Friday, July 1, 2011

Can you have an abortion by doing yoga?

Trust me, I'm not posting this to provoke, or to attract traffic to this blog (although I really do not mind increased traffic :-)). I'm only posting this because I just discovered that somebody actually found my blog by googling "Can U have an abortion by doing yoga?" I think my blog came up because I have written a couple of posts about my experiences with discussing abortion in my philosophy classes (see, for example, this post).

At the risk of offering unsolicited advice, I'm going to say this to the individual who googled and found my post this way: Please do not use yoga as an abortion method. If you need to have an abortion, there are methods that are more reliable and medically much safer. But maybe you are just googling for fun, and I'm taking myself too seriously: In that case, simply ignore this paragraph.

But now that we are on the topic of abortion (and the related topics of conception and contraception) and yoga, I may as well say a few more things. In his book on the Intermediate series, Gregor Maehle speculates that certain deep twists such as Pasasana may have a contraceptive effect (possibly because of the pressure they put on the reproductive organs?), and that it might be possible that yogis and yoginis of yore practiced this pose with a view to bringing about such an effect (I don't have his book on hand here, but if you have it, I'm pretty sure you can find this under the section on Pasasana). And please, I'm not writing this to prescribe Pasasana as a method of contraception; again, there are much more reliable and scientifically-tested methods out there...

But it also follows from this that if you are trying to conceive, you should avoid doing deep twists like Pasasana. Matthew Sweeney also recommends that if you are trying to conceive, you should also cut back on the physical intensity of your practice (I don't have Sweeney's book on hand here either, so I can't quote him, but I'm pretty sure it's in there somewhere). This seems to make sense, from my very layman's scientific viewpoint.

Well, I do realize that this post is very speculative and neither-here-nor-there in nature. "Regular programming" will resume, and I will hopefully be able to bring you posts of a higher quality.

May the Force be with you.


  1. Srivatsa Ramaswami in 'Yoga for the Three Stages of Life' (p 222) quotes a verse from some Sage Nathamuni giving a list of asana to be used as contraception for women (and mentions that unless these asana are practiced from an early age so that they are mastered, they will have limited application).

    The asana listed are: pasasana, yoganidrasana, garbha pindasana, bhadrasana, matsyendrasana. When these are mastered and practiced, conception will be prevented.

    For the healthy development of the fetus, the following asana are prescribed: purvatanasana, dvipada pitham, baddhakonasana and padmasana. In addition sarvangasana and sirsasana are suggested (p 212).

    What the result is when we mix the contraceptive and conceptive asana in our daily astanga practice, he does not discuss.

  2. Interesting, roselil. From a first glance, it looks like all the contraceptive asanas Ramaswami listed exert some kind of binding pressure on the pelvis/reproductive organs. Whereas the conceptive asanas seem to encourage some kind of expansive movement in the pelvic area. I wonder if backbends would then also be conceptive asanas, since they also encourage an expansive movement in the pelvic area?