Type ‘fertility-boosting yoga’ into Google and you’ll get ‘the 10 best asanas to boost fertility’ 10 times over. But can yoga really help you to get pregnant? The physical practice certainly includes poses that boost blood flow to the parts that need it if you’re trying to conceive—like the reproductive organs and the thyroid (to regulate hormones)—but simply holding trikonasana for 20 minutes isn’t going to cut it.
In fact, no single asana will do the trick, says yoga instructor and menstruality mentor Mandy Adams. It’s actually how you move through all the asanas since the kind of yoga practice that will really help you to get pregnant is more than just physical.
The Effect of Stress on a Woman’s Fertility
Packed schedules and permanent busyness take their toll on the reproductive system, says Mandy, “Yoga is all about the union of the mind and body, which most people know, but it’s also about the union of your masculine and feminine energies. Women need to come home to their feminine nature rather than always being stuck in the masculine energy of striving and doing.”
In other words, we need to slow down and de-stress.
While the medical jury is still out on the impact of stressful lifestyles on delayed conception, studies have shown that women who seek psychological support while trying to conceive experience significantly higher pregnancy rates as a result. But if you introduce yoga into the equation, this kind of support might not be necessary—especially if it’s Womb Yoga—a term for yoga that emphasizes reconnecting with the wisdom of cycles throughout the whole of a woman’s life—which Mandy incorporates into her teachings.
“Womb yoga basically means cunt power, and it’s so much more than an exercise class to stretch the muscles. It’s a practice that empowers instructors to include a vital part of the female anatomy into their classes—it’s not often we encourage women to include their bodies in this way, and to consider their cyclical nature.”
Yoga for the Womb: Celebrating the Female Body
There’s a massive disconnect between femininity and identity, says Mandy. “Yet we’re supposed to come to pregnancy and childbirth with an instinctive knowing, as if we can become mothers through intuition alone.” It doesn’t help that western culture encourages women not to talk about what goes on ‘down there’, which helps to explain why so many of us hold an array of negative or dark emotions in or around the womb.
“Women who’ve had miscarriages or abortions, or even those who’ve never had children, are confronted with grief, shame, anger, and fear when they focus on their pelvis,” Mandy continues. “It’s therefore necessary to stay with whatever comes up and welcome these unprocessed emotions that may be blocking your fertility.”
Womb Yoga begins by bringing awareness to the pelvic bowl, asking you to focus on your three openings—the anus, urethra, and vagina—and to become aware of your clitoris, vaginal walls and sphincter muscles, noticing what you’re feeling ‘down there’.
“I wish I’d been taught this when I first trained,” says Mandy. “If you begin your practice this way, you also begin the process of reconnecting the neural pathways with the birthing muscles.” So, it familiarizes you with the anatomy of motherhood.
Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle With Yoga
Yoga has to make sense for your body in order for it to have a positive impact, says Mandy. “A lot of your attention will be in your head, even when you’re in a yoga class. So, if you can, try to move through your practice mindfully with inquiry. This isn’t about forcing your body into poses or mastering them or getting anywhere. It’s just about being in your body.”
Ask yourself what stands in the way of your fertility and what that means to you. “Yoga isn’t always about boosting fertility but removing the blocks to the fertility that’s already there.” As contentious as this may sound to those struggling to conceive, Mandy believes our womb and our cyclical nature are our connection to every aspect of life.
“Your body is patiently teaching you something every month, and it’s mostly teaching you to slow down, listen to your needs, and rest. I encourage you to watch what comes up during your pre-menstrual phase and don’t turn away from it. You have to meet the anger before you can meet the joy.”
Build a Support System Through Your Yoga Practice
Find an instructor that teaches a feminine-based practice. You’ll also connect with a community, which is even more important, says Mandy. “We need a safe space where we don’t feel alone in our experiences of pregnancy, miscarriage and so on. The idea that we’re isolated can contribute to feelings of anxiety and despair (which block fertility) or the sense that something is wrong with us if it takes a long time to conceive.” Nothing, however, is wrong with you. Your journey towards motherhood will be unique, but it will never be abnormal.