These days there are hippie-dippie solutions for every aspect of being a parent — including becoming a parent. A program I love – fertility yoga – is in the news again thanks to Sherry Longbottom, a registered nurse and yoga instructor in Tampa, Florida.
Like many practices across the country, the Reproductive Medicine Group in Florida is referring its patients to follow Longbottom’s specific yoga regimen designed to complement the treatment they receive from their fertility specialists.
[Yoga] still can’t correct a tubal issue or necessarily correct an egg issue,” Dr. Betsy McCormick of the Reproductive Medicine Group told ABCNews.com affiliate WFTS-TV. “But what they can do is help someone get through that process.
But this isn’t your typical yoga class – or it shouldn’t be. I have accrued over 500 hours of training as a yoga teacher and I dedicated my advanced certification research project to the subject of fertility yoga. The key to this program is to reverse so much of the damage our stressful and chaotic modern lives bring to our bodies and our nervous systems.
Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard has done extensive research on what he has termed “the relaxation response,” the opposite (but equally essential) survival mechanism of the “fight-or-flight-response.” Many women suffering with infertility have hormone levels that mimic being in “fight-or-flight” mode at all times. In his studies, Benson found the body has the ability to heal and rejuvenate itself through messages sent to the parasympathetic nervous system, reversing the negative effects such as infertility. Since a passive attitude is essential to elicit this relaxation, poses in a fertility yoga class should be restorative in nature, rather than strenuous. Think gentle, not Bikram yoga.
Fertility yoga can be used as a first step even before receiving an official diagnosis or as a low-cost approach favored by some with “unexplained infertility.” Of course, like these doctors note, yoga isn’t the silver bullet that will “cure” all obstacles to getting pregnant. Conception is a miracle influenced by countless factors. Even under perfect conditions there is no guarantee someone can or will get pregnant. This does not mean, however, that you can’t do anything about infertility – especially the emotional struggle.
Dr. James Goldfarb, the director of infertility and in-vitro fertilization at University Hospital Cleveland, said he approves of patients trying safe alternative therapies such as yoga or acupuncture as long as the patient feels better after a session.
While fertility treatments such as IVF have helped millions of women conceive, Goldfarb said these women often have a tremendous amount of anxiety at the same time.
To say someone is going through IVF is going to be stressed is like saying someone is going to hit their thumb with their hammer and it’s going to hurt,” said Goldfarb. “It’s incredibly stressful.
Yoga can optimize fertility, make you aware of negative patterns, reconnect with the physical body that you feel is failing you, and tune in to your body’s own healing qualities and intuition. It was my own experience with infertility that led me to create a program like Longbottom’s regimen. I consider myself extremely lucky — after two years of trying to conceive, I did so without medical intervention. I can’t say the yoga is definitively what got me pregnant because it would be foolish to assign that much power to any one thing. But I can say for sure that yoga helped me gain strength on my path to becoming a mother, rather than falling apart. Even though that was many years and two children ago, you will still hear me singing the praises of fertility yoga like a catchy tune I just can’t get out of my head.