The Bottom Line
- DVDs take mom from immediately post birth through six months of regaining strength and tone.
- Well-planned sequences address physical concerns new mothers face.
- Includes an exercise sequence with baby.
- Clear visual and audio cues.
- Fun, upbeat energy.
- The progression of the workouts loses some focus in the middle.
- Post pregnancy exercises
- Four progressive workouts
- Two DVDs
- Retail: $24.99
Guide Review - DVD Review: LiveLife Pilates for New Mothers
Pregnancy is not easy on bodies. Throughout pregnancy and childbirth, a woman's body goes through extreme changes. Abdominal muscles have stretched, pelvic floor muscles have stretched, breasts have enlarged, there may have been weight gain. And certainly, there have been all kinds of hormonal changes that affect the body and emotions. In short, a new mom's body has miraculously transformed itself into perfect accommodations for a baby - and then brought that new life into the world all set up to sustain it.
The thing is, all those changes can leave a new mom feeling unsettled in a body that is quite different than the one she knew nine months before, even if she did her Pilates during pregnancy. And, her body is probably not going to be as single-minded about recovering from pregnancy on its own as it was about making the changes needed to have the baby! So, on top of the wonderful, yet all-consuming, project of having a new baby, a new mom might feel confused and overwhelmed about how to get her strength and muscle-tone back. It can be too far, too fast to jump into a regular exercise program; besides, how does she know what exercises to start with, which are safe and how to progress?
One of my favorite things about Leah Stewart's LiveLife Pilates for New Mothers is that it gently addresses new-mom-specific issues like the questions above. The four workout sequences build from safe exercises one can do right after baby is born to a workout designed to start six or more months after the birth.
The first series of post-pregnancy exercises, called "Becoming Reacquainted," can be done on the floor or in bed almost right after the birth. It's a time to breathe and say "hello abs and pelvis," as well as get a little bit of leg and shoulder mobilization in. Gradually, the workouts incorporate more toning and strength elements until the final one, which includes hand weights, is really a full-on workout.
Most of the exercises Leah has chosen are pre-Pilates and Pilates based. In all the workouts she has taken care to find movements that are appropriate to each stage of recovery, and she emphasizes exercises that will restore tone to the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. There is also attention to some of a new mom's challenges with posture such as the need to re-establish core stability and counter the stoop-over effect of being blissfully bent over baby much of her time. The workouts are nicely balanced with flexion, extension and gentle twists.
Leah made this set of DVDs when her own baby was just 6 months old. His presence in workout No. 3, a set of post-pregnancy exercises a new mother can do with her baby, is delightful. These are for-real exercises - ab work, back and shoulder work, and some very good stuff for the butt and legs - but this is also fun-time with baby. After all, moms have to get those exercises in when they can. Since Turner was already 6 months when this segment was done (and the workout is designed to begin at 2 to 4 months), some babies will be floppier than Turner, so adjustments will be made.
The workout with baby was a little confusing to me in terms of the flow of the overall program, however. The sequence is significantly shorter than the one before it and the one after it. I also felt there was a pretty big jump in challenge level from that set to the final set. So, it seemed there was a little loss of momentum in the middle. On the other hand, when baby is 2 to 4 months old, 22 minutes may be the very most one can hope for in terms of time and energy.
I hope Leah, teaching as a new mom and doing it all beautifully, will be inspiring. Her demonstrations are easy to follow, and she makes sure you know what the most important aspects of the exercises are. Do keep in mind, however, that Leah was a Pilates teacher and human-movement expert before she had her baby; she recovered her toned and svelte figure very quickly.
If you are a new mom, you might not look or feel like that at all, especially at first. That's okay. Just progress with the exercises and enjoy the lovely look and feel of the DVDs - it's your time to take care of you. The rest will come.
Background reading that might help new mothers understand more fully how to use the exercises in these DVDs:
Pilates and Pregnancy
The Pelvic Floor Muscles, How to Strengthen the Pelvic Floor
Overall, LiveLife Pilates for New Mothers gets two thumbs up. Leah Stewart is compassionate, with an uplifting but not saccharin attitude, and she brings an excellent background of Pilates and healthy movement to what she teaches. This is just the step-by-step way to build a fit mom-body that, by the time it gets to the fourth workout, will be on notice that flatter abs, a better butt and ease in movement can definitely be part of post-pregnancy living.