Multimedia Review: Pregnancy Health Yoga (book/DVD set)
by Tara Lee and Mary Atwood
Yoga has played an important role in all of my pregnancies and births. I began practicing yoga daily in 2001 and it was only natural to continue that practice throughout my first pregnancy. I was surprised in realize in hindsight that I’d also used yoga throughout my first labor—spending a lot of time in a modified version of child’s pose and on hands and knees, and also in a supported version of downward facing dog. Later, as a birth educator, I discovered those same poses could be combined in a series of “birthing room yoga” poses. I loved the knowledge that my body had spontaneously used these poses during my own birth experience—it was an affirmation for me that deep birthing wisdom resides in our bodies and will emerge if we have the freedom around us to let it emerge, no books, classes, and “preparation” really necessary, just space, breath, and freedom of movement.
So, naturally I was very excited to receive a copy of the new book and DVD set Pregnancy Health Yoga: Your Essential Guide for Bump, Birth and Beyond. The book is particularly lovely, containing clear, colorful, ample photographs, not only of step-by-step pose instructions, but also close-up photos of flowers. Another special touch is a set of affirmations introducing each section. The affirmations are appropriate for pregnancy, labor, birth, and many can be applied into the rest of life as well (i.e. “Breathing deeply, I let go of tension with each exhalation”). The book and the DVD both do and excellent job connecting yoga to the birth process, something that I do not always find present in prenatal yoga resources (many of which seem to be simply designed as modifications to traditional yoga and completely ignore the connection between prenatal yoga practice and birthing itself). There are ample mentions of the baby and how your yoga practice benefits the baby as well as many integrated connections between the movement of your body and breath in yoga and in the dance of birth.
The included DVD is a restorative, simple, gentle yoga series of about 20 minutes. It includes a closing meditation and the content is basic and easy to follow. It helps pull together the information from the book into actual practice. The lines are clean, the narrator is pleasing, and the pregnant model is comfortable to follow. Many prenatal yoga DVDs include a large amount of modifications based on trimester being demonstrated by multiple models during the practice session, which I find distracting. This DVD is different in that all the poses are appropriate for all trimesters and when a very few modifications or adjustments are offered, they are smoothly incorporated into the flow of the existing pose, rather than being demonstrated by someone else.
My only critique of both the book and DVD is that they feel a bit choppy—the book primarily presents poses alone, rather than as a series of exercises, meaning the reader has to then create their own series of poses to practice from scratch, rather than having a prepared series of poses to practice routinely (there is a step-by-step photo exploration of a sun salutation that is an exception). The DVD helps provide an example series of poses though the manner in which the DVD is filmed contributes to a similar feel (i.e. rather than see the model move from one pose into another, the camera fades out and then back in on her already in the next position, so the sense of continuity between poses is impacted).
Pregnancy Health Yoga: Your Essential Guide for Bump, Birth and Beyond is a beautiful, helpful companion for pregnant women as well as for those who work with them. As well as chapters about breathwork and visualization, creating space, strength and stamina, and relaxation, the book includes a useful section about working with common ailments and conditions (including backache, leg cramps, and symphysis pubis dysfunction), exercises specifically for labor and birth, and also section about getting back into shape postpartum.
“Yoga can create space where there was compression, can make open what was closed and can make soft our hard and abrasive edges. The process of pregnancy itself opens and expands our hearts and our capacity to love.” –Pregnancy Health Yoga
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this product for review purposes.