By Kristin McGee, Guest Blogger
I moved to New York City from small town Pocatello, Idaho to pursue my love of acting in the early 90’s. I discovered yoga in my acting classes and felt it was the best thing ever for my body, mind and spirit. I graduated NYU and certified to teach yoga as I auditioned and worked as an actress; but soon I realized I really wanted to teach yoga full time.
Yoga has been there for me through all the ups and downs in my life. I don’t know what I would do without yoga, it has helped me stay centered, balanced, flexible, strong and fit. I never realized it could also aid me in getting over an eating disorder, learning to truly love myself, landing a spot on 30 rock (and my actress dreams come around full circle) and get pregnant!
I have always been a late bloomer and didn’t start my period until I was 16 going on 17. I danced all of my life and have always been on the lean side. My periods were irregular and by the time I finally decided to settle down and have babies, my body wasn’t cooperating. I married my husband when I was 37 years old and after two years of trying, we weren’t having any luck.
I started teaching yoga for fertility classes around that time at the Reproductive Medical Associates in Manhattan; and doing research on yoga poses that can enhance fertility. I loved working with so many women in the same boat as myself; and sharing stories with each other so we didn’t feel so alone. Yoga is all about community; and the connections we made were just as important as the poses themselves.
When I turned 39 I had to call in the big guns and I went through a round of IVF. I kept up my yoga practice, went to acupuncture and ate a healthy diet. I fully believe the yoga mindset helped me have such a successful cycle. I had my beautiful baby boy Timothy on July 31, 2013 and three years later I had twin boys that were embryos we had saved from our first round. I feel so very blessed to have three boys after only one treatment. I know not all women have the same luck.
If you’re trying to conceive naturally or using fertility treatments, yoga can truly help in so many ways. Yoga is calming which is exactly what a woman needs when she is trying to get pregnant. Yoga is confidence building, which helps us rely on our self and trust our body to do what it needs to do. Yoga unites the mind and the body so we can really be in touch with what our body needs and treat it with compassion. Yoga is stress reducing and trying to get pregnant with or without meds, can be very stressful. Yoga helps us stay present and in the moment and all we can do is take each breath and each day as it comes. Yoga is low impact and great for opening up the hips and bringing blood flow to the pelvis.
I recently wrote a book Chair Yoga: Sit, Stretch, and Strengthen Your Way to a Happier, Healthier You. In this book are some wonderful chair yoga poses for women to do as they try and conceive. Because it is recommended to take it easy if you’re undergoing fertility treatments, these poses are a great alternative to high impact exercise. You want to avoid deep twists as your ovaries are stimulated; but other than that, all of these poses are safe and effective for balancing out the hormones and helping with stress and anxiety. If you’re trying to conceive naturally, these poses will help open up the pelvic region and bring blood flow down to the genitals. These poses also help us unite our body with our mind so we can feel harmonious and aligned as we envision our body making a beautiful little being.
Cat/Cow—Start seated at the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor hip width apart. Inhale arch out of your lower back and open up your chest as you look up to the ceiling. Exhale, curl your spine, pull in your abdominals, and round the back. Continue arching and rounding for 6-8 cycles. This move is great for opening up the pelvic region and getting blood flowing to the lower half of the body. It also releases the chest and upper back and alleviates stress and anxiety
Pelvic Circles—Next start circling your hips around in a clockwise direction letting the spine be nice and loose. After 6-8 cycles in one direction, stop and start the counterclockwise circling. I love this exercise for really opening up the hips and lubricating the pelvic floor region. Imagine stirring up fertile energy.
High Altar Side Stretch—After circles, stop and sit up nice and tall. Inhale lift your arms up overhead interlace the fingers and invert the palms to the ceiling. Lift up out of your lower back and exhale over to the right side. Hold for 5 breaths then come up to sit and repeat on the opposite side. The image of an altar overhead is powerful for holding something on it you want to bring in to your life. Stretching to the sides helps open up the lungs and bring in fresh air and positive thoughts.
Ankle to Knee—Sit at the edge of your seat and cross the right ankle above the left knee letting the right knee drop open to the side. Feel a great stretch in the outer hips and feel free to fold forward to make it more intense. Ankle to knee opens up the hips and allows for more blood flow to the lower half of the body.
Pigeon—Pigeon is one of my all time favorites fertility poses, it really opens up the hips and entire lower body. Pigeon also stretches the hips flexors, which are like the fight or flight muscles. When we release the adrenaline built up it helps our bodies relax and conceive. Start with your right outer thigh on the seat with the knee open to the side. Extend the left leg back behind you and press through the ball of the foot. Hold for 5-8 breaths then repeat on the opposite side.
Goddess—Finally end with goddess pose. Start at the edge of your seat and open your legs wider than your hips turning your toes out. Bring your hands together in prayer at your chest. Imagine your body as a vessel for conception; and breathe in to the hips, pelvis, inner thighs and lower abdominals. Hold for 5-8 breaths.
Practice these postures three to five times a week while you are trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatments. Complimentary alternative medical practices such as yoga are really incredible for helping the process along. I truly believe my yoga practice played such a huge part in building my family and I hope to encourage all women to take the time to be kind to themselves and slow down in order to allow their bodies to make precious little babies.