How The Yoga Sutras Can Help You Navigate the Pain and Suffering of Fertility Struggles


I am sort of used to quizzical looks when I say I teach Yoga for Fertility. A sort of dubious look that “stretching” can help conception of a baby.


I don’t want this blog to be about the evidence behind it (though I can provide some if you are interested), instead I want to go beyond the physical, beyond the “stretching”, and illustrate how we use the more spiritual and philosophical side of yoga to navigate the barrage of emotions and feelings that accompany a struggle to conceive a baby.


Let’s look at the yoga ethical principle ahimsa.


Ahimsa translates as:


A: against Himsa: harm


This ethical principal of ahimsa in yoga asks us to restrain against violence or harm towards others. Be kind, basically. Or, “don’t be a dick” as I often translate it as! It is often more salient to think of this principle in relation to how we treat other people, but it goes beyond that and looks at all our thoughts, deeds and actions towards ourselves as well.


Now, I hope you are starting to see why this is so applicable for a life with fertility struggles.


Negative self talk can be so prevalent:


My body is failing me”

“What is wrong with me?”

“I am broken”

“I hate myself for being so jealous of my friend who is pregnant. What kind of horrible person am I?”

“I don’t even recognise myself anymore


Recognise any of these? These thoughts can often spiral, negative self-talk can be the narrative of your entire life.


Let me share a Buddhist parable that may help firstly explain ahimsa and secondly show you how it can help you wade out of negative self-talk.


(From the beautiful book, The Language of Yin by Gabrielle Harris)


The Arrow Sutta


The Buddhists say that when we suffer misfortune, two arrows fly. The first arrow is the actual event and the second arrow is our reaction to it- our suffering.


We all have sharp arrows that pierce our heart. Injury, loss, betrayal, sickness, misplaced comments can all fly at us unannounced and with fury. These 'first arrows' are unavoidable, and they are called life. How we choose to react to the first arrow can be the cause of further suffering. Maybe we create a story about how things should be, perhaps we feel sorry for ourselves, perhaps we lash out or ruminate without end on how it all 'should' be.


<At this point I must interject and ask you to stick with me if you are currently struggling with your fertility and language like “Feel sorry for yourself” is hurting your feelings or getting your back up, believe me I felt the same……But please read on!”>


And in the storehouse of our mind, we welcome and dance with negative self talk, like an ally to take us deeper into the darkness.


Ahimsa is a gentle reminder for us to be gracious towards our day to day struggles. The kindest most charitable way to care for ourselves is to bring self-awareness to our second arrow, by embracing and acknowledging how we feel with humanity and compassion.”


I love these last two paragraphs:


Firstly, we all know this “dance” with negative self-talk. I like to think of it like a dance with a toxic, gaslighting partner. It might feel good in a weird way, but in our heart of hearts we know it's not what’s best for us.


Secondly, the last paragraph says that we don’t have to deny ourselves these negative feelings. They are real. We don’t need to deploy toxic positivity here. But, if we “embrace and acknowledge” these feelings, “lean into them” (as a wonderful client of mine says), then there will naturally come a time when we are ultimately sick and tired of feeling this way, and this allows us to move on, when the time is right. There will be more arrows along the way, this is life, but if you apply ahimsa when such an arrow strikes, it’s like having body armour that helps us to cope with the arrow.


Annie x


Credit: Gabrielle Harris "The Language of Yin"

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