relaxationAlthough doctors have yet to gather enough data to say with complete certainty that there is a definite link between stress and infertility, many doctors have suggested that stress may play a role in up to 30% of all infertility problems. 

Hypothetically speaking, the idea that stress is a legitimate cause of fertility problems isn’t overly surprising.  After all, many clinical studies and trials have concluded that stress plays a major role in many other health issues.  Recent studies have actually concluded that reducing stress can enhance immunity.

It is in everyone’s best interest to keep a close tab on his or her stress levels to reduce the damaging effects that stress can have on the mind and body.  What is a particularly nasty trigger for stress? Trying to conceive.  And getting even more stressed about not getting pregnant will just reduce your chances even further, as doctors have suggested.

So what can be done?   To effectively combat stress there are a number of techniques that can be used to activate the body’s natural relaxation response.  Some of these techniques include deep breathing, meditation, visualization yoga and rhythmic exercise.

1) Deep Breathing Meditation

Deep breathing as a means to meditate is a powerful, yet simple way to relax and keep tabs on your stress levels.  Your body needs oxygen to live, and the more you take in the less anxious, tense and short of breath you will feel.  Here’s a simple yet effective technique for deep breathing:

-    Sit somewhere comfortable and make sure your back remains straight.
-    Place one hand on your chest, the other on your abdomen.  If this feels uncomfortable you can always lie on your back and place a book on your stomach.  Focus on full, powerful breaths from the abdomen inhaling as much oxygen as possible.
-    Breathe in through your nose, making your hand on your stomach rise.  Exhale through your mouth, contracting your abdominal muscles as you do.

2) Muscle Relaxation Meditation

Progressive muscle relaxation allows you to become more in tune with your body and helps to target muscle groups that are particularly tense, thus relieving muscular tension that often occurs with heightened stress levels.  Progressive muscle relaxation isn’t for everyone, especially those with a history of muscle spasms, back problems or issues associated with serious injury.  So if you fit into any of those categories, make sure you consult a physician before attempting this relaxation technique:

-    Dress yourself in loose clothing, remove your shoes and start with doing some deep breathing meditation as mentioned above
-    Begin by focusing on your left or right foot and slowly tense your foot muscles squeezing as tightly as you can for 10 seconds.  Then release.  Make sure you are continuing your deep breathing as you do.
-    From there slowly move up your body focusing on each muscle group by tightening and releasing them. 

relaxation2Here is a popular Progressive Muscle Relaxation sequence:

1)    Right foot
2)    Left foot
3)    Right Calf
4)    Left calf
5)    Right thigh
6)    Left thigh
7)    Hips and buttocks
8)    Stomach
9)    Chest
10)    Back
11)    Right arm
12)    Right hand
13)    Left arm
14)    Left hand
15)     Neck and shoulders
16)     Face

3) Body Scan Meditation

Body Scan Meditation is very similar to Muscle Relaxation Meditation, but instead of tensing and relaxing your muscles you are simply focusing and listening to each part of your body individually.

Use the same breathing techniques as mentioned above while lying on your back.  With your eyes open or closed use the same body part sequence and simply focus on each part of your body for 2-3 minutes.  Really try to concentrate on the sensations you feel within each part of your body.

4) Mindfulness Meditation

‘Mindfulness’ is mainly to do with keying into how your body feels both externally and internally.  This ‘in-the-moment’ meditation technique does not focus on the past or future, only the present. By staying calm, focused and present, you can regain control of your nervous system and reduce stress.

Seek out a quiet spot – Find a secluded place to meditate.  This can be in your home, garden, office or somewhere outdoors.  In this place of your choosing you must be able to fully relax and be free of distractions and interruptions

Get comfy – You could lie down for this exercise, but may be prone to falling asleep, which is not the ultimate goal.  The best option is to sit comfortably with your spine straight, cross-legged or in a chair.

Choose a point of focus – Your point of focus can be internal or external.  You can close your eyes and focus on the repetitive action of your breathing, a specific feeling, a meaningful word or phrase that you can repeat in you head or an imaginary scene.  Externally you can focus on something like a flickering candle, dripping water.  Mindfulness meditation can also be applied to other activities such as eating, exercising and walking.

5) Visualization Meditation

Visualization meditation requires the use of all five senses; namely your sense of smell, sound, sight, touch and taste.

•    Find a quiet, relaxing spot to sit and begin your deep breathing meditation
•    Close your eyes and allow all your worries to slowly drift away from you
•    Visualize a calming scene of your choosing.  Picture everything you would see, hear, smell, taste and feel in your place.  Choose only imagery that appeals to you.
For example, if you are visualizing a tropical beach, imagine yourself:

•    Slowly walking along the beach, feeling the sand between your toes and the water lapping at your feet
•    Watching the sun set below the horizon and all the vivid colours around you
•    Noticing the smell of the salty ocean and the air
•    Hearing the sound of the waves crashing and the birds singing
•    Tasting the fresh air

relaxation36) Yoga

As mentioned in a previous blog post, yoga offers a wealth of benefits to everyone.  It is an excellent way to reduce stress while also improving flexibility, stamina, strength, balance and your general wellbeing.  Consider enrolling in a yoga class or purchasing a DVD with lessons you can follow along with at first.

Here are some types of yoga geared towards reducing stress:

Power Yoga – focuses on fitness with intense poses and requires immense focus and is well suited to those searching for stimulation and relaxation at the same time.

Hatha yoga – is a gentle way of relieving stress for beginners.

Satyananda – is considered the traditional form of yoga with its slow and gentle relaxation poses, soft stretches and deep breathing techniques.  Satyananda is also suitable for beginners and for those mostly looking for stress relief.


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