Fertility yoga may be less well known than other complementary therapies for fertility support such as acupuncture or fertility abdominal massage but it can a vital support for your overall wellbeing as you try to concieve.
Fertility yoga is a deeply nourishing type of yoga practice that aims to support the body to prepare for ovulation, conception and pregnancy, as well as support you physically and emotionally while you are trying to conceive, whether naturally or through fertility treatment.
To support conception, fertility yoga focuses on poses and practices that help balance the body’s hormonal system, stimulate and nourish the reproductive organs. It does this by increasing blood flow to the pelvic area, and calming the nervous system – a widely recognised benefit of yoga (as explained in this very interesting Yoga Journal article about yoga therapy).
Here, I am sharing with you my favourite 5 fertility boosting yoga poses which I think are accessible to all, whether you have yoga experience or are a total novice. These poses are suitable wherever you are on your fertility journey, whether you have just started trying to conceive naturally, have been trying for a while, receiving fertility treatment such as IVF, or looking to preserve your fertility.
To ensure a safe self-practice, always listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel quite right, or you feel unsure, just stop.
Because breathing fully, and especially taking long slow exhales is a key aspect of fertility yoga, try to move slowly and mindfully with your breath in each pose. This will immediately calm your mind and trigger the relaxation response in your body.
1- Flowing bridge pose
How to do it: lie on your back, knees bent, both feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart, at a comfortable distance away from your sitting bones so that the lower back rests easy on the floor. Rest your palms on the floor on either side of your hips, arms relaxed.
On an inhale, press both feet into the floor and slowly lift the hips. At the same time, bring your arms up and overhead until the back of the hands touch the floor. On the exhale, slowly lower the hips and arms together back to the floor, trying to unroll the spine vertebrae by vertebrae. Move mindfully with the breath, using the whole inhale to come up and the whole exhale to come down, for 5 to 8 full breaths.
This pose is a fantastic all-rounder: it opens tight shoulders and the chest – an important area for fertility in Eastern medicine – provides grounding by activating the feet and legs, brings flexibility in the spine, releases tension in the pelvis and lower back, and brings vitality to the abdominal organs. The flowing aspect of the pose provides an opportunity to really focus on the breath, as your movements follow the inhales and exhales.
2 – Happy baby pose
This pose is a great hip opener, which releases tension and helps to increase blood flow into the pelvic area.
How to do it: start on your back as for Flowing bridge, then lift one foot then the other off the floor, keeping the knees bent, so that the soles of your feet face the ceiling. If you are flexible enough, grab the outer edges of the feet with your hands. Alternatively, if your sacrum and/or shoulders are off the floor when you do this, wrap a strap or long scarf around your feet and hold the ends of the scarf, taking as much length as you need so that your arms and your whole back are resting on the floor.
Holding onto the scarf ends, gently pull to draw your knees nearer to your chest, towards your armpits. Keep the soles of the feet facing up towards the ceiling, and the sacrum/lower back on the floor. You can move slightly in and out of the stretch with your breath, drawing the knees closer on the exhale, or gently rock side to side, which offers a nice back massage.
3 – Shoulder release
This movement is fantastic to reduce shoulder tension – so easily accumulated after a day hunched over a computer or phone – and improve circulation. Combined with soft audible exhales, this move is also great to release the ‘heart centre’, when emotional stress and anxiety tends to lodge itself.
How to do it: Sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position, maybe propping yourself with a yoga block just under your sitting bones (or you can use a flat cushion or a folded blanket) to help you lengthen your lower back. Placing your fingertips on your shoulders, circle your elbows forward and up on an inhale, lengthening the sides of the body, then exhaling them back and down, back next to your ribcage. You can make the movement even more relaxing by softly sighing on the exhale, focusing on the relaxing warmth of the breath on the back of the throat. Repeat 6 to 8 times.
4 – Cobbler pose
This pose relaxes the pelvic area by opening the hips, and increases blood circulation in the pelvis, massaging the reproductive organs and stimulating the ovaries. As all forward bends, it is also calming for the nervous system, and an invitation to ‘draw within’ and soften.
How to do it: Sit on the floor as for the previous pose. Bring the soles of the feet together, fairly close to your body, and let your knees gently open towards the floor. If this feels a bit much, you can place a rolled cushion, blanket or towel under each thigh to support your legs.
Place your hands on the floor behind you, fingertips kissing the floor. On an inhale, lengthen your whole spine, reaching through the crown on your head, shining your heart forward while gently opening the legs further towards the floor. On an exhale, roll the shoulder together and back, as if to bring the shoulder blades together. Stay there for a couple a breaths, then slowly walk your hands in front of you to release in a gentle forward fold, releasing the chest forward towards the floor, maybe holding your feet or ankles with your hands. Just go as far as your body will allow while maintaining length in the lower back.
5 – Legs up the wall
This is the queen of all fertility yoga poses, and if you were to try only one of the poses I’m recommending her, this is the one to go for. The abdominal organs are nourished by the blood pooling into the pelvis area. Toxins are also removed from the blood stream, and the central nervous system is calmed and the endocrine system regulated. And, it also promotes restful sleep, and is perfect to practice on your bed!
As it is an inversion, don’t do this pose if you are on the main flow days of your period, or in the 3 days following transfer in an IVF cycle.
How to do it: Find a clear space of wall against which you can extend your legs fully. Because the body cools rapidly in restorative poses, be sure to put on socks and a jumper beforehand, and have a blanket handy, so that you don’t get chilled.
Settle with your legs up a wall, a folded blanket under your lower back. Let your whole back and neck be long and relaxed. Bring your hands to your lower belly, or let your arms flop to the side of the body, palms up. Stay there as long as you enjoy, following the slow rhythm of your breath. To get out of the pose, hug your knees to your chest then roll onto your right side for a few breaths before slowly pushing yourself back to sitting, or slipping into bed!
Like all fertility yoga practices, these poses are most effective when practised regularly, ideally daily or at least twice a week, as part of your own little home practice. However, it’s important that you don’t let it become yet another thing that you have to do, a constraint. Think of it as a time to pause, unwind and nurture yourself, which is valuable in itself, whatever the outcome.
If you would like further support in creating a home practice, or explore how fertility yoga could support you more specifically given your own particular fertility journey, please go get in touch for a chat.