Review of Jennifer Wolfe’s Prenatal Vinyasa Yoga

I don’t envy producers of workout DVDs. I figure they have a hard time pleasing their audiences — at least that’s what Amazon reviews tend to indicate. And here’s my theory for it: the prospective audience for a workout DVD is fundamentally split: there are the people who are so dedicated to their cardio/yoga practice/bellydance drills that they need videos to supplement their classes and gym visits, and then there are the people who haven’t done anything in a while, and figure the new Laotian dancing yoga & hooping video might be the thing that will inspire them to keep with a workout program. Needless to say, these groups of people will not be satisfied with the same video.

This problem is amplified with prenatal workouts. There are the superfit mamas who aren’t going to let a little thing like the 9-month gestation of human life get in the way of their muscle conditioning, and then there are the ladies whose backs are starting to hurt something fierce and who have been terrified by their natural childbirth books into doing some kind of prenatal yoga.

I tend to fall in the latter camp, but in the case of Jennifer Wolfe’s Prenatal Vinyasa Yoga I’m split. On the one hand, I’ve done enough regular yoga classwork in the past to agree that most prenatal yoga programs really are just stretching. They feel fabulous, but are probably not helping my condition too much. On the other hand — I find this program a bit too strenuous, even when doing all the third-trimester modifications. I actually bought it in a set, Complete Prenatal Vinyasa Yoga & Short Forms, which has a DVD with 15, 30, and 45 minute practices. Because I had time today, I thought I’d jump right into the 75-minute practice on the first video, but this was clearly a mistake. At one point I had to start taking breaks and doing child’s pose repeatedly, and Wolfe does encourage this, but it’s frustrating. And my lower back hurts this evening, making me think that I might have strained myself a bit. However, I’m willing to try the shorter programs and see if I can’t work up to getting something useful out of the longer, 75-minute practice.

For now, I’ll review positives and negatives of the long program, all through the filter of my own likes and pet peeves!

The Pluses

– The workout is generally quite well cued, including verbal cues for the modifications, and the presenters “mirror” what you should be doing, so it’s easy enough to follow.
– Breathing is indicated throughout (though Wolfe sometimes seems to lose track of what breath should go where — this gets confusing).
– While I usually worry about so many lunges and what they might mean for my weak knees, movement in and out of lunges is described very precisely, step-by-step, in a way that minimizes the chances of something going wrong.
– Wolfe repeatedly encourages you to take a break if you need it.
– The practice is vigorous enough to feel like a real workout. You really get warmed up, and you’re definitely building strength.
– There’s a longish squat section that feels really good, and that seems to be just the thing for birth prep.
– This is one of the few yoga videos I’ve ever seen, prenatal or not, that has a decent shavasana: Wolfe does a long, guided meditation, with light music in the background that is not annoying. That’s impressive.

The Minuses

– The safety notes often come in the middle or second repetition of a pose. They should come right at the start!
– This may be an issue with vinyasa in general rather than with this particular DVD, but the move from a lunge to a warrior posture is often too quick to really allow for proper alignment of the feet. Now, this is a video for people who have yoga experience, but being pregnant means that finding your balance and figuring out where your feet are is a longer process, and one that varies daily.
– Those lunges and downward-facing dogs get really repetitive. They also get tiring, but it’s easier to soldier through a program that’s more varied. In 75 minutes, a much greater range of yoga postures could have been done.
– There is a little, but not much, for the neck and shoulder area. Given that this is also an area where pregnant women typically have pain, it would have been nice to have more than a head circle in each direction and an eagle pose.

This is it so far — I’ll report on the other workouts as I use them, but this one was too much for me at present. Still, for building strength it’s probably a very good idea to do something a little more rigorous than sitting on a chair and doing a side stretch.

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