The Power of Yoga for Fertility
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September Burton: Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of the Colorado Fertility Conference Podcast. I am your host, September Burton, and today I have with me, Erin McCullough. Erin is the founder of Fertile Hope Yoga. It’s the world’s first online fertility yoga studio, allowing women to practice from the comfort of their living room floor. For more than a decade, Erin has been leading the industry with her in-person yoga fertility program at the CNY fertility center owned by Dr. Robert Kilts. She’s the co-creator of The Fertile Secret book. And has helped thousands of women reach out and hold their baby after they’d been told they could never get pregnant. She calls upon her 20 years of training and practice and the healing arts yoga teacher trainings, licensed massage therapy, reiki certified, doula trained, myofascial release, to name a few and uses the modalities to change how women approach motherhood. That is quite a bio. Hello, Erin, thank you for coming on this show.
[00:00:57] Erin McCollough: Thanks so much for having me and as you’re reading that, I’m like, wow, that is quite the, I’ve done a lot of trainings. I’m like, I’m one of those people who can never get enough learning in my system. So
[00:01:10] September Burton: Yes, same here. I totally get it. You’ve been doing yoga for 20 years. How did you get into fertility? What drew you to that field?
[00:01:19] Erin McCollough: Yeah. I would say most professionals, usually have some kind of personal experience tie and that’s, what’s inspires them to do the work. Mine actually is a little bit different. So I’m in the smaller population who has been called to do this work. And this work is my purpose, but from a little bit different point of view. My whole life has been one sequence of events in order to get me here. Starting from being an unwanted child and then having to do a lot of healing. And that’s what got me into the yoga. In my early twenties, I experienced a significant depression. And yoga is what I credit to allowing me to move through that and inspiring me to want to become a yoga teacher to help others to move through some of the darkest moments of their lives. So those are phase one, phase two becoming a yoga teacher. And then I became a mom. And what I realized quickly, as I entered that phase of motherhood is that and my daughter is 12 now. So just 12 years ago, I looked around and realized that we do not, at least in the United States did not have what we, women actually needed to nurture, to celebrate this time in their lives, to be supported to, and so I decided I was going to create it. So that we could start redefining and empowering ourselves as mothers. And so that’s when I partnered with a fertility acupuncturist in my practices. And that’s when I met dr. Kiltz, who owns CNY fertility. He asked me to come on board and help set up his integrative clinic. And gave me the laboratory and the space to create this program of healing, that I do now, it’s a full mind body program. And I ran it in person at his clinic for, like I said, over a decade and then had so many women asking me like, okay, I wish my friend, I wish my sister could do this. And that’s when I decided to, even though I’m the least likely candidate in the planet to have an online company, I decided to move all my stuff online. And I’m almost two years into that now. And that’s what led us to be able to speak today. Wow. That wasn’t too long.
[00:03:54]September Burton: So, you said something that was really incredibly powerful though. You said that it wasn’t there–meaning the nurturing that the way of, being a mother kind of a thing. And so you decided that you were going to create it. That is absolutely woman’s power right there. So kudos to you for that. That’s absolutely phenomenal. Can you tell me a little bit about CNY fertility, and what is the integrated clinic and what makes sets it apart ?
[00:04:17] Erin McCollough: Yeah. dr. Kiltz is, he’s a reproductive endocrinologist, his IVF center, it’s a full, comprehensive fertility clinic so they do everything. But one thing unique about dr. Kiltz is that he’s always open to learning and new ideas and anything that would serve his patients. I remember him asking me, do you know the number one reason, if my patients don’t get pregnant, why that is? And I said, No, I do not. And he said, because they stop treatment because it’s too hard, it’s emotionally exhausting, draining, in all areas. And if I can give them tools and resources to keep going and persist, that’s what I want to do. So, I started the yoga program. He has a whole massage therapy, acupuncture, right in his clinic. Just so generous. And, he is a Western trained doctor, but being open to honoring all areas of healing, right? Western medicine is one avenue and the technology that’s available is amazing. And, so grateful to have that, and we have this ability to heal and grow . Also from the inside out as well. And what he honors is doing nutrition and lifestyle choices, and we can actually impact our cellular health and our cycles, no matter how we’re trying to get pregnant, in a positive way. So yeah. Yeah, the marriage of the two, it doesn’t have to be just one way, we can take the best of, all the different.
[00:06:08] Modalities of healing and technology and put them together because the truth is we don’t know what it’s going to be. And this is what I tell my fertile hope yogis all the time. You can’t convince me at this point. That or anybody knows how you’re going to get pregnant. Now, if you don’t have a partner at home or, you’re, lackings, parts in anatomy or, eggs or sperm, you have to have the basics.
[00:06:31] But, if you have those things, I can’t tell you how many women, I just had someone last week, she announced her pregnancy. She was, her next step through all the IVF and years and immunology. And so many doctors was looking, she started looking for gestational carriers and she had, she showed up to one of our group circles pregnant on her own.
[00:06:52] And so of course she’s still navigating it’s early, but it just renews my faith. And there’s a lot of this. We have to leave room for miracles and all of this. I love that we have to leave room for miracles, for sure.
[00:07:05] September Burton: I’ve noticed a trend probably over the last year, two years, that it really is going to supporting these couples emotionally. There’s a lot of programs that are coming out lately. There’s a lot of the REs are realizing that they really need to offer some sort of emotional support to these couples because it really truly is just it’s too much for people to be going through this. So yeah, I have noticed that’s a huge push lately. So with yoga, can you talk a little bit about, like, how does yoga help with that emotional piece and maybe even physiologically, what does it actually do to help improve fertility outcomes?
[00:07:46] Erin McCollough: Yeah, I just want to honor dr. Kiltz one more time. And he really is ahead of his time, for doing starting what people are just realizing now and dedicating to resources now, he’s he did, 15 years ago, 10. I also want to point out, I’m going to answer your question indirectly here and then directly. There’s a Harvard researcher who also needs a lot of credit in this. Her name is Ali Domar. She has done all of her research at the Mind Body Center at Harvard that was actually started by dr. Herbert Benson. who’s like a hero in the yoga world because, he showed through science and studies something called the relaxation response, what collectively known as the relaxation response and the relaxation response is a series of things that happen physiologically in our body when we can start to shift our nervous system from the sympathetic part where it’s like a lot of on one end is like the fight flight high cortisone, epinephrin. And then on the other side of that is the parasympathetic nervous system, which is known as The part that’s responsible for rest, digest, reproduce. So when we get there, our hormones start to shift, right? Our reproductive hormones have become dominant. our heart rate goes down, our breathing quiets. Even the waves in our brain start shifting. So that’s how a lot of yoga works right there and why the yoga works. Now, doctor Ali Domar who took his work and her work and made it fertility driven. So she took, she started studying what mind, body medicine. So like group, coming together in groups and sharing, yoga, meditation, all of these mind-body principles and what happens to pregnancy rates of women who are trying to get pregnant through fertility treatments and what happens. And her studies are what I go to share about why this works. And she has shown that hundreds, your pregnancy rates increase 175% or you’re three times as likely to get pregnant when you’re involved in a mind-body program, plus fertility treatments. And that study can be found, in Sterility and Fertility. Also, if you search in pub med, but between the two of them, it really shows exactly the power of what this does. And then in my program specifically, Fertile Hope yoga, what I did is then take it one step further. And I made cycle specific practices. So if you’re trying naturally, versus if you’re trying with IUI versus if you’re in an IVF cycle or a transfer, a frozen embryo transfer cycle, and what are the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual needs at every point in that process? And then developed a yoga practice to meet those needs. So the women in my program, we do a lot of live programming, but then I also have on demand cycle specific practices that actually meet and even In terms of resolving symptoms, when you’re doing the simulation and you’re, you start to get a lot of abdominal discomfort and bloating and, that can all be mitigated through yoga too, headaches, all the tension that comes with it. So yeah, lots of, so many benefits, like in that way, mental, emotional, physical, like you name it.
[00:11:37]September Burton: You just said a lot of really powerful things. And to hear that there’s some studies done that show that it’s, that you become three times more likely to get pregnant if you’re doing a mind, body practice, like that’s intense, that’s really powerful. So, I guess my next question is like, when you go into a yoga class and I think most people at this point have done at least one or two yoga classes, so they’ve experienced it, but you’ve got, soft music going on, you’re in a warm environment, you’ve got soft voices, very gently speaking to you as you’re doing the poses, things like that. And so is it that relaxing atmosphere or is it more the poses and the movement itself that makes the difference in the hormone balance?
[00:12:14] Erin McCollough: That’s a good question. I do encourage, so women are with my program in person, right? if we’re in person it’s about the space, so environment is really important in creating healing. We talk about that all the time. Whether it’s, the environment of surrounding yourself of people who are actually on your team and that you trust. An environment of reduced toxins literally toxins getting rid of those in your household. Having literal space, are you, do you have a ton of clutter around you that’s pulling at your mind or do you ha can you create an environment where there’s a sense of freedom? At Fertile Hope Yoga I work to help create that space as the healing space and then encouraging everyone in their home, in their body home. So that’s through nutrition, through how we’re taking in nourishment mentally, maybe it’s turning off the news, maybe it’s listening to some audio books that are actually encouraging love instead of fear. Maybe we do so we have our internal environment and our external environment, both are important. Now when you magnify that with the poses, the yoga in itself, even if you’re practicing in a toxic environment, you have to feel safe to let go, you have to feel safe. It’s an invite. It’s a fundamental need. It’s one of our needs, right? So if you’re in a safe space and that need is met, you can be surrounded by whatever, and that’s part of the yoga too, is how do you tune that stuff out? So the yoga can be practiced anywhere. It’s harder if you have more chaotic environments to practice. But the poses in itself and the practice in itself is meant to be wherever, and be effective wherever that’s the whole practice of it. So you don’t have to have, it doesn’t have to look like anything. Other than you’re safe, you have, you can show up for yourself, you can show up and then see what happens. Really? what comes up for you?
[00:14:31] September Burton: I like that you just said that. I was seeing, there was a point, maybe a year or two ago where I was feeling, seeing someone, for some emotional support and things and, and she asked me if I was doing yoga and I was like, no, I know I should be. And she was like, no. Yoga is all day, every day. Like you’re always doing yoga. And it’s about what you just said about nourishing yourself and your emotions and your psychological health and your learning and all of that kind of stuff. I completely agree with what you just said. It was beautiful.
[00:14:58] Erin McCollough: Yeah. Yeah. So yoga, we’re I guess taught to teach in the Western world that yoga is a fitness, especially that yoga moved into all the gyms and it’s about the fitness. Yeah, part of it is moving our bodies movement can be medicine. But it’s also about how we’re dealing with what’s in our head and in our hearts and opening our hearts and healing and growing. And there’s different ways you can do that. So at Fertile Hope Yoga, I say that we practice yoga on and off the mat and different ways to approach our yoga practices, a more holistic version of yoga is what we practice at Fertile Hope Yoga .
[00:15:37] September Burton: I like that, Erin. Thank you so much for coming on today and for educating us about yoga and how powerful it can be to help improve fertility rates and take home baby rates. So can you tell us if somebody is listening to this podcast and they are interested in your videos, how do they find your videos?
[00:15:53] Erin McCollough: Sure. I have a website FertileHopeYoga.com. I have free programs on there. I have paid programs. I have resources. So that’s, where I would go to get started. Lots of different ways of doing that.
[00:16:08] September Burton: Awesome. Thank you so much. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and your wisdom. And before we sign off, do you have any last words of wisdom that you want to leave people with?
[00:16:17]Erin McCollough: keep going, surround yourself by people who help you, shine your light to encourage you to show your lights. That’s what this is all about. And yeah, you’ll get there.
[00:16:31] September Burton: I love that. Thank you so much, Erin.