Keeping Healthy With Yoga

July 14, 2017
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The benefits of yoga are plenty, including increased flexibility and muscle strength.

By Angela Ciroalo |

At 70 years old she is more flexible than ever, sleeping longer hours, feeling healthy and strong. She is even playing a better game of tennis. Kitty Heffernan of Holmdel has experienced the benefits of yoga.

“You find an inner strength that moves you to do more than you think is possible,” she said. “Even on a low-energy day there is a sense of well-being (found in yoga).”

Heffernan attends weekly hot yoga classes at the Hot & Soul Hot Yoga studio in Middletown where owner and manager Ginna Turnamian, touts the benefits of the practice.

Turnamian, who left a successful career in the fashion industry to open the yoga studio, had been an avid gym-goer, ran, attended spin classes and lifted weights. However, she found that after workouts she was left feeling sore and achy. She rarely stretched and her felt body was tight.

Her chiropractor suggested that she try yoga. “I took my first class in a 108-degree room and questioned my sanity as well as the sanity of the other 20 people in the room drenched in their own sweat,” Turnamian said. “However, after the 90 minutes had past I was yearning for more and I returned within 48 hours to go for it again.”

She found herself feeling light in her body and mind. Her aches and pains began to dissipate and her energy was increasing.

“I added hot yoga to my workout regimen. It began to enhance every other activity I did in my life,” Turnamian said. “My cardiovascular endurance was greater and I was stronger physically and mentally.”

People of all ages, abilities and levels are finding the health benefits of the practice of yoga.

Monica Bais, M.D., of Atlantic Highlands Internal Medicine has practiced yoga for the past 20 years and recommends the practice to her patients and family.

The benefits associated with yoga include decreased stress levels, increased focus, weight reduction, increased bone density, decreased blood pressure and heart rate, increased muscle mass and tone, improved flexibility, decreased injury among athletes, in addition to an increased self-awareness through the connection to the mind and body.

“Yoga is beneficial both mentally and physically,” Bais said. “Mentally it helps with stress reduction and anxiety. I have many patients who suffer from anxiety that I have advised start yoga.”

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(For immediate relief of panic attacks, Bais recommends the forward fold exercise-bending forward from the waist, arms hanging down toward the floor, and coming back up one vertebra at a time.)

Furthermore, Bais has found that the breathing and meditation in yoga improves focus and mental acuity.

“Physically, the research has shown greater weight reduction when done in conjunction with other activities like running, walking, biking,” she said. “Also it serves as a weight-bearing exercise thereby increasing bone density.”

She went on to say that yoga overall is a benefit to the body and mind.

Lisa Matthews found yoga to be a sigh of relief after battling back pain for years due to numerous surgeries.

“I tried physical therapy and other workout methods but nothing helped me as much as my yoga and stretching,” said Matthews, owner and founder of Monmouth Beach Yoga & Wellness studio.

Matthews defines yoga as a “union” or a method of discipline with various ideas, beliefs and techniques to cleanse the body and mind.

The practice includes philosophy, meditation, breath work, lifestyle and behavior principles as well as exercise, Matthews said. Yoga derives from ancient India and has been practiced for more than 5,000 years.

One of the reasons Matthews believes that yoga became so popular throughout the U.S. was a result of the injuries associated with the rise in exercise during the 1980s. “The exercise craze of the ‘80s led to a rise in fitness-related injuries, which in turn prompted people’s interest to look for viable and low-impact ways of staying fit,” she said.

Not long after, yoga classes became a growing trend. Nowadays yoga is offered in almost every town, in fitness centers, senior living facilities, YMCAs, health clubs, gyms, recreation departments, parks and even schools.

In Monmouth County, some towns are offering yoga classes on the beach this summer. Sea Bright offers a Yoga on the Beach daily at 7 a.m. and at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Long Branch offers a similar setup at West End Beach where classes are offered daily at 7 a.m. and at 6:30 pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights.

Ohanala, Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Yoga, in the Rumson area, offers classes combining yoga, surfing, meditation, stand up paddling and natural health.

In Red Bank the borough collaborated with The Community YMCA and is offering free yoga classes at Riverside Park every third Wednesday at 6 p.m. from May through September.

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While yoga is beneficial to the general public, some mind and body classes are targeted for special populations and people of all ages.

For example, at The Community YMCA in Red Bank, Chair Yoga is offered to seniors and those who are not comfortable practicing yoga on a mat. The community wellness center also offers yoga classes for cancer survivors through its Cancer Survivor’s Livestrong program.

At Bee You Yoga in Manasquan, a studio created specifically for children to practice yoga, kids 6-weeks to 18 years old practice their mantra. Monmouth Beach Yoga & Wellness offers teen yoga for ages 9 and older and children’s yoga for ages 3 to 8 years old.

Coba Yoga in Little Silver offers yoga classes for new mothers and their babies. The studio also offers pre-natal yoga and yoga for those in recovery of substance abuse.

Align Amar Yoga in Tinton Falls offers a Yoga for Limited Mobility class created for participants experiencing limited mobility due to injury or surgery. The class also welcomes those experiencing neurological and musculoskeletal disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, osteoarthritis, scoliosis and brain injuries.

“Yoga is for everyone regardless of age, limitations or injury,” Matthews said.

Theresa Hunt, a participant of Monmouth Beach Yoga & Wellness recently completed her yoga teacher training program in an effort to share the benefits of yoga with others as an instructor.

After working full time as a social worker for most of her life, Hunt sought to help others in a new way. “I discovered that yoga is for trauma, stress, sobriety and cancer patients, just to name a few,” Hunt said. “Yoga practice involves physical, mental and spiritual components.”

Patricia Lober of Atlantic Highlands also recently completed her yoga instructor teaching training. Lober feels that yoga has helped her to evolve into a better person.

Megan Reeves of Middletown, felt similar benefits from attending yoga classes.

Through yoga, Reeves feels that the connection between her mind, body and spirit has made a great impact on her life. She also enjoys the sense of community that she feels within the classes.

“Not only have I undergone a complete physical transformation but I have learned and received so many unexpected gifts [from yoga],” she said.

This article was first published in the July 6-13, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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