Yoga enthusiasts across the D.C. metropolitan areas are gathering to connect for meditative, healing circles of yoga and varying wellness activities during this year's DMV Black Yoga Week events.
Yoga enthusiasts across the D.C. metropolitan areas are gathering to connect for meditative, healing circles of yoga and varying wellness activities during this year's DMV Black Yoga Week events.

September examines Yoga Awareness Month, highlighting the various health benefits and ways in which people are applying the practice to their daily lives. Across the D.C. Metropolitan region physicians and yoga enthusiasts alike are teaching people and families how to implement the anaerobic exercise for a balanced well-being.

Yoga is the ancient practice of spiritual discipline that focuses on physical poses, deep breathing, and concentration to maintain the body’s physical and mental alignment.  

Dr. Ehsan Jazini, a spine surgeon and yogi practicing out of Northern Virginia, has found himself implementing yoga practices in the recovery routines of his patients who suffer from spine issues. 

Jazini emphasizes that within his practice, he has found nearly 95% of patients fare better when utilizing the more holistic option of yoga. Despite his expertise as a spine surgeon, he consistently aims to educate patients on how to achieve spine correction without major surgery. 

“What we need to stress, whether you are a therapist or a spine surgeon, to our patients with back issues and society as a whole, is we need to learn how to work and manage our aches and pains that we have [by figuring] out more holistic options before we go after a structural fix,” Jazini explained.  

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, yoga offers a slew of physical and mental health benefits for people of all age groups, helping to accelerate the body’s healing whether recovering from a chronic condition or surgery.  

Various branches of yoga provide a large scope of benefits barring physical results including: alleviating back pain, easing arthritis symptoms, reducing stress and body-wide inflammation which contributes to better heart health, better sleep, boosting energy and mood, managing stress, and promoting overall better self-care. 

While yoga is not the only physical modality that encourages the body’s healing, Jazini emphasized the well-rounded nature of yoga. Practicing yoga, according to Jazini, encapsulates a holistic remedy that bridges together the three main aspects of why yoga is so beneficial: it strengthens and balances the body’s core strength, promotes flexibility, and maintains positive mental health.

“The reason yoga is so phenomenal is because it focuses on working on your core, it works on your strength, and it focuses on your flexibility. The issue is when we are not flexible and we become stiff as we get older, especially in our hips and our knee joints, then we are putting more stress on our lower back because you can’t move as much through your hips,” Jazini said. “And so, the other aspect of it, in terms of why yoga is so beneficial, is because it also works on your flexibility. So there are three main reasons it is so beneficial to anyone, which is [strengthening] your core, your flexibility, and then your mental health or mindfulness.”

Certified yoga instructor, and early education teacher, Katrice Nelson, has not been able to pull herself away from the practice since her first yoga experience a few years ago. Nelson said yoga found her at the perfect time, as she became drawn to the mental and emotional benefits of the stress-reducing exercise.

“It changed my life. Because I was stressed, my shoulders, my neck, everything was hurting and I was tense. After the movement of that one class, I was feeling more relaxed, I could concentrate, and I saw the value of it.  Since then, I have never stopped.”

What Nelson deems as a remarkable experience gave her the inspiration to share her newfound lifestyle and practice with others. Her nonprofit Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds Yoga began teaching classes at community centers, libraries, schools, and other community spaces to share the life-changing practice for children and adults. 

Growing beyond her local teachings, Nelson is proudly spearheading her second year of DMV Black Yoga Week,’ offering local community members and practitioners various sessions that will dive deeper into the vast world of yoga, meditation, and positive health practices. 

The event, which will be held in the Oxon Hill and Suitland area, provides a host of classes and seminars teaching personalized methods of wellness modalities to encourage mental, physical, and spiritual health across the D.C. metropolitan community. Simultaneously, the week-long event will highlight local Black yoga wellness and creative arts businesses.

The weeklong effort is supported by Nelson’s community of prominent yoga wellness leaders who will contribute to the event’s list of sessions, as she shares her excitement to bring the wellness event to residents around the area and potentially beyond.   

“Yoga is more than just movement, it’s the mind, body, the breath, and the spirit.  Noticing your heart rate when you are anxious or upset and afraid, and being able to do something to calm yourself. Yoga gives you a proactive way when you are in a crisis,” Nelson said.  

“What I’ve noticed is that the breath is so important, that if you practice yoga regularly and you monitor your breathing when you are faced with difficulty, your body will naturally start to respond on its own. It’s not just a matter of being flexible, it’s a proactive approach to wellness.”

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