From the perspective of meditation, every state is a special state, every moment is a special moment. ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
For anyone facing challenges trying to conceive it doesn’t take long to understand the basic biology behind the mechanism of how stress can negatively impact fertility. In summary, the physiology of any animal in distress results in the same end: the valuable resources intended to nourish and strengthen the reproductive system are allocated to vital organs for survival (heart, lungs, brain, muscles), leaving fertility function deficient. This impacts egg quality, ovulation, and uterine receptivity.
Then starts the search for ideas, tips and tricks, techniques and lifestyle choices, treatments and therapies that may deliver on the promise of reducing stress, therefore improving fertility. This inevitably leads all people to the vast blossoming world of holistic medicine and healing, a necessary component not only to a successful fertility journey, but a life of health, well-being, and limitless potential, fully realized.
Today, we focus on what I believe to be one of the most important elements in any persons lifetime if they want to achieve their dreams, whatever they are; meditation.
If you are one of the many who may be saying to themselves; “I’ve tried meditating, it was hard” or “it didn’t work for me” or “I don’t have time” then today is your lucky day! By the end of this article you will see meditation in a new light, easy to integrate into your life, easy to do, and a knowing that it is something you just cannot live without, especially if you are faced with a challenge such as infertility.
The first point I want to make is this; built right into a meditation practice is it’s own fail safe. In other words, the more you practice meditation the easier it gets. More specifically, meditation supports neuroplasticity & neurogenesis (the growth of new brain cells & neuro pathways) which is exactly what is required for any person to change. Therefore, meditation facilitates the ability to change behaviours & beliefs. This is precisely why if you simply stick with regular meditation, your biology will shift to make it easier to deeply install this new behaviour, as well as any other habits that may be required to overcome challenges you are faced with.
So if you are wondering “what else can I do to optimize my fertility?“, in my opinion, the best place to start, TODAY, is meditation.
“But I can’t turn my brain off!“. This is typically the next complaint covered when recommending meditation to a new patient. My answer to this is, I know, I used to have difficulty with this as well. This is why it is necessary to expand our concept and definition of what meditation is. Too often meditation is simply thought to be sitting in an uncomfortable position and clearing your mind. If this is your definition, then I am excited for you as that is about to change, and this is the key that will unlock your potential to develop your meditation practice!
Simply put, mediation can be any time spent in quiet mindful awareness & contemplation. In other words, meditation is in many ways like exercise (Buddhists refer to the mind as a muscle that needs training). Just like we can use a wide variety of physical activities and movements to strengthen and condition our muscles, we can employ a plethora of mental activities as meditation to strengthen and calm our mind and emotions.
I encourage you to have fun with your meditative practice. Too often it registers with new practitioners as something boring that they just do not desire to participate in or have time for, but it should actually be fun and easy to incorporate into your life, and if done right, you should be left with an insatiable desire for the next time you can find to dedicate to meditate!
Remember, all those who have reached the pinnacle of success in their lives, career, and contribution to the world will admit to having cultivated a strong meditative practice. It is time now for you to start yours.
The following is some inspiration and ideas to get you started. Begin with 10 minutes daily and commit to always be searching for ways to increase the time you spend in meditation. This is the key to life that you have been missing. 🙂
Zen – sitting quietly and emptying your mind. This is what most people believe to be meditation. It is extremely difficult, possibly tougher to master than learning to play piano, so it may not be for you. That said, as your practice deepens I invite you to re-visit Zen meditation as you might be surprised at how many blips of clarity you experience!
Reflection on life – sitting, laying, or walking (slowly) in quiet, inviting happy thoughts from your past to drift in and out of your mind.
Just staring out the window contemplating existence – this is one of my personal favourites, and one that I have learned many mighty creators use regularly (i.e. Bill Gates). Be sure to keep your notepad handy as the flow of ideas may need to be written down!
Visualize and plan an ideal day – sitting on the couch early in the morning before the rest of the world is awake, take the time to plan and visualize your day ahead. This quiet organization will send you into your day with more peace.
Body scan relaxation – classic relaxation technique of scanning your body for areas that are holding stress and consciously breathing into that area in an attempt to relax it. One can also simply start at the toes or the head and with each breath taken, relax each part of your body, one by one until you have reached the other end (or fallen asleep!).
Contemplate goals – if you are like me I always have very specific goals I am working toward. Whether it is implementing a new habit, learning a new skill, stopping a behaviour, installing a new mindset, or reaching a health or financial target, quiet time dedicated to closing my eyes and thinking about and visualizing these goals manifesting is something that happens daily.
Explore habits – both good and bad. Sit lay or walk (slowly) in quiet reflection of the habits you carry with you each and every day. Once you are aware of a habit, pat yourself on the back if it is one that serves you, but if it is one of self-destruction or sabotage be honest with yourself and shine light on that aspect of yourself so that it no longer has such a strong control over you. Time to get real.
Breathe – I consider my breathing practice to be separate from my meditative practice. Of course they can and are often integrated with one another but I do feel that for the sake of clarity, they are separate entities with different benefits. In simple terms, meditation is more for the mind, and breathing has a more pronounced effect on the body. There are many many breathing techniques but the bottom line is that it is important to practice deep breathing more consciously and more often. My favourites are box breathing (navy seals use this to calm themselves in stressful situations) and the Wim Hoff method (which is quite intense & extremely powerful), but there are multiple other, especially in the yoga discipline such as 4-7-8, fire breath etc. Find one you like and make it a part of your life.
Qigong – another personal favourite, and in my opinion, most certainly one of the most powerful forms of meditation. Qigong translates roughly in to ‘energy cultivation’. It is the absolute foundation of all Chinese martial arts. When you go down the rabbit hole there are many different styles, but I encourage you to find a good teacher, learn the fundamentals from them, and practice practice practice. It will change your life.
Mindfulness – for the cultivation of a deep mindfulness practice I recommend learning from Jon Kabat-Zinn. He has many books but I suggest, for meditation purposes, to find his online guided meditation apps and use those. I have recommended these to patients for years. I love mindfulness as it is a simply kind method of meditation, which basically invites you to be a very passive, non-judgemental participant that does nothing but focus on the breath and observe the thoughts that float in and out of the mind.
Creative flow – exactly as it sounds, and I have found it to be highly effective in calming the mind. I call it ‘flow‘ when my creative mind literally drags me into wonderful peaceful creative thoughts about projects I am working on, things I am learning, or ways I can further support people in my life and clinic. The wearable device Muse taught me how effective this ‘flow‘ is in calming my brain activity. I highly recommend everyone who wants to use a super cool tool to help deepen their meditative practice and learn how/what calms their mind, to purchase a Muse today! Enjoy the birds!
Guided meditations – visualization, breathing, fertility affirmations, you name it, it’s in the app store. As mentioned, I love Jon Kabat-Zinn meditations, amongst others. Headspace and calm are very popular, and many of our patients love Circle+Bloom or Anji Online fertility meditations. Youtube is also full of free meditations instructional videos or guided meditations and ambient music to use. Whatever you choose, just use it and observe its uniqueness and benefits, then try another!
Transcendental – sitting or laying in solitude, this type of meditation is simply the repeating of statements (mantras) intended to guide the mind. Admittedly I have done very little transcendental meditation but intend to visit it at some point in my life when I feel it call me.
Gratitude – this can be done alone or shared with someone you love. Simply think about or share things you are grateful for in your life and in the world in which we live. From deep appreciation to the fact that you have all your basic needs in life, clean air and water, love you receive from your pet, eyes and ears that work, and anything and everything else you can think of. If you want more in life, be grateful for what you already have.
Mindful walks – literally walk as slow as you can, I dare you. Most who try are walking quickly again within 45 seconds of beginning. Stop and smell the flowers. Walk as slowly as you can. Smile at people that walk by. Walk as slowly as you can. Watch the clouds roll by. Walk as slowly as you can. Feel the bottom of your feet connect to the earth. Walk as slowly as you can. Enjoy the sun or rain on your face. Walk as slowly as you can. Enjoy taking a deep breath and being alive. Walk as slowly as you can. Be grateful to live in your community surrounded by good people. Walk as slowly as you can.
Labyrinths – speaking on the topic on mindful walking, I think we have all seen these somewhere. These walking mazes, which guide you in and through a labyrinth of paths which ultimately guide you right back to where you started (so you don’t have to think!), have always been used for contemplation. Google your area to find out if there is a labyrinth near you.
Prayer – if you are religious this should already be a habit, and a wonderful habit it is! Talking to God or ‘the universe’ or whoever you choose is a very powerful tool. It helps us feel cared for and ultimately not alone. The way I look at it, prayer is asking for help or answers, and meditation is listening and allowing manifestation. Put your hands together and start praying.
Blessings (compassionate) – this may be closely related to prayer but just a little different. My family has a regular practice of sending blessings, often at the dinner table, but this is actually more powerful if you do it on your own, quietly, without others hearing your kindness. Send blessings of love and healing to those in need. It could be a relative or a stranger, your community or foreign country. It really doesn’t matter, just take some time to send your love to others. You get what you give.
Yoga – one of the most popular forms of meditation is a regular yoga practice. Not all treat it as such, but once you are proficient at yoga, the time spent can be a very meditative time to connect with ones mind and body. I am pretty sure you have a yoga studio not too far from your house. The first class is usually free, go check it out this week, see if you like it.
Time in nature with oneself – I grew up in the forest and feel a profound calling to get into the trees regularly for a much needed forest bath! The innate healing powers of mother nature are irrefutable – no one would argue this. The trees are literally rooted to the earth so they are happy to help ground you whenever needed. Get out into the trees, enjoy the fresh air and peacefulness that accompanies your time there. If you have time, sit on a rock or a stump and sing, chant, do some yoga, pray, be grateful, do some Qigong, reflect on your life and habits, breathe,…(you get it).
Floating – a newer phenomena in the world of wellness. Float tanks are not for the claustrophobic, but if you don’t mind being in a soundproof pitch black pod like structure with enough salt in the water inside to make any human float, this is something you should try. It feels amazing to just let go and float in a space where sensory deprivation will inevitably play a role in your experience.
Playing a musical instrument – drums, guitar, piano, you choose, but all it takes is to start playing and sink into the music, let it take you away.
Singing, humming, chanting – all these activities have been shown to activate the vagus nerve, which controls many organ functions including heart rate and respiration. From a TCM perspective, singing or chanting can be helpful in supporting a woman who is experiencing recurrent pregnancy loss as it facilitates the optimal functioning of energetic channels intimately involved in holding a pregnancy. If you have had a miscarriage I recommend using these techniques to prepare your body for your next pregnancy.
Apollo – the first tech wearables in the world who’s sole focus is to help people de-stress. The science is very interesting and simply put, the device is supposed to trigger the body’s same response as it gets from human touch. I absolutely love it! There is a meditation and mindfulness setting which is intended to help you get into a more optimal mental/emotional state. Check out the Apollo now.
Plant medicine – this should always be done under proper guidance. Plant medicine can be used for meditation if used in micro doses. Many people use cannabis or psilocybin for these purposes for not only their ability to support a deep meditative journey, but to deliver other positive benefits as well.
Acupuncture – last but not least, one of our collective favourites here at Yinstill, acupuncture. It’s effectiveness at releasing b-endorphins into the spinal fluid resulting in increased parasympathetic activity is second to none. This is literally the foundation to how it helps promote fertility, relieve pain, and reduce stress. If you have had acupuncture at Yinstill you know the journey it can take you on while in treatment, and the residual effects it has while you leave the clinic. You can always hit the easy button and come for an acupuncture (meditation) session – requires absolutely no effort on your part, just lay down and we do the rest. 🙂