One of my readers recently sent me a message asking about yoga for fertility. Admittedly, I’m not certified in pre-natal yoga, but I do know a few amazing teachers who are. Jill Petigara, literally wrote the book on yoga and fertility. Her book, Yoga and Fertility: A Journey to Health and Healing, delves into the role yoga can play in helping women conceive.
The book can be a great guide for soon-to-be-moms, and it includes exercises they can do at home. However, if you ARE trying to get pregnant, I highly recommend you find a yoga instructor or workshop that specializes in yoga and fertility. A certified pre-natal instructor, particularly someone who specializes in fertility yoga can help guide you though an optimal practice for you. Of course, check with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program.
If you can’t find a class specific to fertility, a restorative yoga class is a great place to start. Many of the same poses are integrated, and the class is a gentle, nurturing, ‘restorative’ environment. That said, there are some things in addition to the physical poses in yoga to help with fertility.
Trying to get pregnant can be stressful and emotionally trying, so it’s a perfect time to begin a meditation practice. A daily meditation practice, even for five minutes can help reduce stress and balance emotions and hormones. Keeping a journal to unburden yourself of intrusive thoughts also helps. You also may want to try acupuncture and massage.
Fertility Yoga & Meditation Videos
To help you along with your home practice, here are a couple of videos as you journey toward pregnancy and motherhood.
Yoga poses that aid fertility
Fertility Meditation through the Chakras
The most important thing to remember during this time is to let go of all self-judgement. Be kind to yourself, nurture yourself, and allow any emotions that arise to be. Accept them. Breathe.
Today, we’ll experience the annular solar eclipse. The moon will block part of the sun today for a sensational celestial sight for those who can see it. So what does this mean for yogis?
Like during a full moon, energies fluctuate greatly during solar and lunar eclipses . Emotions can be heightened, and we can feel overwhelmed or even drained — even for several days before and after the eclipse.
We, ourselves, may feel these shifts intensely or we may simply feel the effects of everyone and everything around us in heightened states. Like full moon yoga, there are many different interpretations of what, if any, yoga to do.
For me, I’m often so full of energy that I’m buzzing like a kid on sugar only to crash from the overwhelming build up within me. So, I tend to get on the mat and practice a steady vinyasa flow FULL of breath linked with movement. This both helps to release and draw on some of the amazing energy circulating at the time in a healthy, productive way.
It’s also a great time to experience connectedness, and with the new moon, it’s a great time to shed what’s no longer serving you mentally and spiritually, and start anew.
Here’s a practice you can do for the next few days in celebration of the solar eclipse and new moon. I recommend focusing on your breathing, flowing from each pose to the next on an in breath and out breath. Feel free to sneak a vinyasa or your favorite transition in between the standing poses and inversions.
1. Kapalabhati Breathing – Here’s a video for those unfamiliar with the practice
2. Gentle warm-up – Whatever creatively moves through you to get the energy flowing. Perhaps some cat cow, or hip circles or even some meditative, child’s pose to release tension.
3. 3 – 5 Rounds Surya Namaskar A Sun Salutations – There’s a chart within this post if you need a reminder of the poses.
4. 3 -5 Rounds of Chandra Namaskar (moon salutations) – Here’s a post with a chart if you’re unfamiliar with moon salutations.
5. Tree pose – Hold for 5 breaths on each side. Don’t be surprised if you’re wobbly, just stay with it. If you topple out of the pose, just get back in and laugh.
7.Inversion of choice – You may want to pick something like headstand or shoulderstand. If you’re energy is off and you’re feeling weak, go for supported shoulderstand with a block under your sacrum
7. Gomukhasana Cow Face Pose – Hold for 10 – 15 breaths, and switch sides
8. Savasana – Give yourself 10 minutes to integrate your practice
9.Meditation – If you have a meditation practice already, try doing 15 – 20 minutes. If not, you may choose simply to sit still and allow yourself to be present; you may choose to silently repeat a mantra or send an intention out with the new moon. Or you could try this Solar Eclipse Kundalini meditation by CatalystYogi.
Enjoy your practice whatever you do, and take time to observe the energy swirling around you and within you.
Got low back pain? It might not be your back. It might be your glutes – or lack thereof.
If you work in an office, chances are you sit a lot, maybe even all day. Chronic sitting can lead to muscle imbalances and even cause some muscles to go completely dormant. If you’d noticed that you suffer from chronic lower back pain, but haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause, your lower back pain may be due to lower cross or lower crossed syndrome. The good news is, you CAN recover with some exercises throughout the day, and a yoga sequence designed to fire the muscles that have gone night-night. Continue reading →
I love the freedom and openness that Camatkarasana or ‘wild thing’ brings to a yoga practice. Talk about a pose that allows you to find your edge, and build trust in yourself.
A balancing pose, back bend, strength builder, core strengthener, chest opener, and heart opening pose all one, wild thing is one of my favorite poses.
As always, begin with some sun salutations to warm up the body, and build up to Camatkarasana with poses to stretch and strengthen key muscle groups used in this pose such as: low lunge, standing forward fold (Uttanasana), extended side angle pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), cobra pose, (Bhujangasana), bow pose (Dhanurasana), and side plank pose (Vasisthasana). Continue reading →
Most yogis and yoginis are quite familiar with the various forms of Surya Namaskar or ‘sun saluations’ that draw in the energy of the sun, and build heat. But few have heard of moon salutations or Chandra Namaskar. Whereas the sun represents the masculine (yang) energies within us, the moon represents our feminine (yin) energies. They are cooling, balancing, and introspective.
Moon salutations can be done to honor various times in a lunar cycle, and they’re particularly beneficial for balancing an overabundance of energy. If you’re feeling ‘hot tempered’, overstimulated or anxious, this gentler flow can balance and calm fiery impulses.
Like sun salutations, there are different variations of Chandra Namaskar, but they all reflect the rhythm of the moon. In honor of today’s full moon, or anytime you want to get moving gently like in the evening, here is a gentle moon salutation.
Here’s a short video from Eckhart Yoga to guide you through Chandra Namaskar
Connect with the cooling energies of the moon and go ‘yin-ward’.
Most guys freak out at the mere mention of ‘woman stuff’, but this post isn’t just for women. If you’re a male yoga instructor, you might find the sequence and modifications in this post extremely helpful. There is some controversy, among the various schools of yoga, whether or not it’s contraindicated for women to practice yoga during their monthly cycle. Some say believe it’s fine to keep up with your practice, but avoid inversions, while others say take a break all together. Is there a right answer? Here’s a comprehensive guide to yoga during menstruation.
As women, we instinctively put others before ourselves. Working mothers push through each day from nine to five only to come home and take care of families. Single mothers assume the role of both parents, and single women assume the roles of provider, maintenance man, mechanic, chef and housekeeper. We rarely take time for ourselves, especially during the one time of the month when our bodies tell us to. So if you don’t listen to your body any other time, acknowledge your need to rest for a few days each month.
If you sustained an injury, you would recognize the need to modify your practice until you healed. Menstruation is similar. The body needs time to heal so you don’t create new injuries.
Menstruation is an elimination process, and as such, most every yoga teacher understands and agrees that women who are menstruating should at the very least avoid inversions which counter the flow of energy during their cycle. Geeta Iyengar believes that women should not engage in asanas that create an obstruction to the menstrual flow, expend too much energy, or bring about hormonal disturbance.
The biology of asana (yoga poses) and menstruation
Most experts recommend that we stop strenuous exercise during the heavy days of the cycle. The body is sloughing off the lining of the uterus and it is a good time to practice gentle self-care. Rest, have a nap, enjoy a cup of tea, go for a walk or read a book. Take the time that you might practice yoga and sit in quiet meditation or simply breathe deep and full for 5-10 minutes.
Dr. Prafulla Dorle, a doctor, senior yoga teacher and yoga therapist from Yoga Vidya Gurukul, shares his expertise on why some postures should be avoided. In some cases, Dr. Dorle even advocates skipping practice during menstruation.
1. Inverted postures – If they are practiced during menstruation they can cause reflex or back flow of menstrual blood from the uterus to the fallopian tubes and then to the abdominal cavity. The blood would carry along with it some endometrial cells and tissue – this is called retrograde menstruation. It is quite possible that the endometrial cells could get implanted and grow in the pelvic peritoneum and abdominal cavity. These implanted cells would cause menstrual bleed during each cycle under the hormonal influence, a condition called endometriosis.
2. Increased pressure in the abdomen – Just before menstruation there is regression of the endometrium. The coiled arteries become buckled up and there is stasis of blood flow in them. This local stasis and the vasoconstriction of the arteries supplying the endometrium causes the necrosis of the endometrium. At this stage the arteries relax and the menstrual bleeding starts. An increase in abdominal pressure, through certain asanas, the blood flow through the arteries would increase causing more blood loss.
3. Aches and pains – Though some asanas may decrease the pain it is important to be aware that we should not practice any asanas that cause pain or strain to the body. Every woman is different and will have different effects of the asanas. So it is important that they listen to their own body.
Personally, I believe menstruation is a time for rest, so I focus on other aspects of my practice like meditation and deep relaxation. Your yoga is for your health, no one else’s.
Yoga poses for menstruation
The below sequence from Diva Cup helps to alleviate the discomforts associated with menstruation. Cramps, fluid retention, heaviness and/or bloating in the abdomen and legs, irregular digestion, ache or spasm of the lower back, up and down emotions, and fatigue in both the body and mind, are some of the characteristics associated with menses.
Contraindications for this practice include: headache, large clots/heavy bleeding, menses extended beyond ten days, or severe abdominal cramping. Above all, it’s best to listen to your body and if you DO decide to move forward with a physical practice, talk to your Yoga teacher, who can help you modify your practice.
Sit comfortably for 5 minutes:Pay attention to the breath
Head neck and shoulder warm up: Turn head side to side, right ear to shoulder, left ear to shoulder, circles (like drawing a circle on a chalk board with your nose)
Spinal Flexion: Forward and back, side to side then circles Right/Left
Badakonasana: Bound angle
Supata Badakonasana: Reclined bound angle
Prasarita Padottanasana: Wide legged forward bend right/left/centre
No matter what your feelings are on practicing asana yoga during your cycle, there is one pose that every woman should do – savasana. Use your energy wisely, allow your body time to rest, recover and restore and you’ll preserve your energy for the whole month.
Remember, that modifying or taking a break from a vigorous physical practice doesn’t mean you’re ‘giving up yoga’ for a week. Instead meditation, omkar chanting, mantras, yoga nidra and relaxation can be practiced when a woman is more in tune with her mind and can become more easily focused.
One of my all-time favorite poses to soothe any number of physical or mental ills, is supported Supta Baddha Konasana or reclined bound angle pose. I incorporate this pose in every restorative class I teach, and sometimes as a treat at the end of a regular mat class. I learned the pose during teacher training, and it’s absolutely ‘delicious’ to quote one of my students.
This restorative pose is especially beneficial for people with breathing problems as it opens the chest and relaxes the intercostal muscles between the ribs. It also helps to alleviate menstrual pain, and calms the mind. New Day Yoga did a great job of explaining how to set up for this relaxing pose.
Sit in front of short end of bolster with it touching tailbone.
Bend knees, place feet on floor.
Place soles of feet together, let knees fall to sides.
Place a block under each outer thigh even if you don’t “need” to. (You want to completely support weight of legs so that you experience no traction in the sacral ligaments, which are extremely vulnerable in this position.)
Use strap to hold feet in position. Place strap around sacrum, between knees, and over the outsides of feet.
Use arms for support as you gently lie down.
Alt. A: Increase height by adding a blanket .
Alt. B: Decrease height by using a blanket instead of bolster.
Alt. C: Position a long-rolled blanket under each arm to relieve stretch in neck and arms.
Place a blanket under neck and head.
Relax abdomen, open chest.
Place an eye pillow over eyes.
Practice the Centering Breath while in the pose.
Let the outside world come slowly into your awareness.
Take in the sounds around you; pay attention to the sensations of your body.
Remove eye pillow. Slowly open eyes.
Undo strap, and slide down one foot, then the other, to straighten legs.
Roll to one side. Rest a few breaths. Then sit up.
Helps those with high blood pressure and breathing problems
Helpful for women during menstruation and menopause
For disc disease in low back or chronic sacroiliac dysfunction, lower the height of props.
For pinched nerve or disc disease in neck, carefully support head and neck.
For knee injury, use props under thighs and don’t hold pose too long.
Sink into this pose for as long as 10-30 minutes if you’re comfortable, come out slowly, and transition into meditation for the ultimate blissful experience.
In honor of Chinese New Year, which takes place Sunday, February 10th, I thought I’d focus on this year’s Chinese zodiac sign — the serpent — specifically, the water snake. Bhujangasana also known as cobra, serpent or snake pose, is said to awaken Kundalini or feminine energy. Kundalini, sanksrit for ‘coiled snake’ is believed to reside at the base of the spine. Kundalini can be “awakened” or “aroused” from its “slumber” by intense meditation, breath control and yoga practices designed to activate the flow of prana.
This is also a heart and throat opening pose, as well as a pose that stimulates the root & sacral chakras. The physical benefits of cobra pose include strengthening the spine, soothing sciatica, opening the chest & lungs, and relieve stress. If you have had a back injury, suffer from headaches or are pregnant, you should avoid cobra pose or check with your doctor.
A water sign, the snake embodies intuition and introspection. One of my favorite popular yoga sequences, is Shiva Rea’s moon shine flow. A watery, fluid sequence that links breath with movement; each movement flowing into the next as one. In minute 2:44 of this video, you’ll see Shiva’s trademark prana flow expression of cobra.
If you prefer traditional cobra pose or are new to yoga, here are steps for getting into the pose from Yoga Journal:
Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body.
Press the tops of the feet and thighs and the pubis firmly into the floor.
On an inhalation, begin to straighten the arms to lift the chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain a connection through your pubis to your legs. Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Narrow the hip points. Firm but don’t harden the buttocks.
Firm the shoulder blades against the back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the backbend evenly throughout the entire spine.
Hold the pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor with an exhalation.
Activate your intuition, relieve stress and embrace your Kundalini with Bhujangasana.
Every few months I take inventory of my ‘stuff’. I peruse my closet for clothes and shoes that are better served as donations; I take a trip down ‘expiration date’ lane and go through vitamins, prescriptions, lotions, makeup, etc.; and, I take inventory of my physicality. That is, what am I not using very much that I SHOULD, what am I afraid to let go of, and what should change?
Let’s face it, when you hit 40, your body changes. The exercises that used to come easy, may be the ones that could now cause injury. And the workouts we shy away from, might just be what cures an ache or pain.
Not too long ago, I was a die-hard Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) junkie. My mornings consisted of an asana practice that featured a lot of sun salutations with standing, balancing, twisting and inversion poses mixed in, but I noticed that injuries were creeping in. “Is yoga bad for me?” I wondered? No, my practice had become, in itself, a samskara — a pattern that wasn’t serving me anymore.
After some assessment, I found that I was gravitating to poses that were easy much to the demise of other parts of my body. I also noticed that I was avoiding poses that caused pain — and rightly so. But, I decided to investigate the root cause rather than give up altogether. I’ve since made adjustments to my practice that are specific to my body’s needs, and try to mix it up regularly.
While yoga IS very beneficial for everyone, it’s not once size fits all. We all can’t be Kathryn Budig (God love her), but like she says, we can “aim true.”
Take stock of your life — physcially, spiritually, emotionally, and posessions-ally. Get rid of what no longer serves you, and use what you have to your fullest (safest) potential.