If you’ve noticed the number of fertility yoga classes springing up across the country, you may be wondering whether sitting in a lotus position can really help women who are struggling to conceive. That’s the question I posed to psychologist Alice Domar, PhD, author of Conquering Infertility: Dr. Alice Domar’s Mind/Body Guide to Enhancing Fertility and Coping with Infertility.

She told me, “Yoga definitely does decrease stress—and we know that lowering your stress level can have many positive effects on health and well-being. There also is data showing that yoga can lead to decreases in anxiety and depression.” However, Dr. Domar added that, to date, there have been no randomized studies looking at the impact of yoga on pregnancy rates in infertile women—so there is no evidence proving that yoga helps balance hormones, improve circulation to the reproductive organs or otherwise physically boost the odds of conceiving.

Whether or not fertility yoga directly influences conception, many women say that it helps them cope with the myriad physical and emotional strains that accompany infertility treatments. Benefits…

  • Yoga is a terrific way to stay fit and toned without overexerting yourself—in contrast to, say, excessively vigorous aerobic exercise, which can decrease fertility in some women by interfering with ovulation.
  • Practicing yoga can encourage a positive emotional connection with your physical self at a time when you feel angry and frustrated that your body isn’t doing what you want it to.
  • Yoga is a good relaxation technique, especially for women whose minds tend to wander when trying other stress-reducing strategies such as meditation.
  • A fertility yoga class provides a nonthreatening opportunity to bond with a group of women who are experiencing the same problem you are. You can feel supported without necessarily having to discuss your thoughts and feelings if you don’t want to, Dr. Domar noted.

To give it a try: Call local yoga centers and ask whether they offer fertility yoga classes…or consider any gentle and restful yoga style, such as hatha or restorative yoga. Avoid classes that are extremely demanding physically, such as power yoga or Bikram (hot) yoga, when trying to get pregnant, Dr. Domar cautioned. Also, if you find that a particular yoga pose causes pain or places strain on your pelvic area, skip it or ask the instructor to suggest a gentler modification.