Page 5 - Heart of Hoag December 2016
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Katie Allen leads one of the popular new yoga classes at the Melinda Hoag Smith Center for Healthy Living.
Hoag’s New Yoga Program Stretches the Boundaries of Community Wellness
With underserved men and women in mind, the classes provide benefits both physically and emotionally.
As the MRI machine whirred and knocked loudly, Maria’s legs began to
shake uncontrollably. The 52-year-old had never undergone an MRI, and the experience put her nerves on edge. But then she remembered the yoga classes she had recently attended at the Melinda Hoag Smith Center for Healthy Living.
“I visualized my instructor’s face, peaceful, calm and relaxed, her voice soft and sweet,” Maria wrote in a letter to Hoag. “I began to breathe deeply and my legs stopped shaking. I calmed myself, and I was falling asleep even with the loud noise. I only had four days practicing yoga when this happened. Yoga de nitely changed my life.”
Maria is in good company as a growing number of Orange County women and men are reaping the bene ts of Hoag’s free new yoga program, which seeks to reach at-risk and underserved county residents who might not otherwise have access to high-quality yoga instruction.
“Yoga has so much to offer, including mindfulness and wellness, and it can help people make better, healthier life choices,” says Katie Allen, MPH,
CYT, E-RYT 500, who, along with Allison Prince, founded Be The Change Yoga in Irvine, the  rst donation-based yoga studio in Orange County. Allen, who received her master’s degree in Public Health from Tulane University, conducted her thesis in yoga’s ability to treat and prevent chronic illnesses. Be The Change was the  rst yoga studio in the county to offer a yoga therapy training session.
Allen is passionate about creating a strong bridge between public health and yoga. With scienti c research increasingly drawing a straight line between yoga and physical and emotional wellness, Hoag’s Community Bene t program asked Allen to bring her model to the Center.
Currently, seven classes are offered at the Center, all free of charge thanks in part to community support: two in Spanish, two in English, one speci cally for health care workers, one for families and one for children. Nandini Narayanan, LCSW, a former long-time oncology social worker at Hoag, was instrumental in matching Allen’s innovative yoga program with Hoag. Now a yoga therapist, Narayanan has a unique perspective on yoga’s many bene ts – especially for health care workers.
“Working in the medical  eld is both draining and highly rewarding,” she says. “Social work in particular is a complex  eld, and providers need to learn to care for themselves, as well as those they care for. Yoga therapy is the perfect way for caregivers to care for their own health and well-being.”
Indeed, many health bene ts are being attributed to the ancient practice. Among other bene ts, yoga:
• Reduces blood pressure
• Improves respiratory capacity
• Alleviates depression
• Increases range of motion
• Improves balance, strength and  exibility • Induces a relaxation response
• Decreases stress and alleviates anxiety
With yoga’s bene ts clearly supported by research, Hoag is now taking steps to further expand its program by working closely with physicians, registered nurses and licensed care social workers, with the goal of having them make program referrals when appropriate.
“Our goal with the program is simple: offer health-promoting services in an environment that is welcoming and safe for at-risk and underserved residents,” Narayanan says. “Our focus is on helping people make good choices that enable them to take control of their lives.”
From women undergoing their  rst MRI to social workers who need to learn to also care for themselves, the new program is doing exactly that.

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