In this fertility blog we will be hearing from Founder of Fertile Hope Yoga Erin McCollough on the benefits of yoga when it comes to fertility and trying to conceive. She will be delving into the importance of a mind and body connection that yoga can create, as well as yoga’s ability to boost your physical, mental and emotional health.
Words by Erin
For most people, the mention of yoga conjures up images of flexible yogis bending themselves into pretzel-like poses. Even for those who have a more realistic sense of yoga – perhaps those who have an at home practice or those with a studio membership – yoga is still often thought of as time spent on the mat. There is no doubt that Asanas (Yoga Poses) are an essential part of yoga but there is also so much more.
When I created Fertile Hope Yoga I knew that I wanted to gather together all the benefits of yoga, both on and off the mat. Drawing from my 20+ years of experience in the healing arts and 10+ years of working with women in a fertility clinic setting, I wanted to offer those struggling with trying to conceive the full package of everything that yoga has to offer. I knew from my personal experience and also from the thousands of women that I’ve accompanied on the journey, that when the principles of yoga are practiced both on and off the mat, there is so much potential for healing, growth and transformation. I have witnessed first-hand the power of the mind-body connection when it comes to fertility and how a mind-body program such as the one I offer at Fertile Hope Yoga not only boosts your physical, mental, and emotional health but also increases your chances of a happy, healthy pregnancy.
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You don’t just have to take my word for it! Harvard researcher, Ali Domar Ph.D. demonstrated that 55% of infertility patients who participated in her mind-body program for a 10 week period (which included yoga and meditation) conceived, compared to 20% in the control group when tested over a year. This means that women increased their chances of pregnancy by 175% or were 3 times as likely to get pregnant! In another one of her studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association, Domar showed that 42% of 132 infertility women who participated in a mind-body program conceived within six months of completing the program. Not only that, but the more depressed a woman was before the program started, the more likely she was to get pregnant after participating in the program.
So, what is a mind-body approach to fertility and infertility? The mind-body connection pays attention to how our physiology, psychology and even spirituality are integrally connected, each influencing one another. Our mental processes directly affect what’s happening in our body and our physical processes directly affect what’s happening in our thoughts and feelings.
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When it comes to trying to conceive, it’s not just about what’s happening in our body at a physiological level that’s important. Our thoughts, feelings and beliefs are also important because they have a direct effect on our physiology. In one study, 112 women who were visiting their fertility clinic for a new course of treatment were given a psychiatric interview. Of these 112 patients, 40% had anxiety or depression (Chen et al, 2004). Women with female factor infertility who had increased depressive symptoms on day three of their IVF cycle experienced significantly lower pregnancy rates than did women who were not depressed.
Anxiety and depression are incredibly common among couples who are struggling to conceive. A long fertility journey is often riddled with grief and disappointment. Women who join my program often do so when they’ve reached their lowest point or hit a roadblock. They are looking for anything that can help them to regain hope and boost their chances at conceiving. The good news is that once they begin to understand the mind-body connection they start to make changes so that it can work for them rather than against them. Fertile Hope Yoga is an entirely online mind-body program for fertility that has been proven to help women achieve their dreams of becoming a mom because it’s holistic approach to yoga addresses both aspects of the mind-body connection.
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So, what does fertility yoga on and off the mat actually look like? It looks like women who’ve “been there” coming together to support one another. Community is a crucial but missing piece in many people’s fertility journey. I am proud that the Fertile Hope Yoga community is committed to being a safe and positive space, through building each other up, reminding one another of the importance of self-care, and encouraging each other to keep going. I hear from participants time and time again that even though they may have been hesitant to join at the beginning, they can’t imagine how they ever could have navigated their fertility journey without this sisterhood of support.
As a community we’re focused on cultivating a more positive mindset. While everyone has hard days, we encourage one another to focus on our fertility goals and what we want to have happen, which sends important positive messages to our body. If we keep focusing on what we don’t want to have happen or have negative thoughts swirling in our heads, we may be inadvertently sending the message to our bodies not to get pregnant. Practicing meditation, gratitude, and affirmations while challenging our negative beliefs are some of those off the mat yoga practices that are often overlooked but are powerful game changers.
Finally there are the asanas, the beginner-friendly, on the mat yoga poses that I’ve specifically curated to support women who are trying to conceive, whether that be naturally or with the help of fertility treatment. The cycle-specific yoga videos allow anyone to practice at any time from the comfort of their own home. The poses support the body by increasing blood flow and decreasing inflammation, and they work to calm the mind and decrease stress, among many other benefits.
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Both on the mat poses, and off the mat mind-set practices, are yoga. I believe it is the powerful connection between the two that has resulted in 90% of Fertile Hope Yoga participants over the last 10 years graduating from the program with their hope renewed and their miracle baby on the way! Learn more on our website here, and while you’re there, take advantage of our free 14-day fertility yoga trial, to get started with one yoga practice beyond the mat!