Review of Yoga Journal's Yoga for your Pregnancy

Yoga Journal's Yoga for your Pregnancy is a great little video for a pregnant woman who is starting to feel the aches and discomforts of pregnancy and really just wants to get a delicious stretch. I bought it used a few weeks ago, and Sunday afternoon seemed like a nice time to do something not too strenuous for my body. However, after I finished the program, relaxed and pleased, I went on Amazon and found that many had rated the video poorly. I was shocked! It turns out, however, that many of them are regular yoga practitioners, and they, not surprisingly, found the program too easy. I didn't. Here's my take:

The video is composed of several segments: a 30-minute energizing routine, a 15-minute relaxation routine, and smaller videos on breathing, meditation, birthing-room yoga, along with a short postnatal yoga practice. One option allows you to do the energizing and relaxation routines along with the breathing and meditation all in a row, which adds up to an hour of practice. There is one glitch here, in that both the 30-min and 15-min routines set you up for a shavasana at the end, and playing the program in a row doesn't skip this. Since I did the 1-hour program today, I wound up doing two short shavasanas and then continuing on with the breathing and meditation sections -- a little ungainly.

As to the main practices: this is not flow yoga. The instructor sets up each position, instructs you quickly on the variations, and you then spend a brief amount of time doing the asana. There are three women on the screen, each doing a different version or level of difficulty. Now, I really liked the way they organized this. In most videos, the star instructor does the most difficult poses, setting them up as a kind of standard, while the other practitioners do variations that you can barely see in the background. In this case, the main instructor, Kristen Eykel, usually demonstrates a pose of intermediate difficulty, while the women in the back show a harder and an easier variation. Eykel also describes the modifications -- up or down in difficulty -- so that you do not have to look at the screen. However, the practitioners also switch it up sometimes -- the one who was doing the more difficult standing exercise might do the easier bending asana. They are at various stages of pregnancy, but the modifications they do seem to be more based on their bodies and abilities, rather than on trimester.

This is such a small detail, but I really liked it -- it simply seemed more real. After all, when I usually practice yoga, I'm not at the same level for all asanas. While I'm sure all the women in this video are advanced in their own practices, the way the video is set up makes exercise more approachable.

The asanas themselves are generally not difficult -- really not difficult. You will get a good stretch, and you will build strength a bit, but you will probably not break a sweat or feel exhausted if you have done any yoga before. I did not see much of a difference in intensity between the "energizing" workout and the "relaxing" workout.

The breathing segment is particularly nice. I found it one of the more approachable breathing practices I've seen on a video, but it was still long enough for me to feel relaxed and refreshed. The meditation segment was not the most convincing meditation I have done, but I tend to think it's hard to meditate with a video playing in the room anyway.

All in all, my body felt noticeably different -- no more pain, no more stiffness -- after doing the program, and I've been in a calm, happy zone in the hours since. I'm looking forward to checking out the birthing-room yoga segment and the postnatal yoga practice -- both nice extras on the DVD.

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