’ve heard that yoga is a fantastic tool for holistic fertility support. But how does fertility yoga work? And what should we know before we get on our mats?

An instructor’s introduction to fertility yoga

When you’re on the journey to conception, it’s natural to want to do everything possible to prepare and support your body – as well as just get some reassurance.

The best support comes from seasoned experts who truly understand the nuances of your journey. That’s why we’ve connected with certified yoga instructor Sarah Manning. 

Sarah has over 28 years of experience teaching yoga and working with women. From menstruation and fertility to menopause, she’s an expert in supporting female health through the power of yoga.

In collaboration with Thrive, an online Fertility Wellness program that seamlessly brings yoga, Ayurvedic nutrition, and relaxation techniques together with a clinically tested approach to preconception planning, Sarah has crafted a collection of nurturing qigong fertility yoga courses. Pronounced “chee-gong”, this type of yoga is uniquely powerful for fertility, due to its combination of physical movement, yoga poses and ancient qigong breathing techniques. 

In this 101, Sarah will cover off: 

  • What to know before you get on the mat 
  • Key things that might be impacting your fertility journey, and how fertility yoga can help support them
  • Easy fertility yoga poses for when you’re ready to get started

Any of this resonate? Hop over to Thrive to book a yoga class, and sign up to their virtual health hub, here to help you thrive physically, emotionally and mentally through your journey to conception.

Over to Sarah.

Is it safe to do yoga while trying to conceive?

First things first, when it comes to practising yoga while trying to conceive, so much of it depends on you, your body and what you feel comfortable with.

Specifically, qigong fertility yoga is all about optimising for fertility and creating a really gentle, supportive and tailored practice that puts you, your cycle and your hormones first. 

So if you are healthy and fit, yoga is totally safe. And no, you don’t need to be super flexible or have lots of yoga experience to give it a try. Fertility yoga is for everyone, and everyone can benefit from it.

What are the benefits of fertility yoga?

It reduces stagnation in the body

Most of us spend a significant amount of our time in a sedentary position, which can lead to a state of bodily stagnation. In fact, we’re sitting for years and years, for almost all of our lives – from the moment we start school, all the way through college and the workplace. 

Our physical bodies weren’t designed for this, and this significant stagnation can have seriously detrimental effects on crucial components within our bodies, including: 

  • Blood circulation
  • Lymphatic flow
  • The flow of qi (vital energy)

When these vital systems remain completely stagnant, it can impact several aspects related to fertility. 

Firstly, the free flow of lymph (which contains highly concentrated detoxifying white blood cells) to the ovaries and uterus may become compromised, leading to a build-up of toxins and potentially hindering their optimal function. Plus, the free flow of blood to the uterus itself can be impeded, which may contribute to issues like endometriosis, fibroids, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Also, according to ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine which views the body as a whole, stagnation of our qi, which is believed to flow throughout our body and organs, can cause imbalance and illness. More specifically, qi stagnation in the Liver, Spleen and Kidney meridians is thought to cause fertility problems – impacting ovulation, menstruation and progesterone production. 

Qigong fertility yoga is unique in giving us effective ways to counteract this bodily stagnation. Specific yoga poses that involve opening, compressing, and twisting, paired with qigong breathing, can serve as powerful tools for release. 

By engaging in these poses, we not only encourage unimpeded movement of qi, but also improve blood flow, which brings oxygen and building blocks for cell rejuvenation. We also facilitate lymphatic flow, which aids in the removal of dead cells and toxins from our bodies. 

It can improve hormone balance

We’ve got about fifty different hormones constantly circulating in the bloodstream, and as you’ll know, many of them are key players in supporting fertility. 

The optimum balance of these hormones for health and fertility is impacted in large part by our lifestyles – from our busy lives to our current stress load, to the toxins we interact with and the quality of our food intake. 

For example, the precursor for progesterone (which can impact fertility factors like ovulation and thickening of womb lining, plus the risk of miscarriage and endometrial cancer) is also the precursor for cortisol. So, if we’re constantly making stress hormones, our bodies might struggle to make sufficient progesterone, which can then impact conception. 

Some of the symptoms of low progesterone include variable menstrual cycle length, spotting between periods and low libido. Check out our lowdown on progesterone and tracking for fertility success here.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a key element of qigong fertility yoga and is one of the best ways to bring your hormones back into balance – by tackling these hormonal stressors head-on. 

It can help nurture your mental health 

Getting adequate emotional support is undeniably crucial when embarking on the journey of trying to conceive, which, as many of us already know, can be an emotional rollercoaster at the best of times.

Yoga, as a holistic practice, delves deeply into nurturing the emotional aspect of our well-being. It offers valuable tools for calming the sympathetic nervous system, which plays a pivotal role in our body’s stress response. 

Qigong fertility yoga facilitates a sense of serenity within the mind, acting as a key to unlocking a state of being grounded and relaxed. This, in turn, serves as an effective method for managing stress and navigating the challenging emotions a fertility journey can bring.

It’s an essential escape from our frantic and goal-oriented modern lifestyles

Yoga can also play a role in restoring balance to our lives as we navigate the path to conception. 

Fertility yoga uses many of the principles of Restorative and Yin yoga – both rooted in the ancient Taoist principles of Yin and Yang, where Yin represents calm, passivity, and stillness, while Yang embodies activity, excitement, and upward movement.

Your health is also determined by balancing Yin and Yang, ensuring the different energy flows in the body are neither depleted nor in excess.

In focusing primarily on the “Yin” aspect, we enhance blood flow and promote a sense of tranquillity. This practice encourages us to embrace stillness, in stark contrast to the often frantic pace of our busy lives. 

Granting ourselves the permission to pause in this way, both physically and mentally, is a key component for navigating a fertility journey.

3 easy qigong fertility yoga poses

1. Sitting forward fold

This pose compresses the belly and helps to relieve stagnation. When we release this pose, body fluids, blood and lymph flood back in. The back body (from your neck to heels) is stretched, and you’ll get direct stimulus to all the organs in the belly and pelvis – including your ovaries and womb.

Sit on your mat with your legs straight out in front. Sit up tall first, and gently fold over. Don’t worry about touching your toes!

As you hold this pose, breathe naturally in through the nose, then exhale through pursed lips as slowly, softly and smoothly as you can. This is called Soft Chui – the Water breath, and brings a cooling descending energy.

Fertility yoga pachimottanasana

2. Bridge pose

This pose opens the groin, hips, belly and pelvis – and frees the diaphragm. It provides direct stimulus to all the organs of the belly and pelvis, including the ovaries and womb.

Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Push into your feet and lift the belly as high as you can. If you’re working with any neck and shoulder injuries though, you might want to give this one a miss. 

As you hold this pose, notice your breath and the resulting soft movement of the belly.  This is called Diaphragmatic breathing, and it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.

Fertility yoga bridge

3. Mountain brook pose

This one is really restorative and low-impact. It opens the chest and diaphragm to let you breathe more deeply.

Lie on your back, with pillows or blankets under your upper torso and your knees for some soft support. Get comfy, and allow the tip of the tongue to come to the upper palate, jaw soft, breathing in and out through the nose. 

This is called Fu breathing – the Metal breath – with an inward and condensing energy.

Fertility yoga babbling brook

Feeling ready to get started, with an expert instructor to hold your hand? Book a qigong fertility yoga class with Sarah through Thrive, and sign up to their virtual health hub for more holistic support, tailored to your fertility journey.

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