I haven’t touched much on the word of fertility since starting this blog. There is so much going on once you do get pregnant, not to mention once you have kids; that the time you actually decided to start trying to get pregnant and the time it took to get pregnant almost seem like a distant memory. For some it comes within the first few months of trying and for others getting pregnant can be a long, stressful road. I was lucky enough to attend a fertility seminar held at UCLA a year or so and I met so many amazing companies. A few I have already featured on the blog (Who needs a VIP Nanny?) I met a representative for Strong Yoga 4Fertility a yoga practice specializing in helping optimize woman’s fertility. With certain poses you can allow blood flow and target key fertility areas. It also provides a great community of woman to share their own experiences and support each other. After months of back and forth I am so happy to finally feature Brenda, the founder/creator of Strong Yoga 4Fertility and Deborah, one of the team members on the blog!
Q1. Tell me about yourself and what got you into yoga in the first place.
Brenda – I started practicing yoga in 1987, before it had really become popular in Los Angeles, while I was building my acting career. I found the mindful-movement and breathing the most unifying practice for my body, mind and emotions that I had ever experienced and it was transformative. Yoga not only kept my instrument “tuned” but helped release unwanted tension and stress, which can be anathema for an actor. Learning to “breathe into the areas of discomfort” became a metaphor for how to face the difficulty and uncertainties that are inherent in life as an artist. In 1994 I wanted to expand my Yoga practice by going through teacher training. I was fortunate to study and teach along side some of our greatest teachers today: Erich Schiffman, Rod Stryker, Shiva Rea, Seane Corn, Maty Ezrahy, Gary Kraftsow, Chuck Miller, Bryan Kest and Lisa Walford. It was before the “YOGA BOOM” and we were all a part of the Yoga Works family in Santa Monica. Literally, learning to apply ancient yogic philosophy to modern times has sustained me over the years so that I could weather the changing landscape of my career. When I became pregnant with my son I began my teaching career to deepen my understanding of this ancient science.
Deborah – When I went to graduate school, I specialized in the field of Health Psychology, which was in its infancy at that time. It was very exciting to be studying mind-body medicine and the relationships between our thoughts, emotions and physical well-being at a time when many people still did not believe they were intimately connected. I loved being able to teach my patients how to use their breath, visualization, hypnosis and other techniques to change their experiences. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I dabbled a little in yoga more so for exercise purposes but in 2006 I felt a strong draw towards pursuing yoga teacher training and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I always say, “Being a yoga teacher has made me a better psychologist and vice versa”. When you read the yoga philosophy texts that were written thousands of years ago, you are reading good psychology. They figured out much of what creates good mental, physical and spiritual well-being a very long time ago and that’s why it has stood the test of time. Many of these ancient techniques and principles are now routinely being used in the mental health field, particularly the concept of mindfulness. Transformation can certainly come from talking alone but there seems to be even more power when you combine the mind, emotions, body and spirit in the healing process.
Q2. How did you get into fertility yoga specifically?
Brenda – In 1998, there wasn’t any “fertility yoga” being taught at the time, to my knowledge. After having my son, I experienced “secondary infertility” and as a Yoga teacher, I was looking within the yogic system for ways to support my reproductive organs and balance my hormones. So, I started researching which poses nourished the reproductive organs and I started to develop a more gentle “yin” style of Yoga that would cultivate healing for women experiencing unexplained infertility like myself. I then started teaching at the Mind Body Institute at UCLA and helped other women, through yoga, face the stress of infertility. It was out of this practice and research that the proprietary practice of Strong Yoga® 4Fertility was born. I was having such profound results with my students that many were getting pregnant and wanted to share what had worked for them with family and friends who were having trouble conceiving in other parts of the country. So I created a DVD to reach them, since they didn’t live in Los Angeles. It really was born out of a need to heal myself, then share with others what I had learned in my own research.
Deborah – I came to Strong Yoga® 4Fertility because of my own fertility challenges. I was already a yoga teacher and began to research what might help to optimize my fertility, aside from any Western medicine. I happened to call Brenda a few weeks before she was to start her next teacher training program and so the rest, as they say, is history. It was very gratifying to do something not only for myself, but also to begin sharing the work with other women. As a result of my experiences, I also work with individuals and couples going through fertility challenges in my psychology practice.
Q3. Tell me about your workshops (what do they entail?)
Deborah and Brenda– The Four Fields of Fertility® workshop is a comprehensive four-week program for women who are trying to conceive. It incorporates traditional and proprietary yoga poses (asana), breathing techniques (including the “Breathe to Conceive®” methods), the Fertility Ball Method®, visualizations/meditations, education on environmental impacts on fertility, nutrition for optimizing fertility and group support. This program is suitable for everyone – those trying to conceive naturally or with assisted reproductive technologies (ART), women who are just beginning their fertility journey to those who have been challenged for years, and those new to yoga as well as seasoned yogis.
Q4. How do you think the workshops help woman struggling with fertility?
Brenda and Deborah – In my perception, these workshops help women in a multi-faceted way. They get a safe space to share their thoughts and feelings about this process with other women who are going through the same challenges. Fertility difficulties often come with shame, which tends to create isolation, so this is a place where they can just let it all out. Our tools and techniques help them to reduce stress in general by helping to move the mind/body from “fight-or-flight” (your sympathetic nervous system) into “rest-and-digest” (the parasympathetic nervous system). From a survival perspective, the body is not apt to want to get pregnant when it believes it is constantly in danger. And then more specifically, our poses, breathing techniques and the Fertility Ball® Method work also help to decrease muscle tension and increase blood flow into the pelvic region to help feed the reproductive and surrounding organs with vital oxygen and nutrients. We also educate them about lifestyle changes they can incorporate outside of the yoga room to optimize their health in general, such as eating an organic, whole food diet, and changing some of the home and beauty products they use daily that contain chemicals which can disrupt the hormone systems in the body (i.e., endocrine disruptors).
It really helps give them a safe container to learn the tools which will not only assist in facing the challenges of reproductive difficulties, but also the rigors of pregnancy and parenthood. They come in for fertility, and leave with some very essential “how to cope with life” tools.
Q5. Tell me about The Strong Fertility Ball Yoga Method.
Deborah and Brenda- The Strong Yoga® Fertility Ball Method™ includes a series of poses that use one or both of the Fertility Balls. They are placed on the body at certain acupressure points used in Chinese Medicine; some are specifically related to the fertility meridians and others are used to balance hormones, improve circulation and reduce muscle tension, particularly in the pelvic region.
The Fertility Ball® Method set comes with a detailed insert that explains how to do each pose and whether there are any contradictions (e.g., poses to avoid during menstruation, or if one is doing injectable medications for ART). The poses may be done individually if you feel inspired to do only one on a particular day, or can be done as an entire series.
This is one of our unique Strong Yoga 4Women offerings. In addition to supporting fertility health, it is also recommended for overall health of the reproductive organs for women at all ages and stages of their life including reduction of cramps, PMS, and menopausal symptoms, as well as overall digestive health.
We are currently in post-production for a DVD that visually demonstrates the use of the balls.
Q6. Please include anything else you want me to write about or any links you want me to include:
We have started a campaign called, “The Strength to Share Your Story”. We are inviting the women of the world to share their fertility stories with us in order to make this an open dialogue between the women (and their partners) who have struggled in this area. We want to help remove the shame and isolation that is often a part of fertility challenges. This is not just for women who have gone through our workshops, but for anyone who wants to share their story. A certain level of privacy can still be maintained by using one’s initials or first name and last initial.
At present, we currently teach the Four Fields of Fertility™ workshops primarily in Los Angeles but we would consider traveling if there is a group of individuals who want us to come to them.
We also do teacher trainings to teach other yoga teachers our methodology.
We are also very excited about some upcoming content that we will have to offer to women who are not able to travel to work with us in person. We are currently in post-production so keep checking in with our website to see when it is available www.strongyoga4women.com