After being faced with a number of health challenges and life changing events in her mid-30’s, Julie Wilson felt like she had lost touch with who she was and what she wanted in life. She embarked on her first yoga teacher training and found some healthy perspective along with many tools to help heal her body, mind and spirit, choosing to focus her teachings towards helping women with their reproductive health and fertility.
We caught up with Julie to find out more about the concept of fertility yoga and how practicing it has helped with her own personal journey to try and conceive.
What do you do for your job?
I teach group yoga classes and have a few clients seeing me for private yoga sessions to help with specific health challenges including fertility. I’m also currently organising my first fertility yoga retreat while working part time as a naturopath for a local dietary supplement company.
Why have you chosen to focus on this niche of the fitness industry?
I have seen so many women who would benefit from fertility yoga, but not many people know about it and there has been no one specialising in this in New Zealand, until now. I have always been interested in women’s health, specifically reproductive and hormonal health and as a naturopath this was the focus of much of my clinical work. It’s really exciting to bring these elements together to offer something truly holistic and unique to New Zealand women.
How did you discover yoga in the first place?
I initially started practicing yoga about 12 years ago, primarily for the physical benefits – stretching and strengthening. Over the years I’ve realised the many benefits for body, mind and beyond.
How do you believe yoga can help women who are having difficulty conceiving?
In my own personal experience with multiple miscarriages it was the philosophical side of yoga that initially helped me – I came to find an acceptance of the situation as it was and found a positive way to move through the grief. Yoga was a big help in restoring my sense of self.
Then I started learning about the physical benefits of specific yoga poses and sequences to help balance hormones, reduce stress, improve circulation and promote pelvic alignment. I see fertility yoga helping women not only physically but also by reconnecting with their body, mind, sense of self and finding some self-love, gratitude and acceptance along the way.
Has there been much study done into the effect yoga can have on fertility or is this a relatively new concept?
Obviously yoga has been a part of the traditional healing system in India for thousands of years and that includes yoga for reproductive health. In the West though this is still quite a new concept. There are a handful of studies that have looked at the effect of yoga on fertility – mostly they’ve found it helps by modulating the neuroendocrine axis – essentially reducing stress hormones and balancing key reproductive hormones. A more specific study in 2014 found that hatha yoga reduced distress in women undergoing their first IVF cycle.
What do you think yoga can provide that the world of medicine/doctors/hospitals doesn’t?
Assisted reproductive technologies have helped a lot of couples to have children which is wonderful, but it can be a very stressful process both psychologically and physically. It is also a process which can leave the couple feeling quite powerless as they have the procedures done to them then wait and see.
While fertility yoga offers no guarantee or percentage success rate of conception, it is something proactive that people can do to improve their health, reduce stress and improve their chances of successful, healthy conception. Fertility yoga offers people a chance to take charge of an aspect of their health which is both positive and empowering.
Who can benefit from fertility-focused yoga?
As a naturopath I believe in pre-conception planning – that’s looking at getting as healthy as possible at least four months before trying to conceive – so there are definitely benefits for those just starting their journey to have a baby. For women with fertility challenges the benefits are even more profound as the layers of stress, self-doubt, hormonal imbalance and grief build up, doing a positive activity such as specific fertility yoga can help to address all of these issues.
What influence does yoga have on your life today?
Yoga is a part of my life every day now; even if I don’t find the time for a physical practice I still try to practice mindfulness in my daily activities, pause for a breath or two when I’m getting tense and then find some perspective and work on letting go of what was triggering the tension. That’s not easy to do every day, but that’s why it’s called practice.
What are your favourite poses and why?
It changes from day to day depending on my mood and energy levels, but a consistent favourite is adho mukha svanasana – downward facing dog. It’s like an active meditation, scanning my body to check my alignment, feel the lengthening of my spine, the release in my back of the neck, the strength in my shoulders and the stretch in the back of my legs – it has benefits for the whole body and is very calming for the mind.
For more information on Julie Wilson and fertility yoga, visit www.nzyogamama.com
Image / Supplied