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September is National Yoga Awareness Month

September is National Yoga Awareness Month

Whether you have tried yoga or not, you have likely heard it is good for your body, but did you also know it is good for your mind? National Yoga Awareness Month is held every September to promote the benefits of yoga and inspire a healthy lifestyle. Sudeepthi Prasad, MD, is a Washington Township Medical Foundation obstetrician-gynecologist and a certified yoga instructor who practices yoga every day. In observance of Yoga Awareness Month, she shares with the Tri-City community her wisdom on the benefits of yoga.

What are the health benefits of yoga?

I explain to my patients that yoga will help improve their strength, balance and flexibility. Back pain is a common ailment among women after they have children, and yoga helps with that. It also eases pain from arthritis as they get older. Several recent studies have revealed that yoga is good for your heart. It also helps with high blood pressure and excess weight, and it brings relaxation for better sleep. People of all ages and abilities can benefit from practicing yoga.

What other ways does yoga help people feel better?

Yoga prepares the body for meditation that can promote brighter moods and increased energy. It releases neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, which has to do with feeling pleasure, being focused and sleeping well. Serotonin has a calming effect, which eases tension to help us feel less stressed. GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) sends chemical messages to the brain and nervous system to inhibit feelings of anxiety, nervousness, racing thoughts and sleeplessness. Endorphins are also released that are responsible for the feeling of exhilaration during exercise, sometimes described as “runner’s high.” These are just some of the neurotransmitters that play a role in creating well-being, reduction of pain and less stress. Yoga and meditation choreograph the simultaneous release of these chemicals, and it all comes with no side effects.

How is yoga different from other physical exercise?

Yoga is much more than just exercise or contortion of the body. It can work to bring together the mind, body and spirit. In yoga, the body is seen as five different layers, or koshas. They are the physical, energy, mental, intellectual and bliss bodies. Using yoga to open up to all these different layers of the self can enable a person to live life to the fullest.

What are the different styles of yoga?

Hatha, the most common form of yoga means “force” in Sanskrit. It uses controlled movements and stretching with a focus on the breath to preserve and channel the vital force or energy. Ashtanga yoga is a more dynamic form of traditional Indian yoga focused on developing physical strength. Iyengar yoga emphasizes detail, precision and alignment when performing yoga postures that are usually held for a longer period of time. With Vinyasa yoga, poses are put together in a continuous rhythmic flow, unlike Hatha, where you rest between poses. Bikram is hot yoga, usually done in hot, humid conditions which results in heavy sweating. These are just a few of the many types of yoga. There is also specialized yoga that includes those tailored for people with cancer, or yoga therapy to help heal an injury or painful area.

How can someone who is new to yoga get started?

Especially since the pandemic, there are many different virtual yoga videos or classes available via Zoom or on YouTube. For those who are new to yoga, I recommend getting started by attending your first couple of classes in person. Yoga is a healing, strengthening, calming, and empowering practice that offers something for everybody regardless of their age, gender, race, size, background or fitness level.

The Washington Wellness Center offers two weekly yoga classes held in their conference room at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Ave., Suite 145 in Fremont. “Yoga” is on Fridays from noon to 1 p.m. and covers the fundamentals of yoga poses with a focus on strength, balance, and alignment. “Gentle Yoga” is held Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and offers seated and standing yoga poses along with guided meditation to tone your body and maximize flexibility and balance. People with all levels of yoga experience are welcome to both classes and the cost is $10 per session.

For more information about yoga and other wellness classes at the Washington Wellness Center or to reserve a spot, call 510.818.7301. To learn more about Dr. Prasad, visit