Earlier this year we travelled to Chicago to attend the Midwest Reproductive Symposium International where we met so many amazing people, but one group of women really resonated with us during that trip. The women from a holistic organisation called Pulling Down The Moon, Beth Heller and Tamara Quinn, offer a whole host of alternative treatments in preparation for fertility and pregnancy.
Here we chat to them about the wonderful work they do and how they can help you…
Tell us about Pulling Down The Moon, where did it all begin?
Beth said: “In 2002, Tami and I were both teachers at a yoga center on Chicago’s north shore when Tami came up to me before a class and asked if I could teach private yoga to a friend of hers – a woman who was having trouble getting pregnant. She was also Tami’s children’s teacher so working with her on such a sensitive issue felt a little too close for comfort. At the time I was recovering from the stillbirth of my daughter, Georgia, and gathering her courage to reenter the trying-to-conceive trenches. I had struggled to conceive Georgia and used yoga extensively during the process.
“I was planning to offer a fertility yoga class at the local studio where we both taught yoga and when I mentioned this to Tami, her jaw dropped. She had also been planning to offer a Yoga for Fertility class. For a moment we just looked at each other, each sizing the other up. Then the teacher called everyone to their mats. After class we started to share our thoughts on how yoga could help support fertility. Although I knew Tami had twins, I didn’t realize that Tami was a former fertility patient, too. Our views were so remarkably similar that in the end we decided to join forces and work on a class together. We met for tea later in the week and began to dream about what we wanted to create. It would be more than a yoga class.
“We wanted a place where women could come and learn about yoga philosophy and experience traditional healing methods with practitioners who specialised in fertility. It would have a tea room that would be the antithesis of a doctor’s waiting room. There’d be incense and candles burning, soft music and beautiful things to look at. More than anything else… everyone there would get it. They’d get the shots, the anxiety, the ovulation predictor kits, they’d get the misery of receiving another baby shower invitation or another unsuccessful cycle.”
It’s an interesting name, how did that come about?
“The words Pulling Down the Moon resonated with so many symbols from eastern and western spiritual beliefs that we felt it spoke volumes in one simple phrase. The moon is intimately related to the tides and the female reproductive cycle. In addition, this peaceful luminary is the heavenly body that governs the astrological sign of Cancer, which is in turn the sign of home and mother.
“In both yoga and Oriental Medicine, the moon is associated with female energy, called ida and yin respectively in these traditions. The idea of pulling down the moon calls to mind the challenges that many of us face when trying to conceive. It is during this time that our femininity feels challenged, that some of us may feel that motherhood is as far away as the moon and just as hard to reach. Yet, all of us have exactly what we need to be happy and complete, and it is often the self-realisation of this fact that is the challenge.
“Tami and I had both experienced a fertility journey and motherhood as a call to self-realisation and wanted to pass this experience along. And so we found the name and the mission. When we offered our first class in Chicago, we called it Pulling Down the Moon, and a year later when we opened the first centre, that’s what we called it, too.”
What is your ethos?
“We are the savvy, expert girlfriend you look to for advice on the right steps to take when trying to conceive and a place where we “get it.” We offer the latest in research-informed holistic treatments. We also respect western medical treatment (both Tami and I used ART) but feel holistic medicine and yoga can help women conceive faster or avoid medical intervention.”
Are you a global company or just in the US?
“We have offices in Chicago, and do consulting for the Wellness Center at Shady Grove Fertility, which offers Pulling Down the Moon programming. Our books and DVD are available in English-speaking countries as well as Germany.
How does a holistic approach help with infertility?
“Our four core offerings are Yoga for Fertility, Acupuncture for Fertility, Fertility nutrition counseling and Fertility-Enhancing Massage.”
How do you measure success?
“We have conducted two clinical trials that show our six-week YFF program lowers anxiety by more than 20 per cent in just six weeks. In the second study, which continues to follow pregnancy outcomes, we are seeing an increase live birth rate in the yoga group. We are not sure whether this resulted from the yoga or whether it was a result of the increased number of FETs in the group but of course we want to look at this further because we believe that yoga has a physical impact as well as emotional impact. I used YFF to get my periods back after four years of amenorrhea and believe yoga improves hormonal regulation, helps detox body tissues and improves reproductive blood flow. Also, our own (non-scientific) follow-up has shown that 75 per cent of women who take our YFF report pregnancy within six months.”
Are you linked to any specific fertility clinics?
“Our yoga research has been conducted with Fertility Centers of Illinois and we do consulting and offer our yoga, nutrition and massage programs at Shady Grove Fertility in Maryland/DC.”
What does stress do to the body?
“Chronic stress disrupts hormonal balance, creates inflammation that can damage eggs and sperm, down-regulates blood flow to reproductive and digestive organs and hampers physiological processes including digestion, sleep, reproduction and healing.”
What is the simplest way to combat stress?
“Learn to pay attention to your body, sense tension and release it using simple stretches or breathing exercises – and connect with others.”
What message would you give anyone starting out on their own fertility journey?
“Don’t discount your body’s ability to heal and don’t be in such a hurry to race toward what feel like “silver bullet” interventions. Taking time to improve diet, regulate hormones, manage stress and self-nurture can help increase odds of conception both naturally and with medical intervention.
“We call the unique community at Pulling Down the Moon our “sacred sauce.” While women may initially shy away from the discussion part of our yoga class, it may be this point of connection (which in yoga we call sangha) that creates the greatest shift in body and mind. Research suggests that women have an additional defense against stressors, called the “tend and befriend” response. What this means is that in addition to the fight, flight or response to stress, women who seek out female companionship during times of stress may activate another defense against stress that helps to physically induce relaxation.”
To find out more about Beth and Tami and what they can offer, click here