Mind/Body Therapy Blog Series: Yoga

If you’re new to this series, we are in the middle of exploring a wide variety of Mind/Body Therapies that will help you to beat stress, strengthen your mind-body connection, and to develop specific strategies that will help you give birth to a healthy baby when the time is right for you and your family.  Across a total of eight weeks, we will be exploring everything from Acupuncture to Hypnotherapy and everything in between.  You won’t want to miss out!

So far we’ve covered one of my favorite techniques: Meditation. In this blog post, you’ll find descriptions of the two primary styles of meditation, their specific various benefits, and free resources that will get you started if you want to give either style (or a combination) a try.  I highly recommend going back to check out the blog post if you missed it – there is a TON of great content!

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In general, know that you definitely don’t need a reason to start incorporating any one of these mind/body therapy techniques into your life.  Whether it’s just to develop a stronger connection and control of your mind and thoughts, or to actually get your fertility and hormones back on track, these techniques that we’re exploring have all been scientifically proven to improve emotional well-being no matter your stage in life.

When I’m working with my clients, I typically recommend trying out a few of the techniques we’ll be discussing to find the techniques that work for them specifically, and I’d recommend the same to you.  Usually one or two techniques might speak to you, while others just don’t feel right.  You’ll never know which ones speak to you personally if you don’t give them a try. Especially if you’re skeptical, you might be surprised how much of a difference these mind/body techniques make in your life!

While you don’t need a reason to get started with these techniques, there are a few symptoms that you may want to watch out for that are signs that a mind-body therapy technique might be a great help to get you back on the right track fertility-wise.  Some examples of these symptoms are as follows:

  • You are experiencing stress
  • You have unexplained infertility
  • You have unresolved emotional issues that you know are impacting your current happiness
  • You experience fear or depression about becoming a mother even though you really want a baby
  • You want to experience a more enjoyable fertility journey

In reading this short list, you might recognize that A LOT of women, as well as their families, might benefit from the techniques that we’ll be sharing on the blog in these few weeks.  And, from my experience, that is absolutely the case.  Many people walk around ignoring their minds, perhaps not recognizing how much their thoughts can impact how their bodies respond.

Trying out these various techniques is a great first step, but don’t hesitate to reach out to set up a consultation with me if you’d like to discuss your unique case and how these mind/body techniques may help you specifically! And of course, I’m always happy to answer other questions you might have, and support you as you move through your pregnancy journey, too.)

Time to dive into our next mind-body therapy technique: Yoga!

Yoga

Yoga combines physical postures, called asanas, and breathing practices, called pranayama, to create a primarily meditative and relaxing exercise, though some styles of the practice can be more intense than others (see descriptions below.)  Yoga has been used for healing purposes for over 5,000 years, in big part because it looks at and treats the holistic human system – body, breath, mind, personality, and emotions.

Physically, yoga is also widely known for its ability to increase agility and tone the body, with many individuals using their yoga practice as their primary exercise program, or at least to supplement their time in a traditional gym.  The practice is also instrumental for boosting immunity, increasing blood flow, balancing the breath, strengthening the heart and bones, focusing the mind, and releasing tension. Of specific interest to us at Sarah Jane Sandy, it can also be used to improve fertility – specific poses like yogic squats, twists and supine asanas are known to be incredibly beneficial to increasing your fertility.

While there are several different styles of yoga to choose from, all with different areas of focus throughout your holistic system, there are six primary ones to be aware of before jumping in to start your yoga practice.

  1. Hatha – The goal of a typical hatha yoga class is to incorporate breath into each of your movements, ultimately building flexibility and balance in a way that is both relaxing and restorative.  A recent study in the Journal of Nursing Research found that one 90-minute hatha yoga class significantly reduced women’s feelings of stress.  And from personal experience, this research is spot on!  If you’re looking for a way to primarily supplement your previously-set workout regime, this is a perfect style to try out as a more restorative practice.
  2. Vinyasa – This style of yoga is built around consistent movement.  A typical vinyasa class includes a variety of different “flows” or consistent repetitions of movement that will get your body lunging, bending, and stretching in a wide variety of ways.  Ultimately, vinyasa style yoga classes are designed to build strength, flexibility, and balance in a slightly faster-paced environment.  If you decide to try this style of class, you will notice that you deeply connect to your breath, as your breathing guides the speed of your practice throughout your “flow.”
  3. Iyengar – Ideal for anyone suffering from neck or back pain, Iyengar-style yoga is designed to emphasize proper alignment while strengthening your muscles and supporting your joints.  Most Iyengar-style classes will incorporate standing and seated poses, twisting poses, backbends, and inversions, all with a goal to improve or prevent back and neck pain.  I typically suggest this style of yoga practice for those suffering from pain, or those seated at computers or on their phones for the majority of the day.
  4. Bikram – Popularly known because of the literal heat included within this style of class, Bikram-style yoga classes are completed in a room that is 105-degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity.  The heat, mimicking the heat of this style’s founder’s hometown in India, is designed to help to loosen your muscles and increase your ability to stretch safely.  The typical structure of this class is a series of 26 poses two times through, with a series of relevant breathing exercises completed at the beginning and end of the session.  Note that I would not recommend this style of yoga class while pregnant, due to the heat.  According to many studies, overheating can endanger the health of a growing baby.
  5. Kundalini – Those that are committed to Kundalini-style yoga are devoted to releasing the energy believed to be held at the base of the spine.  Through a mixture of movement, mantras/chanting, and breathing exercises, Kundalini-style practices are designed to calm the mind and energize the body, thus creating a deeper mind-body connection.
  6. Ashtanga – Best for more advanced yogis, Ashtanga-style yoga includes a series of 70 poses in one 90-minute to two-hour class.  Designed to develop strength and flexibility, Ashtanga-style yoga is best if you’re able to commit to go through the full series of movements at least a few times each week to build up your familiarity with the practice.

Whether you’re looking to tone your muscles or just to develop a stronger mind-body connection, I am almost positive there is a type of yoga that will speak to you.  Try out a few classes of those that sound most relevant to your situation and let me know what you think!

Safety Tips for Yoga While Pregnant

In general, completing a yoga practice while pregnant is safe, and can be incredibly beneficial, with the exception of Bikram style yoga.  But it is a form of exercise, so there are a few watch outs to be aware of before diving in.

  • Unless you’re taking a prenatal yoga class, we recommend telling the instructor that you’re pregnant, as well as which trimester you’re in.  They will likely have some modifications for specific poses that they can highlight to you throughout the class.
  • Do not do any poses on your back after the first trimester of pregnancy, as they can decrease blood flow to the uterus.
  • When you start to feel your sense of balance start to shift (typically around the start of the second trimester), use a wall or chair to help you complete balance poses.
  • Deep twists are not advisable at any point during pregnancy.  When your practice calls for any twisting poses, twist more from your shoulders and back than from your waist to avoid putting pressure on your abdomen.
  • As always, listen carefully to your body.  You will be noticing several changes throughout your pregnancy journey, and you will likely have to modify your practice significantly and make changes as you notice your body changing.  Welcome these changes and always speak with the instructor to make sure that your practice achieves your specific needs.

When in doubt, I recommend checking out a prenatal yoga class near you.  These classes are also a great place to meet other moms and moms-to-be, which can immediately build a wonderful sense of community.

And, as always, never hesitate to get in touch with me directly if you’d like to discuss how yoga can fit into your unique pregnancy journey!

Let’s Talk!

What’s your experience with yoga? Do you have a favorite style?

If you’ve been doing yoga, what kinds of benefits have you experienced?

If you practiced yoga throughout your pregnancy, what was your biggest take away? Would you recommend it to other women?

Spread some Yoga lovin’! Sharing is caring, and I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).

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