Yoga Is a Way of Life for This Primary Care Doctor

Lifelong practitioner incorporates yoga into her practice

Kosha Nathwani, MD, a Scripps Clinic family medicine physician, is in a warrior 1 yoga pose with the ocean in the background.

Kosha Nathwani, MD, Family Medicine, Scripps Clinic

Lifelong practitioner incorporates yoga into her practice

Yoga has been a part of Kosha Nathwani’s life for as long as she can remember. Dr. Nathwani, a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Encinitas, credits her lifelong practice of it for providing mindfulness-based stress reduction during challenging times in her life, including medical school, the COVID-19 pandemic and raising two young sons. 

Dr. Nathwani has seen the good it can do first-hand and now helps her patients incorporate the physical and mental benefits of yoga into their own lives. 

“As a child, my mom and I would do yoga in the mornings,” says Dr. Nathwani. “My mom did suffer from some health problems and was able to find a lot of relief in her musculoskeletal condition with the help of yoga. So, in 2008, we both decided to go to India and become certified yoga instructors together.”

Incorporating yoga into personal life

Dr. Nathwani taught yoga until medical school started, then continued her own daily practice. She started teaching again during her residency to help her fellow physicians and support staff cope with the unprecedented stresses associated with working in health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I was in my third year of residency when COVID hit and that definitely changed things,” she says. “Throughout all of the stress that I’ve been through with medical school, residency and COVID, yoga’s been the common thread for me to stabilize my mental health.” 

Yoga has helped Dr. Nathwani prioritize herself and her time, despite a busy schedule. It helps her focus and train her mind to be present. At times it takes significant effort, but it’s worth it. 

“For me, yoga is not only strengthening my muscles and improving my flexibility, but I’m also more aware of my body during my yoga class — and for those 60 minutes that I’m practicing, I’m focusing on my breath and basically meditating for a full hour. It’s like that mindfulness component is there for the entire time,” she says. 

“You’re able to let go of all the stresses that you have to deal with, your to-do list, all the tasks that are waiting for you. I forget about all of that for the full hour that I’m practicing.” 

Incorporating yoga into primary care practice

She also has incorporated yoga and mindfulness into her holistic clinical practice and encourages her patients to use these approaches to reduce stress, stay healthy and improve mood, sleep and body image. 

Combining yoga with lifestyle changes can help ward off chronic conditions, and research has shown that mindfulness-based stress reduction, which can include yoga, deep breathing exercises and more, can be especially helpful for patients facing anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns. There are different types of yoga, many of which are gentle enough for most patients. 

“I try to counsel my patients on practicing these techniques at home. And if agreeable, I always encourage my patients to take up yoga, not just for the physical benefits, but for the mental health that it brings,” Dr. Nathwani says. “Whatever age you are, whatever physical condition you’re in, there’s definitely a type of yoga for you.” 

San Diego Health Magazine Cover Fall 2023

This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.

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