Yoga and Increasing Fertility Naturally

By Renata Palmo
Images by Mertxe Alarcón
All text copyright 2015 © 
Edited version in Spanish as appeared in CuerpoMente magazine:

In today´s fast paced world with the tendency towards living to work instead of working to live, there is increasingly the tendency to neglect not only our enjoyment of the here and now but increasingly the neglect of our health in our food and lifestyle choices is running rampant. There are increasing numbers of people in the prime of their child bearing years experiencing difficulty in conceiving. As well as there are many people who have waited until the very last years of possible fertility to seek creating a family due in many cases to the pressures of modern day life.

Not only due to our lifestyle choices, but as we are part of the whole planetary ecosystem, the contamination we see on an ecological level we see also in ourselves. In seeking a child, one finds a perfect opportunity to reflect in a very concrete way and on many levels, on our health both physically and internally.

Contrary to wide-spread belief, before resorting to medical fertility treatments, there is a wealth of natural therapies that have shown to be very effective even in people at the end of their reproductive years. I say people because male fertility also goes down significantly from the age of 40 onwards.

·The first would be to eat as clean, fresh and organic a diet as possible. According to Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, its recommended to eat more warm, cooked foods than raw, cold fact the ingestion of the latter is discouraged. In keeping with this warming concept, it is important to maintain the body, especially feet, belly and hands warm.

·Consult a good naturopathic doctor for a list of effective natural supplements (And there are several but be careful not to self medicate ..for example, do not take maca root if you have a thyroid problem as it is rather high in iodine).

·Acupuncture and massage at the hands of fertility specialists or knowledgeable practitioners in the realm of hormonal and glandular health.

·Decreasing stress is extremely important and can be done effectively using the correct practice of yoga and meditation.

·Detoxification. Both on a physical and internal level. Using the correct supplements and/or very light and short fast combined with high consumption of liquids and water. Again always best to consult a qualified naturopathic doctor . Examine and reduce as much as possible toxins in the home such as drinking water from plastic bottles, electromagnetic radio waves from wifi, microwave ovens, electrodomestic items etc.
Also very important to examine closely how our home and work relationships are affecting us. Negativity in these areas are just as toxic as any on a physical level.

·Increasing your exposure to mother nature and connecting to that energy in the form of daily walks in wooded areas where fresh, clean air is predominant. It is very important not only to exercise moderately and regularly every day for our general well-being but those effects are intensified greatly by the oxygenation of our blood and organs when we exercise outdoors.

This article will focus on several key yoga postures, breath and meditation techniques that focus on increasing the blood flow to the reproductive organs, decrease stress and abdominal tension in particular which restricts that flow, augmenting the proper functioning of the hormonal and endocrine systems. They are given in a specific order providing the proper counter-pose after each posture also creating balance between prana and apana (part of a series of energy types and flows within the system...prana is dynamic and invigorating and flows upward and inward, apana is recessive and restorative and flows downward and outward) Please as always, consult your health practitioner before undertaking this or any physical or health program.

· Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious breath)
It increases concentration and presence of mind whilst augmenting the core temperature of the body which is very important in improving the general blood flow in the system. Also reduces anxiety by acting on the vagus nerve which is fundamental in initiating the relaxation response and is directly connected to the diaphragm.

Sitting cross legged and comfortably. Spine straight without pushing out the chest. Begin by slowing down the breath gently (counting to 3-5 the length of the inhales to be equal to the exhales helps) and lowering it to involve the whole of your torso. Thus letting the diaphragm release and function properly. Let the belly swell and fall gently with the breath, thus allowing it to relax. Encourage the rib-cage to expand and try to let the chest and shoulders remain relaxed and relatively still. After a nice gentle and relaxed rhythm of breath is established one can introduce the sound that makes this breathing technique. With the mouth open first, breathe a few cycles with the back of the tongue dropped back to create a whispering the action one makes to clean one's glasses. Maintain the sound even on the inhales. After you feel you have it, close the mouth and maintain that gentle ocean-like sound. Keeping it gentle is never wants to strain the breath. Keep counting if it helps maintain a relaxed and steady rhythm. Breathe in this manner for at least a couple of minutes in seated posture to set the foundation of the practice, which is always the breath. Maintain this breath for the asana practice.

· Marjaryasana (Cat Pose), Bitilasana (Cow Pose) and Variations.
Relaxes and warms the spine, hips, belly and shoulders.

Moving to all fours, making sure the hands are right under the shoulders and the hips right over the knees, begin by inhaling to prepare and with the exhale, lift the navel towards the spine* (and if you can, incorporate a contraction of the pelvic floor muscles*), curving the spine towards the sky while letting the head drop completely. Inhale bending in the opposite direction without forcing. Repeat 5 times. Now incorporate a circle with the pelvis with each round of breath. Imagine you have a pencil attached to your coccyx and you are drawing a circle on the wall directly behind you. Exhale to one side and to bring the spine into flexion (curved to sky) and inhale to the other side and to extension (arched and looking forward). 5 times each side. Important to be done in a very relaxed and easy manner.

*Do not practice lifting navel or pelvic floor muscles while menstruating or ovulating. Not recommended to practice postures at all during first 3-4 days of period. The body is cleansing thus it needs rest and support.

· Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Stretches the posterior body and strengthens the anterior body, along with arms, hands and shoulders. Being a mild inversion, it triggers the parasympathetic (relaxation) response and stimulates the correct functioning of the hormonal system.

From all fours, exhale and lift the hips back first and then up but keep the weight back towards the heels.
Bend the knees a bit if needed to help keep the weight back and out of the arms. Open the hands and gently suck up the floor with the pads of the fingers and palms to decrease wrist tension. Don´t let the chest dump towards the floor to minimize neck and shoulder tension. It is very important to monitor carefully the tension in the shoulders and neck because they are directly related in Asian meridian theory, to the abdomen and uterus. Let the head relax completely, gazing towards the navel and breathe deeply using Ujjayi for 5-10 breaths if possible.

· Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge or Crescent Moon)
Stretches anterior body, in particular the hip flexors, quadriceps and lower abdomen...all fundamental in increased blood-flow to reproductive organs.

From Down Dog, inhale and step the right foot forward and let the back knee drop to the floor. The front knee directly over the foot to protect the knee. Inhale and raise the arms over head if there is not excessive tension in the neck and shoulders, in which case leave the hands on the floor next to the front foot. Maintain the navel to spine connection with pelvic floor. Gaze up to the hand if there is no neck discomfort or forward and breathe for 5. Repeat other side.

· Balasana (Child's Pose)
Counter pose to all types of extended poses. Relaxes the posterior body and triggers relaxation response.
Sit on the heels and separate the knees hip width apart. Bring the forehead to the ground in front of you and let the arms rest on the thighs. If the forehead does´nt reach use a block or pillow. 5-10 breaths.

· Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose)
Strengthens the legs in particular and arms while opening the anterior body, augmenting the circulation of blood to the lower and upper extremities. Invigorating and connects one to earth energy.

Step the right foot forward inhaling to once again have the foot right under the knee and in line with the right hip and the thigh parallel to the ground if possible. The back foot is in line with the left hip and the foot at a 45 degree angle, heel rooted if possible..if not, keep the heel lifted and leg parallel. Lift arms again by the head without tensing and lifting shoulders. Gaze up to hands if possible, if not keep it neutral. Breathe 5 and change sides.

· Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2)
Same as above but also opens the hips and thighs laterally. Releases congestion in pelvic area.

Inhaling to step forward, maintain the front leg bent, knee over the centre of the foot and open the body to the side. Gaze to the hand over bent knee. 5 breaths and change sides.

· Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)
General tonifier and opener, stretching and strengthening the lateral body. Reduces acidity in the body thereby improving digestion and menstrual problems while increasing concentration and relaxation.

From Virabhadrasana 2 right leg bent...for less experienced practitioners, shorten the stance a little bit then... simply straighten the right leg, exhaling and reach the right arm and torso out to the right side as long as one can while pulling up the thighs but not locking knees, finally reaching down to rest the fingertips or hand on the ankle, block or floor if possible. Gaze up to the top hand without sticking out the chin to avoid neck pain. If there is discomfort, keep the head neutral or look down. Hold 5 breaths and change sides.

· Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
As in Trikonasana, this pose tonifies the whole body in general with the focus also on opening the hips, inner thighs and chest providing relief from digestive, menstrual and lower back problems. Because of it´s added elements of balance and pro-preoceptive abilites it brings both mental clarity and relief of physical and mental tension. As its name indicates, this pose has strong moon or feminine energy.

From Trikonasana right side, look down and bend the right knee over the centre of your foot. Continue moving your centre over the right leg and place your right hand in line with your baby toe and about a foot away from your foot raising your left leg to the side with your hips open and the left arm and heart fully raised to the sky. Gaze to the top hand or maintain neutral. 5 breaths and change sides.

· Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Hip opener, is invigorating and balancing.

Standing legs in parallel and just under the hips. Inhale to shift your weight to the left and lift the right leg up with open and bent knee. Place foot on the inside of left thigh or calf. Raise arms and gaze, inhaling, again without neck or shoulder pain. If pain exists, place hands together at heart centre. Breathe 5 and change sides.

· Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Forward Fold)
Half inversion, so has an effect on triggering the relaxation response. Tones the lower body and stretches the interior lines of the legs which according to Asian meridian theory, directly affects the blood flow to the reproductive organs.

Step legs wide with an inhale, feet in parallel and hands on hips. Slowly exhale and lower the upper body down, crown of head towards the ground and hands firmly on the floor shoulder distance apart.
Keep the legs and abdomen gently engaging, knee caps lifted, not locked. Gaze toward tip of nose. Breathe 5.

· Malasana (Garland Pose)
Hip and groin opener, releases tension in the lower back and lower organs, stretches the calves and feet.

With the feet a little wider than hip distance apart and in parallel, exhale and simply bend knees, tracking them over the centre of your feet until your seat is at your ankles if you can. One can put a rolled up towel under the heels to facilitate this. Bring the torso forward as much as you can reaching the arms forward as well and then maintain the torso forward as you bend arms and press the elbows against your inner thighs, bringing the hands together in prayer position. Gaze down and breathe 5.
Variation: Add twist by bringing the right elbow between thigh and torso to point it back toward the right...maintain prayer position.

· Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Stretches the anterior body and tonifies the posterior body. Increases circulation to uterus and ovaries in particular. *If you think you might be pregnant, avoid this pose.

Lying face-down, with hands on floor under shoulders, legs hip width apart or closer and parallel. Do not squeeze the seat muscles (glutes) together but do activate gluteous maximus (the greater part of the seat muscle group) gently to provide sacro-iliac support and do maintain a gentle connection with navel. Inhale and lift head and heart up, extending the arms to where one is comfortable. Breathe 5 and release. Counter the pose with Balasana.

· Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
Stretches the posterior body. Increases circulation to all major internal organs because of the pressure created with the fold. Relaxing and rejuvenating.

Seated with the legs stretched out in front together and parallel. If uncomfortable, place a cushion or blanket under hips. Inhale and reach forward for the feet with hands. If difficult bend knees a little and/or use a strap.
Exhale and gently fold forward letting the head and gaze fall forward as well. Maintain connected the navel and the pelvic floor lifting. 5 breaths. Counter this pose with a moment in Savasana (see below)

· Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee Pose)
Calming and therapeutic. Opens the hips and posterior body providing tonification and increase of circulation to all lower organs.

With both legs stretched out in front, bend and open the right leg and bring the right foot as high up the inner thigh as possible. Inhale and take hold of the left foot with the hands or use a strap if you don´t reach and exhale to fold forward tracking the navel over the left thigh. Let head and gaze fall, allowing the neck to relax. 5 breaths and change sides.

· Upavistha Konasana (Seated Wide-Angle Pose)
Same benefits as Paschimottanasana but opens the aductors and hips as well, addressing any constriction or blockage in the meridians that run through this area which again connect to the reproductive organs.

From seated position, separate legs wide and exhale fold forward. A cushion can be placed under the hips if you are uncomfortable. Hands can reach forward or take feet if comfortable. Forehead on ground or pillow/block. 5 breaths.

· Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Deeper hip opener and lower organ tonification. Especially healing for the reproductive organs.

Bend and open knees to bring soles of feet together. Bring hips in as close as possible to the heels. Again if there is discomfort, place a pillow or blanket under hips and also under each knee if needed.
Can stay erect or exhale and slowly fold forward. 5 breaths.

· Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose)
Tonifies and increases circulation in the abdomen, legs and hips. *Not to be done if possibly pregnant.

Lying on the back with the head, chest and legs lifted at approx. 45 degrees from the floor. Spine in neutral position if possible bit if strength is lacking or discomfort in lumbar area, gentle imprint of the lumbar spine on the floor. If there is neck tension place hands behind head if not, arms extended by your sides.
5 breaths. Draw knees in to chest and rest.

· Virasana (Hero Pose)
Provides release for the hips and lower back in the form of internal rotation of the thighs thereby releasing tension in the lower organs and realigning the sacrum. Stretches the thighs, ankles and feet as well.

Start sitting on the heels. Lift hips and separate the feet to line up with the outside of the thighs. Exhale and gently lift the calf muscles away from centre as you sit between the heels on the floor or if not possible, on a cushion. If there are any existing knee issues, definitely place a cushion or 2 under your seat and if there is still discomfort, do not do the pose. Tail bone heavy, spine straight and heart lifted, inhale raise the arms over head and clasp hands or maintain the hands on knees and gaze gently downward. 5 breaths.

Variations: *It is not necessary to be in virasana for these upper body variations...if you are uncomfortable, simply sit in easy seated pose, legs crossed or in Sanskrit, Sukhasana.

·To increase flexibility and decrease tension in the neck and shoulder areas which as mentioned previously directly correspond with the reproductive organs, there are 2 options pictured here.
- Crossing arms at the elbows and wrists. Hold 3 -5 breaths each side.
- Taking hold of the hands or strap behind the upper back. Hold 3 -5  breaths each side.

·Supta Virasana (Sleeping hero pose) *Not to be done if the anterior pose is difficult.
Added benefits of stimulating the muscles and nerves of the spine and regulating the hormonal systems.

Simply recline back to lie flat on the floor or pillows with arms stretched over head. Breathe 5 and then come out slowly moving forward using your hands and stretching out onto your stomach with legs well extended behind you, head turned to one side. Let the heels fall out to the sides to release the pelvis and lumbar areas. Rest there for 5 and then change sides for the head.

· Sirsasana (Headstand)
It is called the king of poses because it provides a variety of health benefits, not the least of which is the proper functioning of the glandular, lymphatic and hormonal systems.
The executing of the pose is not explained here because it needs to be learned under the supervision of an experienced yoga teacher. Not to be done while menstruating. Counter pose: Balasana.

· Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose)
Stretches anterior body. Puts gentle pressure on thyroid gland, increasing circulation there and helping its function. Strengthens posterior body and if done correctly, stabilizes sacrum.

Lying on your back, bend knees hip distance apart, feet directly under knees. Inhale lift hips being sure to direct the coccyx forward and up once lifted. Engage the abdomen and pelvic floor. If possible, walk the arms in and take hold of the hands. Dig heels into the ground and keep the legs in parallel to help stabilize the sacrum. 5 breaths.

· Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported All-limbs Pose or Shoulderstand)
The queen of all poses. It offers a variety of benefits and as with Sirsasana,  in particular, the hormonal, glandular and lymphatic systems. Extremely important one learns this pose also under the guidance of an experienced teacher. Not to be done while menstruating. A good counter pose for this posture is a moment in Savasana (see below).

· Viparita Karani (Legs up wall Pose)
It is said that this pose has the power to help cure almost any ailment. It provides the benefits of the above unexplained poses in a gentle and restorative manner.

Bring the hips as close to the wall as possible and lift up to be able to place a pillow or a couple of blankets under the hips. Maintain your seat touching the wall and extend the legs up the wall. Relax the arms by your sides and stay 10-15 breaths. Not to be done while menstruating.
Variation: Bend knees and let them fall to one side, finding yourself in a restorative and gentle twist. Prop up the knees with a blanket if too intense.

· Savasana (Corpse Pose)
General restoration of entire system. Very important to end the practice of postures or asanas with savasana to allow the system to integrate all work done.

Lie on the floor face up, feet hip distance apart and cushion under knees if there is lower back discomfort. Arms by the sides. Hands face upwards and close eyes. Release any kind of manipulation of the breath and just maintain a relaxed state without judgment. Observe the thoughts and sensations as they present themselves and simply let go.

· Samatha Meditation (Pacification or Mindfulness Meditation)
Produces a decrease in beta waves thereby decreasing the rate at which the brain processes information, hence a more relaxed state. Shift to increase of theta waves which happens in sleep and other states of deep relaxation leading to more capacity for increased awareness and appreciation leading to more love and compassion.

Sitting comfortably as in the beginning of practice. Spine straight without pushing chest out. Place hands on knees or one on top of the other under the navel (left on top if you are female). Let the gaze fall gently upon a fixed low point in front of you. Relax your face, in particular the jaw and forehead, smiling gently to yourself and allowing yourself to feel a sense of vision between your eyebrows. Observe the breath. Observe the flow of thoughts and as if your thoughts were a river in front of you, observe them without judgment as they simply pass along into the distance. Gradually the distance between thoughts becomes more and more. Allowing you to stay in the spaciousness between them, experiencing the true nature of existence, which is...just...Love.

Images by Mertxe Alarcón
Space kindly provided by Yogaia Bcn
All text copyright 2015 © 

Judith Hanson Lasater "Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times"
Sri T. Krishnamacharya "Yoga Makaranda"