Pre-natal gazing: Using restorative yoga for fertility

Yoga teachers (and moms) Barrie Raffel and Karen Safire founded Receptive Nest five years ago with the idea that specific yoga poses could enhance fertility. (Think happy baby as a result, not a pose.) “Creating a life takes a lot of energy,” says Safire. “And you need energy in your bank to help sustain and take care of that life.”

With regular workshops at Om and Virayoga in Manhattan, Receptive Nest fills a notable void in the otherwise full-spectrum yoga marketplace. While there are scads of prenatal classes, there aren’t any pre-prenatal classes dedicated to strengthening the pelvic floor and increasing circulation to the reproductive organs, the chief claims of this approach.

Unlike a fast-paced vinyasa class, Receptive Nest workshops focus on restorative poses to “elicit the relaxation response in the body,” say the founders, who were both modern dancers before discovering yoga. “These help balance the hormones and promote an optimum environment for creating a new life.” Also key? Doing lots of supported inversions, like legs up the wall, to help increase circulation and space in the pelvis (instead of a six pack). “Bringing fresh oxygenated blood to the reproductive organs is the key for optimal functioning and health,” they say.

Receptive Nest founders, Barrie and Karen

The duo encourages workshop participants to initiate a daily, customized pre-pregnancy practice. They also provide modifications to standard yoga poses for seasoned yoga students to use in their regular classes, recommending they perform Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose) at the wall, for example, so there’s no strain while balancing.

The most important practice for women who want to get pregnant? Connecting the breath to the pelvis in each pose and keeping the abdominal muscles soft and relaxed, says Raffel, who is not a fan of crunches for those trying to conceive. By keeping the abs soft while you strengthen, she says, “you keep space in the pelvis and avoid adding tension to the area around the reproductive organs.” Shortening your stance in standing poses, avoiding deep twisting, and staying away from Kapalabhati breathing, all help keep the belly relaxed while strengthening the surrounding muscles.

Super-supported poses are a common prescription at pre-pre-natal Receptive Nest workshops

The approach is admittedly a bit more hippy than hip. Those looking to strengthen the pelvic floor more vigorously, using Pilates or Core Vinyasa, won’t find that offered here. But it’s a philosophical fit for Receptive Next, which prizes slowing down to an almost Savasana pace.

While regular restorative classes may do similar poses, the dialogue and teaching cues at Receptive Nest workshops are probably the biggest difference. Discussion centers around increased blood flow to the ovaries and how each pose benefits the reproductive system. “Since our participants share a strong common goal,” says Raffel, “talk about ‘visualizing the space in your uterus’ is pretty commonplace in our classes.”

Receptive Nest’s next NYC workshop is at Bend and Bloom Yoga, Park Slope, Brooklyn, May 1st from 1-3:30 pm. Learn more at or call 212-898-0414. Private sessions are also available.

Did you modify your yoga practice while trying to conceive? Tell us, here!

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