19 July 2016

Yoga and fertility

1 in 7 couples in the UK are affected by fertility issues. There are many factors to consider in both men and women.  These include: endometriosis, tube blockages, Fibroids, lack of ovulation, poor quality sperm,... to name but a few.  However, 25 % of couples tested for fertility problems will be classified as being “unexplained”. This doesn't mean that you cannot get pregnant,  but  that there is no underlying medical reason for it not happening. This in itself can be very stressful and is why many fertility experts will recommend a mind body approach to fertility.
What is infertility?
According to the NHS guildlines “infertility is when a couple cannot get pregnant (conceive), despite having regular unprotected sex” with one in seven couples having difficulty conceiving this is 3.5 million people in the UK.
About 84% of couples will conceive naturally within one year if they have regular unprotected sex ( every two to three days) “ See NHS website for full statistics.
 It is best to get a check up with a GP to rule out any underlying medical conditions that might be preventing a pregnancy and then consider the path and options open to you.
Some things to consider are:
·         Age
  • Weight (BMI)
  • Lifestyle (drinking, smoking, nutrition)
  • Stress

If you are looking to make changes and choose the natural pregnancy route, some of these factors should be considered. Couples who are taking the medical intervention path will also be advised to look at these factors as well.
There are not many research papers on the effect yoga can have on fertility.  Nonetheless,  there has been a lot of research on the effects of yoga/meditation on stress. For some women, chronic stress can affect ovulation by altering signals to the brain. Overly anxious women may ovulate less regularly-The body can go into “fight or flight” mode and may use the energy necessary to conceive ineffectively-Stress has also been shown to lower sperm count in men. Yoga has been clinically shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. 

A 2003 study published in the journal Fertility and sterility found that yoga and meditation are helpful adjuncts to fertility treatments. “When women learn to attain physical relaxation she feels better about her body and begins to treat it with more respect-resulting in heathier lifestyle choices” (NB this was not a scientific study but a study by a yoga teacher but deemed worthy of adding to the study list).

Many fertility experts now recommend yoga to their patients who are having difficulty trying to conceive. One leading expert, Zita West, says: ”Any exercise that involves mindfulness, breathing techniques and meditative visualisation has many physical, emotional and mental benefits. Yoga is a calming antidote to any woman consumed by an overwhelming desire for a baby. The resulting stress of which becomes an impediment to conception itself”.
Gentle yoga classes taught  by compassionate teachers who may have chosen to specialise in this area are really beneificial.  Classes that have an emphasis on breath, relaxation, positive mantras and visualization are what can help women who are struggling to accept the situation they are in. Poses/asana that encourage blood flow to the hips, abdomen and heart area should be included in these classes. Teachers who have studied fertility yoga specifically will be able to offer slightly different sequences for different times of the month. They can also include women who are in the two week implantation phase of IVF (a very stressful time indeed for women). Whether you have specific training or not, I think it is worth considering is there enough Yin in a class to balance a yang practice/lifestyle that goes with fertility issues.

Mr Kamal Ojha MD MRCOG of Concept Fertility encourages his patients to our fertility classes – he feels the benefits of alleviating stress and encouraging poses that increase blood flow to the uterus can really help the success rate of Fertility treatment he offers.

Of course some women who have a strong yoga practice already may have to look at letting go of some poses that they love, or consider changing their practice to incorporate some of the aspects already mentioned.
 One of only a handful of certified ashtanga yoga teachers Phillipa Asher wrote an incredibility honest and moving account of her journey and experience with infertility in the wonderful book YOGA  SADHANA for mothers by Shamila Desai & Anna Wise -detailing how the length and intensity of her practice caused her to stop menstruating and reduced the hormones necessary for conception. She describes how she had to find another way “creating a welcoming environment for a pregnancy, rather than pushing her body to its physical limit.” - “giving herself permission to be a bit more relaxed with asana practice”
 Philippa also described being honest with her teacher about this-if you are struggling to get pregnant your yoga teacher may be able to advise and encourage you to practice in a different way-I have heard my own teacher Nancy Gilgoff advise students who are trying to conceive, to practice as though they are pregnant- essentially in a softer way.
I believe women should be encouraged to honour their cycles and their bodies, and it is often in the surrender and letting go that that the “ Shakti” can be found.

Yoga Mama host fertility yoga courses for both students and teachers

Futher recommended reading and websites ;
Fertility yoga a natural approach to conception By  Kerstin Leppert
Yoga and Fertility a journey to health and healing By Jill Mahrlig. Lynn Jensen.
Yoni Shakti By Uma Dinsmore Tuli
www. NHS.uk   www.conceptfertility.co.uk

04 July 2016

How yoga can help with a smoother birthing experience

How yoga can help with a smoother birthing experience.

Babies that are well positioned in a woman's pelvis at the end of her pregnancy can have a major influence on her birthing experience and the way her baby is born. A lot of women will work up to 36 weeks in pregnancy, often seated at a desk leaning back in the chair. This seated position can cause the heaviest part of the baby ( the back of the body) to fall towards the woman's spine in the Occipital posterior position (OP) or back to back as it is sometimes called.

Occipital Anterior position (OA)

Babies in the Occipital Anterior (optimal fetal position) have an easier passage through the pelvis. Women delivering in the Occipital Anterior position tend to have shorter and more comfortable labours, with rapid cervix dilation and efficient contractions. There is less likelihood of medical intervention or complications during the birthing process.

Occipital Posterior position (OP)

Babies that are in the Occipital Posterior (fetal back towards the mother's spine) have a much more difficult journey to make. Women delivering babies in an OP position tend to have 'back labour', longer deliveries and will sometimes need medical intervention to assist them.   

How can yoga help encourage a baby to rotate into optimal position?

Using yoga poses that are forward-leaning or that are on all fours, especially during the last six weeks of pregnancy (last two-three weeks with second and subsequent pregnancies) can help create space for a baby to move into an OA position. Yoga poses such as Cat position, hip rotations and pelvic floor rocking can all assist with this optimal fetal positioning and help assist babies on their journey into the world.

11 May 2016

Why every new mum needs physical therapy

A very interesting article by Julie Revelant, published in Fox Health News on 17 April. She argues that every new mother needs physical therapy in order to rehabilitate and strengthen pelvic floor muscles that become weakened during childbirth. We would recommend this after the 6-week postpartum check up.

Why every new mom needs physical therapy

By Julie Revelant, originally published on Fox Health News on 17 April 2016

After she gave birth to her son, Valerie Orsoni knew what to expect: a prescription from her doctor for 12 sessions of physical therapy to rehabilitate her pelvic floor muscles.

 “Even when you’re a little girl in France, your mom always tells you to stay stretched and to always tuck in your tummy and contract your abs. When you do that, naturally it leads to contracting the perineum,” Orsoni, 45,  the founder of Lebodychallenge.com, said.

After the birth of her son, now 19, Orsoni underwent biofeedback, a treatment that uses an electrode or probe inserted into the vagina to measure the strength of the pelvic floor muscles and to help ensure that Kegel exercises are done correctly.

Although she was prepared for it, Orsoni admits she was a little embarrassed. “At first, it’s pretty surprising. They’re putting something in your vagina,” she recalled.

Orsoni, who now lives in San Francisco, Calif., said postpartum rehabilitation is so important in fact that doctors in France won’t give women the green light to start exercising again without completing the two-to-three month program.

“The worst thing that you could do would be to go back to doing regular exercises after giving birth without doing perineum rehab,” she said.

Rehab for your pelvis and abs

After giving birth, it’s common for women to deal with issues like urinary incontinence, diastasis recti— a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle— and pelvic pain.

In fact, approximately 85 percent of women have pain the first time they have sex after childbirth and nearly a quarter of them still do at 18 months postpartum, a recent study in the journal BJOG found.

“Most moms are in pain after birth and they just figure it’s common and normal but there is treatment for it. They don’t have to live with it,” said Marianne Ryan, a physical therapist in New York City and author of “Baby Bod: Turn Flab to Fab in 12 Weeks Flat.”

In France and other countries like the Netherlands and Australia, postpartum physical therapy is a common treatment to help women recover from the rigors of childbirth. Yet in the United States, women have a 6-week postpartum check-up and are told to resume their normal activities. 

“Not only do we do nothing in the U.S., but also if a woman goes to her physician, particularly her obstetrician, with these complaints after delivery it’s written off as ‘Well, you just had a baby,’” said Stephanie Prendergast, co-founder of The Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles, Calif. and author of “Pelvic Pain Explained.”

“While that’s true, there are still musculoskeletal implications that come with both pregnancy, labor and delivery and of course, C-section,” she said.

Although they might be well-intentioned, OB-GYN’s are not trained to identify pelvic floor or abdominal problems like physical therapists are, Prendergast said.

Another issue is that although women are encouraged to do Kegel exercises, doing so can make perineal tears worse. What’s more, a study in the journal Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery found that 23 percent of women who said they knew how to do Kegel exercises did not do them correctly.

If problems are left untreated, over time they can lead to low-back pain and hip problems, urinary and bowel function issues such as urgency, frequency, burning, constipation, anal pain, and infection and pelvic organ prolapse, a condition in which the bladder, uterus or other organs descend into the vagina, Prendergast said.

What’s more, studies show that even if women feel fine after childbirth, it could take between 6 and 10 years until these issues become a problem.

How physical therapy can help

“In an ideal world, everybody should have an evaluation to identify what their particular issues are and get a specialized home program,” Prendergast said. 

A physical therapist can help identify impairments in the tissues, muscles, nerves and joints and evaluate the abdominal wall and the pelvic floor muscles to determine what has changed during pregnancy, labor and delivery.

Once the issues are identified, women are given an individualized program to help the muscles heal, improve urinary, bowel and sexual function as well as the overall stability of the pelvis so they can do things like pick up their babies, Prendergast said. 

Physical therapists can also help moms do daily tasks in a way that doesn’t put pressure on the abdominal muscles, or even teach them how to have a bowel movement without straining the pelvic floor muscles, Ryan said.

Biofeedback, the therapy Orsoni used, can help, especially for those women who have recently given birth and find it hard to pinpoint their pelvic floor muscles. It can also help identify a temporary neuropathy, or damage along the nerve that controls the muscles.

“They may need electrical stimulation to help those muscles fire if the nerve can’t direct the muscle to do so itself,” Prendergast said.

Caring for a new baby can leave little time for sleep, a shower or a workout, much less multiple physical therapy sessions. Yet experts agree it’s one of the best things women can do for their health, both right after childbirth and in the future.

“Women deserve treatment,” Ryan said. “Your body is not going to just magically snap back together.”

Originally published in Fox Health News on 17 April 2016

04 May 2016

Yoga for Birth Preparation



Diane's "Yoga for Birth Preparation" classes are tailored for the final stages of pregnancy (from 32 weeks), where what we need most is to quieten the mind, let go of time pressures and constant doing and be in a consciously relaxed state, where we can connect with ourselves, our babies and our inner birthing wisdom.

The course runs over two weeks covering the following topics:

Week 1:
The natural physiology of birth – What to expect at different stages of the labour process
Using breath as your anchor in labour – Detailed breath techniques for the different stages of labour.

Week 2:
Managing fear – Trusting your body and nurturing a sense of empowerment Creating a positive intention and guided relaxation – Letting go of the intellect and connecting with intuition and instincts. After the initial discussion, the session then becomes more body focused incorporating yoga postures that can help move the labour process along and build an inner and outer strength, to support a woman along the course of her labour. The class ends with a restorative relaxation, fully supporting the mum to be, so they can let go and connect with their inner self and their babies. Above all, the class aims to nurture a sense of community and sharing in the final stages of pregnancy to support women as they approach their birth and enter into motherhood.


This course costs £40. To book your place, visit the Yoga Mama online booking system or call us on 020 8789 3881.

How to take yoga photos for Instagram

Ever wondered how you should take yoga photos for your Instagram account? Well, watch this video from JP Spears and discover some useful tips! #livingtheyogaloca :-)

16 February 2016

Prescribing yoga and arts classes on the NHS is money well spent

Want, Idleness, Ignorance, Squalor and Disease: these were the five "giants" identified by Sir William Beveridge in his wartime report that laid the foundation  for the postwar welfare state. He omitted a sixth that is less viable yet as old as civilisation: loneliness.

Isolation inflicts a heavy psychological burden, especially on the elderly. It also has financial costs, in worsening ill health. An innovative scheme in Rotherham suggests how these can be reduced. Health administrators in the town have since 2012 allocated about £500,000 a year to community groups to help vulnerable patients to join them.

It works, for patients and health budgets. GPs direct patients to activities such as yoga, fitness classes or the arts, or counseling for those with financial or welfare problems. This sort of social prescribing reduces the pressure on medical services. Analysis by Sheffield Hallam University suggests that by reducing A & E visits, hospital stays and GP appointments, the programme saves the NHS 43p for each £1 initially spent. If the benefits were continued for five years, the NHS would save twice as much as it spent.

It takes care to interpret and apply these figures. As life expectancy increases and other institutions (such as organised religion) wane in their adherents, however, it makes eminent sense for policymakers to stress social and preventative health measures.

In their recent book Thrive,  the economist Lord Layard and psychologist David Clark argue that mental illness causes more widespread suffering in society than physical illness, or than poverty and unemployment. For the NHS to provide effective, evidence-based psychological treatments is money efficiently spent. To prescribe activities for patients before they fall prey to the scourge of mental illness at all is humane and economical.

Article published in the The Times, Monday 15 February 2016, p.29

Prescription for yoga cuts A&E visits

Prescribing yoga, arts and Xbox fitness classes on the NHS can cut A & E visits by a sixth, according to an analysis of one of the largest such schemes.

Lonely older patients are much happier of GPs send them to knitting, woodwork or local history groups and the NHS could save money because they need less treatment, the study suggests.

Family doctors say they have replaced priests as the first port of call for people with social or financial problems, and non-medical help will free up appointments. Loneliness exacerbates health problems of the elderly.

In one of the longest running programmes, health chiefs in Rotherham have spent £500,000 a year since 2012 on community groups and advisers to help vulnerable patients to joint them.

Tai chi, quizzes, indoor curling and other exercises are among the groups offered to lonely older people, while those with financial problems are given debt and welfare advice and those with depression are steered towards music or creative writing classes. The NHS pays for 10 or 20 weeks of classes.

An evaluation of the scheme by Sheffield Hallam University suggests that patients taking part reduced their attendances at A & E by 17 per cent and hospital stays by 11 per cent. This saved the NHS 43p for each £1 it spent initially, while 82 per cent of patients felt happier, better connected or less worried.

Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Social prescribing schemes can contribute to a patient's overall health and well-being and this report shows that it can lead to a number of positive outcomes".

Article by Chris Smyth, published in The Times, Monday 15 February 2016, p.4