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August 6, 2008 > Yoga Workshop Tackles Effective Pain Management for Women

Yoga Workshop Tackles Effective Pain Management for Women

Class Addresses Benefits of Yoga, Deep Breathing, as Well as Pain Response

For any woman who has lived with some type of chronic pain - whether from an illness or recovery from a surgical procedure - it's easy to see that pain goes well beyond a simple physical response.

On Aug. 19, the Washington Women's Center will offer a Yoga and Chronic Pain Relief workshop for any woman looking to find an effective means of better managing her pain.

Bonnie Maeda, R.N., the instructor who leads the workshop, has combined her 15 years of background in hospice care with her expertise in yoga and meditation to create a gentle yoga sequence as well as a presentation focusing on holistic pain management.

"Bonnie has met and exceeded all our goals and expectations in bringing a gentle restorative yoga program to the women is our community," according to Kathy Hesser, R.N., coordinator of the Washington Women's Center. "Her experience as a registered nurse, as well as her yoga talent, combines to make this a very rewarding experience for each of our participants."

Understanding pain
"People with chronic pain have a certain level of physical pain, but they also respond to pain in a certain way due to a variety of factors, including fear of pain, perhaps a history of not having it well-controlled, as well as having dealt with pain for an extended period," according to Maeda.

"As a result, many people with pain feel they don't have control over it. Through this workshop, they are able to lessen the intensity of the pain they feel and reduce that secondary fear that is part of having chronic pain. I focus on how they can do that for themselves."

Some of the topics she will address with participants include:
* Breathing awareness
* Release of muscle tension
* Understanding the pain response
* Understanding the relationship between fear and the intensity of the pain

"Lots of fears come up around chronic pain," Maeda explains. "The fear response can impact the quality of the pain and that's why we address fear and anxiety in relation to pain response. I also talk about how to assess their pain so they can be very clear when they're talking to their physician, which enables them to get the correct medication for their situation."

She points out that many of the women experiencing chronic pain may be prescribed a chronic analgesia. One of the goals of deep breathing exercises and understanding the pain response, she says, is that some women may help themselves reduce the amount of medication they use for pain.

"If we can reduce dosage or frequency of the medications they are taking through breathing awareness and other natural measures, then they can potentially decrease the side effects of certain medications as well," she explains.

After her presentation, Maeda will lead participants on a gentle yoga sequence done from a sitting position in a chair, which she says is geared towards women of all ages and conditions. In recent years, Maeda says, yoga has been skewed in the public eye as a practice only for the health-conscious 25-year-old, when in fact its benefits can help virtually anyone.

Benefits of yoga and meditation
How exactly does yoga help? The benefits are manifold, according to Maeda. They include reduced muscle tension, a feeling of participation in healing process, a decrease in the stress response, higher energy levels through improved circulation to organs and tissues, as well as an improvement in the quality of breathing, which she says is more important than people realize.

"When people are in pain or stressed, they breathe more shallowly," she notes. "Breathing more deeply, which yoga focuses on, improves the quality of the body's systems. Slow, deep breathing also has the ability to reduce stress response."

Maeda says it's important for participants to understand that yoga cannot relieve pain 100 percent, but it can work to relieve pain by a certain degree, depending on the individual. Even improving the pain response by a percentage, she emphasizes, can improve quality of life.

"There is an improvement in the sense of wellbeing when they have a feeling of control over their pain," she says. "I've put a lot of thought into this workshop and I've had a great experience of seeing the results with people. It shows in the improved color in their face and their expression."

Yoga and Chronic Pain Relief
Join Bonnie Maeda at the Washington Women's Center, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, across from the main hospital, on Tuesday, Aug. 19, at 6:30 p.m. for her Yoga and Chronic Pain Relief workshop.

To register for the workshop (space is limited), call the Women's Center Wellness line at (510) 608-1301. A $10 fee for the class is due at the time of registration.

To learn more about services or programs at the center, call (510) 608-1301 or (800) 608-1301 or visit Washington Hospital's Web site at, click on "Services & Programs," and select "Women's Health" from the drop-down menu.

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