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.”
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.”
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.