Yoga has long been praised for helping people improve their flexibility and core strength. But one Florida yoga instructor believes that the popular practice can also be used to help women conceive.
Sherry Longbottom, a registered nurse and yoga instructor, has developed fertility yoga . In her classes she is careful to avoid yoga poses that could strain the body; instead, she favors simple gentle poses that help lessen anxiety.
"Our goal is to get blood flow in the pelvic area," said Longbottom. "I'm very excited to be helping these women, it's so rewarding"
While practicing fertility yoga is not exactly as beneficial as in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments or hormone therapy, Longbottom said yoga can help women trying to conceive by helping them take a moment to relax and calm down.
"We live in fight or flight mode," said Longbottom. "That kind of life goes completely against what we're trying to look for in creating a fertile environment."
Many of the women attending Longbottom's class started after they were recommended by the Reproductive Medicine Group in Tampa, Fla., to help them cope. She estimates about half of the attendees are receiving some kind of fertility treatment.
"[Yoga] still can't correct a tubal issue or necessarily correct an egg issue," Dr. Betsy McCormick of the Reproductive Medicine Group told ABCNews.com affiliate WFTS-TV. "But what they can do is help someone get through that process."
Dr. James Goldfarb, the director of infertility and in-vitro fertilization at University Hospital Cleveland, said he approves of patients trying safe alternative therapies such as yoga or acupuncture as long as the patient feels better after a session.
"The bottom line I always tell patients is, it certainly can't hurt," said Goldfarb. "We're very encouraging [that they] try whatever they find relief through."
While fertility treatments such as IVF have helped millions of women conceive, Goldfarb said these women often have a tremendous amount of anxiety at the same time.
"To say someone is going through IVF is going to be stressed is like saying someone is going to hit their thumb with their hammer and it's going to hurt," said Goldfarb. "It's incredibly stressful."
Longbottom said that the ability of yoga to help with a person's mental health in addition to their physical health was one reason she wanted to start the fertility yoga class.
"Mind, body and spirit are all tied together; once you address those areas, you're taking care of your whole body," said Longbottom.