DVD Review: Pilates Pregnancy

Distributed by BayView Entertainment (and available for purchase online at

Reviewed by Molly, Talk Birth

While I’ve maintained a yoga practice for over ten years, practiced yoga throughout all of my pregnancies, and I’m Certified Prenatal Fitness Educator (ICEA), I have no experience with Pilates. So, when the opportunity came up to review a prenatal Pilates DVD, I was happy for the opportunity to broaden my horizons! Pilates Pregnancy Workouts is a basic workout DVD that is both easy to follow (even for those unfamiliar with Pilates) and sufficiently challenging. I was surprised by how effectively strengthening the workouts were, while appearing on the surface to be very gentle and simple! While this is a prenatal program, there is no mention of the applicability of the exercises to labor or birth and only a tiny handful of references to the baby.

In addition to the gorgeous ocean setting, a highlight of the Pilates Pregnancy Workouts DVD are the manageable, short segments—you can choose a workout that is 6-10 minutes. We can almost always find time in the day for six minutes! You can also choose to watch the entire exercise series as one continuous practice of about an hour. Also handy is the option of voiceover narration or nature sounds for once you’re familiar with the program.

Some exercises from Pilates Pregnancy Workouts are familiar from yoga practice, but the overall style and form is different and it would be great to include both in one’s prenatal exercise program! This DVD is a worthwhile addition to the prenatal exercise resources of pregnant women as well as doulas, midwives, or childbirth educators.

Multimedia Review: Pregnancy Health Yoga

Multimedia Review: Pregnancy Health Yoga (book/DVD set)
by Tara Lee and Mary Atwood
ISBN: 978-1-84899-081-4

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 MR_110 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

Related articles:

Incorporating Prenatal Yoga into Childbirth Education Classes

Moon Salutation Yoga Series for Blessingway or Women’s Gathering

Birthing Room Yoga Handout

Centering for Birth

Birthing Affirmations

How Do Women Really Learn About Birth?

Book Review: Mindful Motherhood

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this product for review purposes.

Incorporating Prenatal Yoga into Childbirth Education Classes

Incorporating Prenatal Yoga into Childbirth Education Classes

By Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE, ICPFE

Note: This is a preprint of an article published in the International Journal of Childbirth Education, Volume 27, Number 2 (April 2012)

The essence of yoga can be distilled into four key elements: breath, feeling, listening to the body, and letting go of judgment and expectation (YogaFit, 2010). When considering the essence of yoga, it is easy to see what a natural complement it is to conscious, active preparation for a healthy birth. Most birth educators would agree that paying attention to her breath and to her feelings, listening to her body, and letting go of preconceived expectations of what birth will be like are perhaps the most crucial messages to convey to the pregnant woman and her partner. Additionally, experts widely agree that exercise during pregnancy has beneficial effects for the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems and is associated with physical and psychological well-being. There is also some evidence that recreational exercise may reduce the incidence of premature labor and low birthweight babies (Hyatt & Cram, 2003).

Anyone involved with educating adult learners (in any context) is likely to be familiar with the concept that people are most likely to retain information that they have actually practiced (versus reading about, hearing about or seeing demonstrated). I have found that incorporating a few simple yoga poses into each class session is a beautiful way of illustrating and applying many important elements of childbirth preparation. In approximately 10 minutes of movement, important points can be underscored without having to actually say anything or “lecture” to clients. The hope is that as we move together through a carefully chosen series of poses, subtle emotional development and trust in birth occurs—again, in a more effective manner than by the childbirth educator saying during class: “Trust birth!”

One rationale for incorporating yoga into prenatal classes is as follows: First, people often learn and retain information more effectively by actually doing something. Practicing the yoga poses together allows experiential practice of pelvic floor exercises, pelvic rocks, tailor-sitting, leg cramp alleviation, and back pain coping techniques, to name a few, instead of just hearing me talking!

Second, and most important, Yoga in prenatal classes emphasizes that birth happens in the body. As childbirth educators we spend a significant amount of time talking and sharing information, but birth does not only happen in the mind. Birth happens most profoundly in the body. Not only does birth happen in the woman’s body, but supporting and being with a woman in labor is also an intensely physical process, so it is important for partners to try the yoga series.

People today spend much of their time “living in their heads”, and many of us do not feel comfortable with, or at home in, our bodies. Practicing poses in class helps couples out of their heads and into their bodies and begins a process of feeling comfortable with moving and using their bodies in positive ways. This may help them develop the trust and confidence that will contribute to a smooth and peaceful birth process.

Each pose is followed with a birth affirmation such as, “the magic and mystery of birth delight and amaze me” (Miller, 2003). Positive affirmations help plant positive seeds of confidence and trust in the wisdom of women’s bodies and of the beauty of birth. These cognitive adjustments may also send a welcoming message to the woman’s body and baby as they both prepare for birth.

Opening classes with a series of poses is an effective way to “frame” the class. Class can be opened with a brief check-in period asking how people are feeling, about recent prenatal appointments, and any questions can be addressed. A transition from “regular time” into “class time” occurs with a brief series of simple poses. This routine helps people transition from their normal days into feeling ready and excited for birth class information.

Each pose was chosen because it has specific birth- or pregnancy-related benefits. Begin with healthy sitting—seated crossed legged or tailor-style on the floor with spine straight. Do some neck rolls and shoulder rotations to help release tension. Move into a brief series that includes knee-rocking, leg stretches, Divine Mother Pose, Star Pose, pelvic rock, standing squat, Palm Tree Pose, Half Moon Pose, Triangle Pose and seated Mountain Pose. There is an additional short series of “birthing room yoga” poses described with photographs that is available as a free handout here.

The series is closed with a very brief meditation or visualization exercise. The series of poses and the affirmations are kept the same each week for retention purposes, but the meditation is varied. A quick visualization or relaxation exercise (under two minutes) is often more effective and more readily welcomed by couples than the longer visualization exercises often used in classes (which can seem esoteric to some people). A mindfulness meditation that is effective is:

Inhale and repeat silently: “I exist in the here and now….”

Exhale and repeat silently: “The present moment is all I have to be with…”
Continue inhaling and exhaling as you silently and simply repeat: “Here and now…present moment.”

A favorite resource for easily and smoothly incorporating yoga into classes is The Prenatal Yoga Deck by Olivia Miller, published by Chronicle Books in 2003. The poses listed above were selected from this deck. The deck contains 50 cards, so the educator can easily build a series for use in classes. Each pose card is accompanied by a lovely affirmation. The deck also includes six cards with simple meditations (the meditation above is adapted from one in the deck). The deck format, tidy box for holding the cards and sturdy card for each pose is an ideal format for transport to class as well as serving to provide subtle reminder cards as you lead couples through poses. Each card has a line drawing on the back illustrating the pose, so assessing whether you are doing the pose correctly is easy (sometimes just reading a description of the pose is more complicated than seeing it completed).

Occasionally the childbirth educator may get some eye-rolling or “weird, hippie exercise!” responses from pregnant couples. Regardless of how much or how little they appreciate the practice of yoga in classes, the poses used lay a physical foundation for a positive attitude toward birth and a sense of confidence as a birth-giving woman or supportive partner. Through the simple incorporation of yoga into birth classes, the expectant couple receives an irreplaceable, experiential grounding in the rhythm, focus, release, and conscious awareness so essential to the intensely embodied experience of birthing.

 Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE, ICPFE is a certified birth educator, writer, and activist. She is a professor of Human Services, an LLL Leader, editor of the Friends of Missouri Midwives newsletter, and a doctoral student at Ocean Seminary College. She has two wonderful sons and a toddler daughter and she blogs about birth, motherhood, and women’s issues at Talk Birth (

Suggested Resources for Birth Educators
The Prenatal Yoga Deck: 50 Poses and Meditations, Olivia H. Miller, ChronicleBooks, (2003)
YogaFit: PreNatal DVD, YogaFit (2009)
Yoga for Your Pregnancy DVD (2004)

All available via

All photos of the author, January 2011, 37 weeks. (c) Karen Orozco, Portraits & Paws Photography


Hyatt, G.& Cram, C. (2003). Prenatal & postnatal exercise design. DSW Fitness, Tuscon Arizona (training manual for the ICEA Certified Prenatal Fitness Educator Program)

Miller, O. (2003). The prenatal yoga deck: 50 poses and meditations. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Remer, M. (2007). Incorporating prenatal yoga into childbirth educationclasses. Midwifery Today, 4(84), 66.

Talk Birth. (2011). Retrieved from

YogaFit PreNatal/PostpartumSpecialty Program Manual. (2006). YogaFit Training Systems Worldwide, Inc. ,

DVD Review: Expecting More

DVD Review: Expecting More
Prenatal exercise program
Two disc set, 230 minutes
Daily Sweat, 2011

Reviewed by Molly Remer, Talk Birth

Fun, energetic, and challenging, Expecting More is a prenatal exercise program developed and hosted by prenatal fitness expert, Sara Haley. Developed and filmed during her own pregnancy, Sara created Expecting More out of her desire to offer a prenatal fitness experience that is vigorous and more fast-paced than the routines typically offered by prenatal exercise videos.  Offering lots of encouragement to stay “sexy and strong” during pregnancy, the DVD set of two discs includes six different workouts:

Synergy: Create SYNERGY within your body by alternating between Sara’s signature cardio and strength exercises.

Sweat Sport: Discover your inner athlete as you execute sports drills in a cardio session with modifications for all stages of pregnancy.

Sweat Funk: Embrace your sexy pregnant body as you get your FUNK on with hot dance cardio moves.Sweat Strong Down: Sculpt your body DOWN on the floor in a safe and effective way that supports your core and your baby.

Sweat Strong Up: Stand UP and sculpt your body in all the right places to keep you sexy and strong during your pregnancy.

Salutations: Designed to sooth and calm, you’ll breath, stretch, and move with this expression of good will to your baby and your body, your SALUTATION.

The Salutations portion is clearly inspired by both dance and yoga and is based on standing exercises that are less vigorous than the other workouts on the discs, but still very lively and movement oriented. Expecting More is led by a cute, contemporary fitness trainer with a pleasant voice. During some of the workouts, two additional women perform modified versions of the exercises in the background so that it is easy for women with different needs to follow along. I appreciated that the DVD contains lots of reminders about the importance of listening to your body. Expecting More presents exercise as a fun and engaged time to be close to your baby and to pay attention to your body and I feel like this approach contributes to a healthy, active attitude towards giving birth as well.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this DVD for review purposes.