Interesting topic. Last Spring I had the chance to attend a workshop with Nataly Pluta, who cites work by Alice Domar (check out her website at http://www.domarcenter.com
). Here are some of the things I learned:
Infertility is defined as being unable to conceive after one year of trying. The cause may be the woman (who are more complicated) but it could also be the man (which is complicated only because us guys won't go to a doctor for this issue.
) Via our yoga practice we can focus on both the structural issues, and hormonal and other issues.
Structural problems for women may include fibroids, which interfere with processes within the uterus, endometriosis, cysts on ovaries, polycystic ovary syndrome, which is an endocrine disorder that affects approximately 5% of all women, vulvodynia (chronic vulvar pain with no known cause) and vagisimus (tightness) - not all doctors recognize these as issues. Other structural problems that can interfere with conception include compression of nerves that enervate the reproductive organs. These nerves wind their way from the lumber spine and through the inferior mesenteric ganglia. Slipped disks, derangement of the spine, herniated disks can impinge these nerves. These nerves flow through the psoas - if this is tight, it can create a problem. Alongside the nerves are the arteries that feed the pelvis and organs, which can also be compressed.
In men, we have the same structural issues regarding the nerves and arteries. Structural issues could include inflammation of the "boys", low sperm count and motility. Guys who are trying to help their wives conceive should stop wearing "tighty-whities", get out of the Jacuzzi and stop riding bikes for 100 of miles a week. Let the boys breathe and keep them cool!
On a hormonal basis, women who are subject to a lot of stress can reduce their fertility. This is a long known correlation. The HPA Axis (the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenals) regulate the menstrual cycle, the ovaries' production of estrogen, FSH, progesterone, etc. Stress effects the hypothalamus (as do drugs and environmental effects). The unfortunate part of the stress cycle is that stress interferes with conception, which creates more stress! Yoga definitely helps to manage and reduce stress. I am sure you have have often heard the story that once a couple adopts a baby, the wife gets pregnant! The stress is off and wham! The bun is in the oven.
A very important hormone for you is estrogen. Like all hormones, estrogen is built upon cholesterol. Hormones are not just needed to conceive but to support the uterus during gestation, to keep the uterine walls thick, the blood flowing, etc. To produce estrogen we need cholesterol, which means fat is needed! If body fat is too low (which is the case for many type A yoginis) the body is unable to produce estrogen, thus amenorrhea occurs: no periods. No periods, no babies!
Okay, so that is all a bit of background: what yoga can we do to help?
We can look at the energy body and meridians to help bring energy to the right places. The focus now is on the heart chakra and the svadisthana. Twists are great (for the heart) and Kidney work will help the second chakra. Massage the Liver 2 and 3 points ... L2 is between big toe and second toe, on the webbing. Then one inch (or finger width) above, is L3. The Liver detoxifies the hormones and stimulates the hypothalamus. Next, work the Kidney 5: K5 is can assist with irregular menstruation. K5 is on the inner ankle, behind the medial malleolus, and one fingers width down.
For the physical asanas, in a yang style, Iyengar's flow for infertility includes triangle, backbends and forward bends, as well as butterfly and janu sirsasana. For a Yin Yoga approach you can try the following flow:
Butterfly - with K5 pressures
Janu Sirsana - with the L points being pressed
Shoelace with twist
Swan with psoas release (ie: hold the back foot in)
Whew...that was a lot for one post. Good question though.