Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prenatal Yoga DVD Reviews

I've been practicing yoga (by myself, with DVDs in the comfort of my own home) for about 4 years. At first I saw it as a way to build muscle tone and increase my flexibility in between runs. Now that I don't run any more (I stopped after the miscarriage and may or may not pick it up again post-baby), yoga and occasional walks are my only form of exercise. And, I must say, they are both GREAT for this pregnant mama.

Quick disclaimer: I avoid anything to do with the "spiritual" aspect of yoga, as it is generally not compatible with my Christian faith. But the postures, movements, and breathing of yoga are easily separated from the mumbo jumbo and are highly beneficial, both physically and emotionally (in the sense that they can help us to relax and focus and to be more aware of how we're carrying our bodies throughout the day).

In anticipation of my pregnancies, I started collecting a handful of prenatal yoga DVDs last year, mostly through Swap a DVD. I needed the "professional" guidance to make sure I only did postures and sequences that were harmless for the baby or - even better - excellent for pregnancy and labor. I ended up with 4 very different programs, which I present here with my personal reviews.

TOP CHOICE: Prenatal Yoga With Shiva Rea, produced by Gaiam

Pros: Shiva has a great personality/style - she is capable and confident yet gentle, warm, and encouraging; exercise moves fluidly from posture to posture, promoting flexibility, strength, and calming breathing; all poses are modified and demonstrated according to trimester/ability; props used are common (folding chair and block)

Cons: program is a bit long, so I usually do it for 30 minutes or however long I feel like it (I'm probably missing some great stuff in the last segment)

Final Say: This is definitely my favorite and the one I use the most. I love how the program increases in challenge as it progresses, beginning with simple stretches (and including "elevator" Kegels, which I find very helpful) and building up to poses that challenge various muscle groups in the best of ways. I usually feel light and energized after these workouts. (I have yet to try the bonus Pregnancy Massage instruction, but I'm sure it's great, too.)

SECOND CHOICE: Prenatal Yoga Complete with Mary Pappas-Sandonas, produced by bodywisdommedia

Pros: Mary is another instructor I enjoy - her guidance exudes experience and encouragement (she is very practical/precise); this DVD offers a huge array of possibilities: first you choose your trimester, then you choose which program you'd like - most are geared toward the relief of discomfort, such as morning sickness, back pain, or headache, or toward the promotion of a positive feeling, such as energy or relaxation; the poses are long-lasting and thus you can really maximize their benefit according to your particular needs that day

Cons: Mary is not present in the video, demonstrating the poses - you only hear her voice while a model demonstrates; the programs jump between poses (no smooth transitions), causing me to scramble to prepare for the next pose; lots of props are needed to get yourself in some of the poses (several bolsters and blankets, a chair, blocks, and strap)

Final Say: I grab this DVD when I have a particular issue I want to address (for example, I do the "Rejuvenate" sequence when I feel sluggish) and look forward to the challenge of holding poses as long as they feel good. As much effort as it takes to get into a Reclining Bound Angle Pose, the results are totally worth it.

HONORABLE MENTION: Crunch Yoga Mama - Prenatal Yoga with Sue Elkind, a CRUNCH workout

Pros: basic yoga postures and breathing; some flow sequences; variety of poses all suitable for pregnancy; shorter complete workout (about 30 minutes)

Cons: I don't like the instructor much (her lines seem canned, not heartfelt); the program is very simple and doesn't leave me feeling like I did a challenging workout

Final Say: For a beginner or someone looking for a quick and easy prenatal yoga session, this DVD is decent. I just wish it moved my body and my heart more.

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT: The New Method Pre & Post Natal Yoga (2 Pack DVD Box Set) with Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa

Pros: lots of general stretching and repetitive motion (sometimes it even gets my heart going); the endurance exercise (continuous arm movement for 3 minutes) is a real mental challenge which may help prepare for the rigors of labor

Cons: This is the most new-agey of the four programs: the turban-wearing instructor leads the group in chanting and spouts such nonsense as "sometimes we have more trouble with our left leg - it's ruled by the moon" and "build your electromagnetic field." The few times I've done the program I've bypassed the intro and fast forwarded through the chanting. Because this program offers Kundalini yoga, it offers few (if any) actual muscle-toning postures and never holds any pose longer than a second.

Final Say: Although I could do without all the hokey elements, I have done this program a few times because it limbers me up and gets my blood circulating in a way the other DVDs don't.

For more tips and reviews, check out the weekly Works-For-Me Wednesday post at Rocks in my Dryer.


Jennie said...

Shiva Rae's was my favorite prenatal yoga dvd too! I was using it through Netflix and decided to send it back and join the Y again, so I'm taking yoga class there. When are you due? Mid-Feb. here!

*carrie* said...


I have the 2nd one and like it OK, but you're right about the major amt of props needed! I haven't done it once this pregnancy--it's a little different having a toddler running around!