It Is Time to Stop Doing Hot Yoga If You're Trying to Get Pregnant
Boom, I said it. This may not be a popular opinion for those who love their hot yoga. But hear me out.
I’ve been teaching fertility yoga and working with people who are facing infertility, fertility treatment, and miscarriage for over 6 years. I’ve extensively researched and studied all that I can find on fertility, yoga, and stress. I endeavor to understand the deep and vast world of yoga beyond the physical asana practice that has become Western Yoga.
Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll discover:
- When is hot yoga ok?
- A quick refresher on stress and fertility
- Stress Response and Hot Yoga
- Hot Yoga and the 2WW
- The energetics of hot yoga and fertility
- Why it’s hard to give up hot yoga for the benefit of your fertility
- Aligning your yoga practice with your fertility
When Is Hot Yoga Ok?
I’m not here to throw shade on hot yoga (ok maybe just a little…) I do think there is a time and a place for hot power yoga and that it could be beneficial at certain times for some people. However, please note – I’m speaking of when you are NOT trying to conceive.
For example, intense physical yoga asana practices can help to resolve an active stress response that you’re caught in. And at certain times a hot yoga practice can also help to balance your dosha (constitution) – especially for my vata friends during the winter or Kapha in the spring if they are feeling lethargic. (Psst – Don’t know your dosha? Take my quick and fun dosha quiz and see how your dosha may be affecting your experiences with fertility). And…I guess if you’re looking for an intense workout that pushes your body to extremes, then hot yoga fits the bill.
However, if your goal is to become pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy and birth, it’s time to put your hot or power yoga on pause, or any other yoga style that emphasizes fitness and pushing the body to and beyond its limits.
I’ve had this conversation hundreds of times with hot yoga practitioners who are trying to conceive and it usually ends in two ways: 1) They give up their hot yoga for a little bit and come to fertility yoga, or 2) They don’t give up their hot yoga practice.
At the end of the day – you be you and choose what you believe to be best for you and your reproductive health. But, let me tell you why I believe hot yoga does not nourish your fertility.
The Relationship Between Stress and Fertility
You may be sick of hearing about stress and fertility but what follows is important and anyone who is struggling to get pregnant should read on.
Stress is important in the discussion of hot yoga because the stresses this style of yoga puts on your body, energy, and physiology are quite extreme.
One thing that Western science has been good at researching though is stress, the stresses of fertility, and how said stress interacts with fertility. I have two great posts here and here you can check out if you want to read more on the research.
Life is stressful, and dealing with fertility issues adds to this stress. This is not news to you if you’re trying to get pregnant.
But let’s also remember that stress alone is not preventing you from getting pregnant. It is one of many variables and interactions that contribute to reproductive health. But because the journey is so stressful (and that will not change), it is imperative that we find ways to reduce stress and balance the stress hormones pulsing through our bodies which are interacting with our reproductive hormones.
When the body is stressed or overworked physically, its reproductive hormones are sidelined (not switched off entirely – and this is why very stressed people get pregnant). The body is getting the message that now is not the time to reproduce because the body is somehow in ‘danger’.
The body does not understand that we are no longer being chased by tigers. However, it reacts the same as if it were.
All the body’s resources (oxygenated blood and energy) are sent to the extremities to give you the power to flee or fight – thus the internal and reproductive organs are sidelined.
Finding ways to balance the stresses of TTC will only benefit your fertility, overall health, and quality of life. AND it is something that we can begin to take action on. So the question is – does hot power yoga decrease or increase the stress response?
Hot Power Yoga and Your Fertility
Fertility and hot yoga specifically have not been researched (to my knowledge) by Western science. However, just because Western science hasn’t studied something, doesn’t mean we can’t use other resources to determine if hot yoga is appropriate when trying to conceive.
Hot and power yoga can increase your core body temperature, cause dehydration, foster an attitude of ‘pushing through’ physical and mental discomfort, as well as moving the body into positions that it would regularly not be able to get into.
When the body is overheated (an increase in basal body temperature), very hot, or overworked – it can move into a stress response.
Perhaps, if you’ve done hot yoga before, you’ve felt that panic in class that you might faint, throw up, or you have a racing heart? I worked in a hot yoga studio and I have seen people exit the hot yoga room and vomit, faint, become uncontrollably shaky, and become incoherent in their speech.
To say the least – hot yoga is stressful for the body!
And even if it doesn’t go to this extreme, there is an underlying and unspoken feeling in these classes to push your body to its edge, that you should be ‘leaving it all on the mat’ and the pile of sweat on the floor is a badge of honor and a sign of all the ‘toxins’ you’ve released.
Other than sweat, what are you really leaving on the mat?
You are expending your vital energy in the form of heat, breath, and sweat. Vital energy that you desperately need to restore your fertility.
Hot Yoga and the two week wait
Something that is VERY important to keep in mind – especially during the 2-week-wait or if you think you might be pregnant – is that increased core temperature carries a risk for complications to pregnancy. Neural tube defects have been linked to increases in core body temperature in early pregnancy. This is why pregnant folks are told not to go in the hot tub (and avoid hot yoga).
Energetics of Hot Yoga and Fertility
From a yogic perspective, hot yoga and power yoga can be depleting to you physically and energetically.
We already walk around over-stimulated with our energy flowing out towards all that pulls us in that direction. We’re often overtired and sleep-deprived because we live in a culture that glorifies pushing and doing more, and that ‘busyness’ is a sign of success.
However, when you’re trying to conceive – depleting the body of its energy and soma (nectar) is not nurturing to your reproductive health. This deficit is unsupportive to your reproduction and sends your vital energy outwards – in the wrong direction.
Instead, we want nourishing and replenishing practices for both your physical and energetic body.
Hot yoga (and yoga for fitness) embrace masculine energy: heat, doing, performing, forcing, and pushing. This is agni – fire/sun energy. We already live in a male-dominated society that uplifts and celebrates these qualities. It’s exhausting and as a default, much of the strength of our feminine energy is being lost.
In masculine focused yoga practices, the prana (vital life force) flows upwards (like a flame) away from the pelvis.
Instead, we can look at the softer sides of yoga that cultivate soma – nourishing/moon energy (feminine energy). Fertility yoga and restorative yoga, for example, embrace the feminine energies of receiving, creating, nurturing, and allowing.
With soma, the prana flows downwards towards the pelvis – as honey drips down into the jar.
Spending more time in the parasympathetic response (where we reset, digest, and relax), cultivates soma, and can balance the hormones from the stresses you’re experiencing. The ‘relaxation response’ is our body’s inherent system that calms and alleviates stress.
It is in parasympathetic response that our reproductive system gets a green light and the reproductive hormones begin to function optimally.
Thus, if you want to continue your yoga practice AND benefit your fertility from multiple directions – Fertility Yoga is the best option.
Why it may be hard to give up your hot yoga for the benefit of your reproductive health.
If one of your main goals in life right now is to have a baby in your arms and it is proving to be harder than expected, it’s time to make changes in what you’re doing.
However, I hear a lot of resistance about giving up hot yoga when people are trying to conceive, so let me address some of the arguments I hear from students.
1. But my doctor said it was ok for me to exercise and if I did hot yoga before I can continue while doing fertility treatments.
It is always good to consult your doctors about exercise when you’re meeting obstacles to becoming pregnant or doing fertility treatment. I would like to say though that many doctors don’t truly understand yoga, what it is, and how it can support fertility.
This is how I look at it: Doctors will encourage you to stay active and continue your regular routine, and if hot yoga is part of it – they may say continue.
However, from a yogic perspective, which they are not trained in, we can be more discerning of what is happening to the body as we do certain yoga practices. Then we can use strategic yoga practices that are most beneficial to reproduction. Changing the mindset from yoga as exercise to yoga as a boost to fertility. That is where fertility yoga comes in!
2. But I feel soooooo good after my hot yoga practice and my savasana is amazing.
It’s true – that savasana at the end of a hot yoga practice is somewhat euphoric.
For most, you feel so good in savasana because your body is depleted and finally getting the rest it needs. You are utterly spent – physically and energetically.
3. How can I be totally spent? I feel so good and full of energy after class.
The reason you feel so good afterward is because you’re buzzing off of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that are released when your body feels pain or stress and are produced to help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve mood. Endorphins also trigger a release of dopamine – which will affect your mood and give you the ‘yoga high’.
But! Endorphins have been linked to reduced levels of luteinizing hormones. The hormone that triggers important reproductive processes, especially in the luteal phase (2ww) of your cycle (Seifer et al, 2017) and (Meczekalski et al, 1995).
4. But hot yoga is my thing, it is where I get my exercise. I love it so so much. What will I do instead?
Moderate exercise is recommended when you are trying to conceive, with light to moderate exercise during the 2WW. Most hot power yoga classes do not fall into these categories.
When you’re doing fertility treatment, there are a whole host of other changes and fluctuations to deal with as well – mostly with the stimulation cycles and pumped-up hormones during preps for transfers.
There are other ways you can get your exercise that won’t be so depleting to your system. Instead, you can try moderate hiking, long walks, cycling, and swimming.
Aligning Your Yoga Practice with Your Fertility
Please – always be aware of where you are in your cycle and choose your poses and speed based on this. If you are doing this, you are working with the natural flow of your cycle instead of against it. And that ultimately is one of the main goals of fertility yoga.
For example, during menstruation your body is naturally retreating and resting, therefore restorative and slow flow yoga is good.
Or when you’re in the post-menstruation follicular phase before ovulation, energy is naturally higher as the body is in transformation mode. If you just have to do a vinyasa class, this is the time to do it!
All of this requires a mindset shift – that yoga is no longer your work’out’. The shift happens when you transform your practice into your work’in’.
You are coming to your mat, not for exercise, but for the benefit of your reproductive and overall health, to balance hormones and energy, and to connect to yourself to help make sense of what is happening in your life.
The softer sides of yoga are the ones that support your reproductive health, not only physically, but can have profound positive mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual effects as well.
Fertility yoga embraces all that is nurturing to your reproductive health – it aligns with your cycle and it supports your fertility. It can be the companion to a journey that is fraught with ups and downs, despair and elation, loss and gains.
The ultimate goal of all yoga is to reduce suffering and lead a more joyful and meaningful life.
And – if I still haven’t convinced you to at least take a pause and change things up when you are trying to conceive, I will ask you one last question: If you are contemplating or willing to put your body through expensive, disruptive, invasive, and stressful fertility treatments, why would you not take a break from hot yoga if it is beneficial to your reproductive health? Why are you holding on so tight?
Check out what is happening in the Fertile Body Yoga Virtual Studio these days!
Meczekalski B, Warenik-Szymankiewicz A. Beta-endorfina–rola w fizjologii i zaburzeniach cyklu miesiaczkowego [Beta-endorphin–physiologic role and menstrual cycle disorders]. Ginekol Pol. 1995 Oct;66(10):586-95. [NIH]