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August 13, 2010 > Washington Women's Center Yoga Class Focuses on Body, Mind and Spirit

Washington Women's Center Yoga Class Focuses on Body, Mind and Spirit

Yoga Offers a Variety of Health Benefits

If you have been looking to improve your health, consider trying yoga. The ancient practice can help breathe new life into your body, mind and spirit. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years and is based on the premise that body and mind are one. The two basic components are proper breathing and exercises called poses. You can do these poses while sitting, lying down or standing.

"Yoga improves stamina, flexibility and breathing," said Bonnie Maeda, RN, a certified yoga instructor at the Washington Women's Center. "Yoga reduces stress and improves overall health and well-being. Even people with serious health problems can find a much better quality of life through yoga."

When people think of yoga, they often imagine having to stretch and contort their bodies like professional gymnasts, which could lead them to believe they are too old or out of shape for yoga. But Maeda assures first-time participants that couldn't be further from the truth.

"Yoga is available to every body," Maeda said. "Which means people of every age, ability, and body type can benefit from yoga."

Reaching for Relief

Yoga can help reduce muscle tension and fatigue, and increase flexibility of the joints, according to Maeda. She said it also helps to improve circulation and increase energy levels.

"Yoga improves the efficiency and quality of breathing," she said. "People under stress tend to breathe in a shallow way. Yoga can help you learn to breathe deeper and exhale fully, which oxygenates body tissues more fully."

Those with chronic pain often find it difficult to get a good night's rest. Yoga can help improve both the duration and quality of sleep, Maeda added.

"Yoga may just provide the motivation you need to get more engaged in life," she said. "It gives people a sense they are doing something about their pain, so they can get back some control over their lives, which they may have lost due to the pain. It can also improve the way they process and respond to pain, making it much more bearable. Hopefully, they can get back to doing some of the activities they enjoy."

Individualized Instruction

The instructors offer individualized instruction specifically tailored to each participant's abilities. "It's really about teaching people to know their limitations, called stretch points, so they don't overdo it and hurt themselves," Maeda said. Yoga involves a series of poses that stretch not only muscles, but also soft tissue including ligaments and tendons.

This stretching releases the lactic acid that builds up in the muscles and causes stiffness, tension, pain and fatigue. Yoga also increases range of motion in the joints, making it very beneficial for people with arthritis.

Even gentle forms of yoga build strength and endurance. The poses also help to align the body and improve posture.

Because of the deep, mindful breathing in yoga, lung capacity often improves.
This deep breathing also helps to increase relaxation and reduce stress.

"Yoga offers so many health benefits," Maeda said. "If you are a beginner or are apprehensive - maybe you tried yoga before and it didn't work out - these classes are definitely for you."

More Yoga Sessions Now Available

Due to the popularity and positive benefits received by the participants, the center now offers five six-week Gentle Yoga classes on Tuesday evenings, Wednesday afternoons, Thursday evenings and Friday mornings. The next session will begin Wednesday afternoon, September 1 at 2 p.m., at the Washington Women's Center, 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. The class is limited to 15 participants and registration is required. The fee is $75 and a credit card number must be provided at the time of registration. Call (510) 608-1301 to register.

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