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March 11

Yoga for Fertility 101

By Erin McCollough 

If you are looking for ways to improve your fertility and pregnancy outcomes while trying to conceive, yoga may be something for you. Yoga originates from ancient India and is a practice that brings mind and body together. In fact, the word yoga is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word “yuji,” meaning yoke or union.

While the practice of yoga is ancient, modern science has begun to recognize and validate much of its supposed benefits over the past few decades. Due to its myriad of benefits, yoga caught the eye of reproductive specialists and has been looked at closely for its potential to improve fertility in men and women.

In this article, we will explore the specific benefits of incorporating yoga into your fertility treatment plan, research that explores how yoga may work to improve fertility, fertility-specific yoga poses, things to keep in mind whether you’re trying naturally or pursuing IUI or IVF treatments, as well as some additional resources and where to find a fertility specific yoga instructor.

Is Yoga Good for Fertility?

Yes!

One study shows that women with infertility who engage in stress reduction and lifestyle-enhancing practices experience significantly higher pregnancy rates than women who do not learn such skills. In this study, those who participated in the mind-body yoga for fertility intervention had a success rate of 52% compared to only 20% for the control group.

How exactly could yoga improve success rates so much?

How Yoga Improves Fertility

It is believed that Yoga exerts its fertility-enhancing powers through a number of key mechanisms:

  • Stress Reduction
  • Anxiety Relief
  • Hormone Balancing
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved Bloodflow (aka nutrient deliver) to Reproductive Organs
  • Community

Stress Reduction

It’s well known that stress negatively affects fertility, but stress is almost inevitable when suffering from infertility.

Fortunately, yoga is an excellent stress reliever and has been shown to decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone.

In fact, one study shows that after only 3 months women had significantly lower levels of cortisol and experienced lower levels of anxiety, stress, fatigue, and depression.

Another study of over 100 people had similar results with only 10 weeks of practice.

Why’s yoga so great at reducing stress? Simple. The breathing, mindfulness techniques, and physical postures that are part of yoga help to keep you grounded and calm and results in changes in brain wave activity and cortisol secretion.

Because stress reduces conception probabilities across the fertile window during natural conception and fertility treatments, an activity like yoga that specifically targets stress is a great way to improve natural fertility and treatment outcomes.

Balances Hormones

As we just learned, yoga helps elicit changes in brain waves and cortisol secretions. This in turn helps to relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety. While this has its own benefits, it also causes a cascade of other biological events like balancing reproductive hormones.

Hormones, as you likely know, are chemical messengers that communicate and orchestrate key functions of the male and female reproductive systems. When hormones are askew, the downstream effects can be quite serious.

For example, studies have shown yoga to have a balancing effect on testosterone and LH levels.

While intimately tied to stress, yoga may help balance hormones thereby improving your fertility.

Reduced Inflammation

Inflammation has become quite the villain over the recent decades, and rightly so. Inflammation has been linked to everything from stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disorders, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and more.

Similarly, this notorious health issue has been intimately tied to key fertility issues and diagnoses including ovulatory disorders, hormonal imbalances, anatomical abnormalities, endometriosis, and more.

One study showed that those who practiced yoga and engaged in strenuous tissue-damaging and inflammatory-causing exercise had lower inflammatory markers than those who only engaged in the strenuous tissue-damaging exercise.

Other studies have also found similar results of yoga’s ability to reduce inflammatory markers.

More research may be needed to confirm yoga’s anti-inflammatory benefits, but given these early findings, yoga’s potential anti-inflammatory powers are just one more reason to practice yoga for fertility.

Improved Blood Flow & Nutrient Delivery to Reproductive Organs

We rarely think about the true purpose of blood, but in case you need a refresher, blood’s main job is to transport and deliver nutrients and waste throughout the body. Every cell and organ in our body needs oxygen and many other nutrients in order to thrive. Our reproductive organs are no different and perhaps even more reliant upon constant blood flow as new sperm and egg are virtually always being developed or matured.

Yoga has been shown in numerous studies to improve vascular blood flow and thus nutrient delivery to vital organs.

According to Dr. Robert Kiltz at CNY Fertility, yoga’s ability to reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to reproductive organs are the two most critical mechanisms by which yoga improves fertility.

Community

The importance of community that a yoga studio provides is an often overlooked, yet critically important piece of practicing yoga for fertility.
The effect of social support on the reduction of stress is a well-documented phenomenon.

Given the acute relationship between stress and fertility treatment outcomes mentioned above, it goes to show that one of the main benefits of yoga for fertility may be simply the community it brings together that fosters resilience, empowerment, and the persistence to keep going.

Yoga, Sperm, and Male Fertility

Approximately half of all cases of infertility are due in part or in full to male factors which include low sperm count, motility, poor morphology, or other more subtle characteristics.

Stress is one significant cause of sperm production, which as mentioned above can be reduced with yoga.

While there are many lifestyle factors that can increase sperm count and other parameters of male fertility, one study suggests how yoga can improve reproductive health for men and help treat infertility.

Best types of yoga for fertility

Hatha, Iyengar, Yin, and restorative yoga are all recommended styles of yoga to practice that support fertility. These are typically more gentle practices and are good at helping to energize your body.

That being said, it’s still important to work with a teacher who understands how to practice yoga in line with your cycles (especially if you are doing an IUI, IVF or FET). There are many yoga poses that are contraindicated if you are pregnant and if you are in the middle of an ART cycle. Fertile Hope Yoga is the first online yoga studio dedicated to cycle-specific yoga practices that meet you exactly where you are at in your fertility journey.

Yoga Poses For Fertility

We asked Erin McCollough, founder of Fertile Hope yoga to share her favorite fertility yoga poses. Here are 10 fertility yoga poses that are great to practice to support your fertility.

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

This pose opens the hips and helps to develop strength, balance, and focus. It’s a balancing pose so takes concentration to stay and gives instant feedback if your mind wanders.

To get into this pose:

  • Stand on your mat and balance on your left leg.
  • Bring the sole of your right foot to the inner part of the left thigh.
  • Bring your hands in a prayer position in front of your chest to get your balance and then fully extend your hands over your head.
  • Then switch legs and repeat on the other side.

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

This is a great hip opener pose that opens the outer hip rotators, groin, psoas and quadriceps muscles. Often emotional tension is held in the hips so opening this area of the body is important to support circulation to the pelvic region of the body.

To get into this pose

  • Start in a seated position on your mat with your legs crossed and your right leg closer to the top of your mat.
  • Keep your right leg where it is and swing your left leg back so that the front of your left hip is stretched open and your left leg is fully extended.
  • Center your sit bones so that they are each the same distance away from the earth and your pelvis is not tipping to either side.
  • Bend your right knee more if you need less of a stretch in your hip.
  • Hold and then repeat on the other side.

Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

This is a great pose to counter fatigue and anxiety. It is an inversion so it’s not to be practiced during menses. Due to being an inversion, the circulation and the lymphatic systems are both nourished. It also promotes a calming of the nervous system.

How to get into the pose

  • Lie on your back with the back of your pelvis about 6 inches away from a wall.
  • Elevate your legs on the wall so the muscles of your legs are soft.
  • Hold for a minimum of 5 minutes.

Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)

This pose is great because it is a full-body yoga pose and impacts every part of your body. It’s helpful to open the shoulders which can get tight due to anxiety and is great for the circulatory system (since it is a partial inversion). This pose is known to help support and regulate the menstrual cycle as well.

How to get into the pose

  • Start with both your hands and knees on the earth.
  • Keep your knees about hip-distance apart and have your hands palm down and at least as wide as your shoulder girdle.
  • Tuck your toes and lift the sit bones of your pelvis up and back until your arms are fully lengthened and your spine is long.
  • Work to fully lengthen your legs and ground your heels into the mat at the same time as you keep lifting the sit bones of your pelvis up and back.

Cobbler Pose (Baddha konasana)

This is another great pose to open the hip area and relax the pelvic region of the body. It’s a great way to increase blood flow and energy flow to the pelvic region as well.

How to get into the pose

  • Start sitting on your mat.
  • Bring the soles of your feet together about 12 inches in front of your pelvis.
  • Allow your knees to fall open.
  • Hinge from the hips as you forward fold your torso over your legs.

Squatting Pose (Malasana)

Squatting helps open the hip and pelvic floor muscles. It also relieves tension in the lower back and legs.

How to get into the pose:

  • The easiest way to access this pose is by using a yoga block (or two).
  • Sit on the yoga block(s) so that your feet are pressing firmly into the earth with your knees wide and resting into your armpits.
  • Work to lengthen your spine and keep reaching into the block with your sit bones at the same time.

Corpse Pose (savasana)

This pose is most often done at the end of the yoga practice. It allows for the integration of all the benefits from practicing other yoga poses. It’s also a great way to relieve stress, fatigue and encourage deep relaxation.

How to get into the pose

  • Lie on your back with legs fully lengthened and arms fully lengthened at a 45-degree angle from your torso.
  • Place a support under your neck and knees if this posture is uncomfortable.
  • Work to release all tension from your body and hold for a minimum of 5 minutes.

Camel Pose (ustrasana)

Camel pose is a backbend. Backbends are energizing and great for relieving tension in the abdomen and pelvis.

How to get into the pose

  • Kneel on your mat with a blanket or folded yoga mat under your knees for comfort.
  • Curl your toes under.
  • Keep your thighs and pelvis pressing forward as you reach, lift and lengthen your torso through your arms.
  • Bend backward until one hand reaches your heel and then the other hand reaches your other heel.
  • Gently and slowly come out of the pose by pressing your thighs and pelvis forward and tucking your chin into your chest.

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

This pose releases tension in the upper back and brings nourishing energy to the reproductive organs. It also helps to relieve stress tension in the neck and shoulders and helps to regulate the thyroid gland.

How to get into the pose

  • The easiest way to access this pose it to choose a supported version of the pose.
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet pressed into the mat about hip-distance apart and 6 inches away from the sit bones of your pelvis.
  • Lift your pelvis off the ground and place a yoga block under your sacrum.
  • Allow the back of your pelvis to rest completely on the block.
  • Relax your shoulders.
  • To come out of the pose, lift your hips, slide the block to the side, and allow your spine to slowly rest completely onto the mat one vertebrae at a time.

Head to Knee forward fold (Janu sirsasana)

Forward fold poses like janu sirsasana are known for calming the nervous system and supporting the adrenal glands. This pose is great to do during menses if there are cramps and to support menstrual flow.

How to get into the pose

  • Sit on your yoga mat with your left leg fully extended and lengthened.
  • Bend your right knee so that the sole of your right foot meets the inner thigh of your left leg.
  • On your exhale, rotate your torso so that your belly button is facing down to your left thigh.
  • Forward fold by hinging at your hips.

Yoga for Getting Pregnant Naturally

The natural rhythm and phases of the menstrual cycles give the opportunity to cater a yoga practice to these phases.

During menses, you can practice yoga to support this time of letting go and the opportunity to tap into your intuition. Restorative poses are recommended for nourishment and to combat fatigue. That includes poses mentioned above like:

  • Corpse Pose (savasana)
  • Head to Knee forward fold (Janu sirsasana)
  • Cobbler Pose (Baddha konasana)

The next phase is pre-ovulation where it’s a great time for flowing yoga practices to support circulation to the reproductive organs and detoxification processes. This includes poses mentioned above like:

  • Camel Pose (ustrasana)
  • Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
  • Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)

Once there is ovulation and pregnancy is possible, the yoga practice shifts to pregnancy-friendly yoga poses and breathing exercises that also support implantation. Gentle yoga is encouraged at this time. This includes poses mentioned above like:

  • Squatting Pose (Malasana)
  • Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
  • Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Yoga for IUI Cycles

Similar to how the natural rhythm and phases of the menstrual cycle give the opportunity to cater a yoga practice when trying to conceive naturally, you can adapt your yoga practice to the phases of an IUI cycle. Please note that practicing yoga during your IUI cycle is best done with an expert who understands exactly what your body is going through during this process especially if you are utilizing injectable medications. Fertile Hope Yoga® offers online IUI cycle-specific yoga practices that are safe as you navigate through an IUI cycle.

During menses, you can practice yoga to support this time of letting go and the opportunity to tap into your intuition. Restorative poses are recommended for nourishment and to combat fatigue. That includes poses mentioned above like:

  • Corpse Pose (savasana)
  • Head to Knee forward fold (Janu sirsasana)
  • Cobbler Pose (Baddha konasana)

The next phase is pre-ovulation where it’s a great time for flowing yoga practices to support circulation to the reproductive organs. It’s important during this phase if injectable medication is being used to stimulate follicle growth, to not do any poses that cause abdominal discomfort or add any strain on the ovaries. Often right before ovulation, it may be uncomfortable to practice any yoga poses that require lying directly on the abdomen as well. Yoga during this phase can help mitigate any abdominal discomfort and any mood disturbance side effects of follicle-stimulating medications as well. This phase includes poses mentioned above like:

  • Camel Pose (ustrasana)
  • Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
  • Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)

After the IUI procedure and pregnancy is possible, it is important to practice poses that are suitable for pregnancy, support implantation, and support the mental and emotional challenges of navigating this 2-week wait until the pregnancy test day. Gentle yoga is encouraged at this time. This includes poses mentioned above like:

  • Squatting Pose (Malasana)
  • Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
  • Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Yoga for IVF Cycles


Similar to how you can cater a yoga practice during an IUI cycle, you can adapt your yoga practice to the phases of an IVF cycle as well. Please note that practicing yoga during an IVF cycle is best done with an expert who understands exactly what your body is going through during this process due to the very specialized nature and needs that can arise during the IVF process. Fertile Hope Yoga® offers online IVF cycle-specific yoga practices that are safe as you navigate through an IVF cycle.

During menses, you can practice yoga to support this time of letting go and the opportunity to tap into your intuition. Restorative poses are recommended for nourishment and to combat fatigue. That includes poses mentioned above like:

  • Corpse Pose (savasana)
  • Head to Knee forward fold (Janu sirsasana)
  • Cobbler Pose (Baddha konasana)

The next phase is pre-trigger shot (ovulation) where it’s a great time for flowing yet gentle yoga practices to support circulation to the reproductive organs. It’s important during this phase, especially if injectable medication is being used to stimulate follicle growth, to not do any poses that cause abdominal discomfort or add any strain on the ovaries due to the risk of ovarian torsion. Often days 5 of stimulation to trigger shot day, it may be uncomfortable to practice any yoga poses that require lying directly on the abdomen as well. Yoga during this phase can help mitigate any abdominal discomfort and any mood disturbance side effects of follicle-stimulating medications as well. This phase includes poses mentioned above like:

  • Camel Pose (ustrasana)
  • Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
  • Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)

After egg retrieval, it is recommended to rest and not practice any physical yoga poses for at least 2 days. This is a great time to practice meditation (also part of a well-rounded yoga practice) with a simple corpse pose (savasana).

After the embryo transfer, it is important to practice poses that are suitable for pregnancy. This means not practicing poses that put any pressure or internal compression on the uterus. It is also important to practice poses that support implantation and support the mental and emotional challenges of navigating this “2-week wait” until the pregnancy test day. Gentle yoga is encouraged at this time. This includes poses mentioned above like:

  • Squatting Pose (Malasana)
  • Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
  • Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Can yoga harm your fertility or injury you when trying to conceive?

Each yoga pose impacts all of your body. It’s a holistic practice. That means each yoga pose has an impact on your body physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically. Understanding the impact each pose has on your body and how that relates to what you are needing is important to keep you safe. The needs of your body change depending on how you are trying to conceive and where you are at in your cycle. Finding a teacher who understands all of these things is important to maximize the impact a yoga practice can have on your fertility. A yoga for fertility practice during your follicular phase is very different than your luteal phase especially if you may be pregnant!

As with any yoga practice, if something doesn’t feel right while you are practicing, don’t do it! You are your best guide. Yoga is about listening to your body and learning how to trust it.

Where to Practice Yoga for Fertility

Fertile Hope Yoga®

Fertile Hope Yoga® is a global leader in offering fertility boosting and safe yoga practices while trying to conceive and beyond.

Fertile Hope Yoga® offers online IVF cycle-specific yoga practices that are safe as you navigate through retrieval and transfer.


Bottom Line

The fertility journey may be hard, but you don’t have to walk it alone. Yoga is a proven way to prepare your body, mind, and soul for not only the vigors of fertility treatment but also the miracle of pregnancy and parenthood that is to come.

You’ve got this!

Hi, I’m Erin and I’m the Founder of Fertile Hope Yoga. For more than a decade, I have led the in-person yoga for fertility program at the CNY Fertility Center. I am the Co-Creator of The Fertile Secret book and have helped thousands of women reach out and hold their baby after they had been told they could never get pregnant.

~ Erin McCollough
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