Yoga For Weight Loss

Our body tries to maintain its ideal weight through various internal regulatory mechanisms, which is the result of a complicated network of neural, hormonal and numerous chemical reactions. There are various factors involved in management of weight in adults, say

  • Metabolic Rate
  • Physical Activity
  • Hormones
  • Diet

Though there are numerous tips and tricks all over the web for weight loss, there is one ancient form that could control all the above factors that aids in successful weight loss and its maintenance when followed not just meticulously but as a lifestyle.

Yoga – The Ancient Science

This article will take you to the various changes yogic practices bring in your body that helps in weight loss.

Asanas

Apart from energy expenditure during asanas, they also bring about internal pressure changes over the organs due to manipulation of various parts of the chest and abdomen. Impaired insulin leads to impaired thermogenesis leading to weight gain. Insulin resistance is also associated with increased adiposity. Stretching of abdomen in asanas, (Dhanurasana, Chakrasana) increases digestive fire and improves insulin sensitivity which ultimately maintains a good body weight.

Pranayama

In long standing pranayamic practices like Sitali and Sitkari, the tongue becomes dry and taste buds become slightly desensitized, which helps to control excessive hunger. The rawness in the throat also activates the satiety centre. The vagus nerve activation in most practices influences the hypothalamus and controls food intake and satiety.

Regular practice of Bhastrika, Suryabhedana pranayama burns fat, increases BMR, thus reducing weight and visceral fat.

Shuddhi Kriya

Hatha Pradipika (II-78) the classical Hatha Yogic text book describes the stimulation of gastric fire and slimness of body as the success of Nadi Shuddhi (Anulom Vilom).Shuddhi Kriyas like Kapalbhati, Vaman, Dhand Dhauti; Vastra Dhauti neutralizes the acid balance in the stomach and thus reduces hunger. Thus no excess eating, no weight gaining, but losing.

Studies point out that to decrease the Body Mass Index, skin fold thickness and hip and waist circumference, practicing Kapalbhati alters intra-abdominal pressure and increases Basal Metabolic Rate. Agnisar promotes weight reduction and reduces waist circumference. A very high negative pressure ensures efficient blood supply to abdominal organs improving their functional ability.  The practice of Laghu shankhaprakshalana results in reduced fat absorption for the next several days.  Both these Kriyas have affirmative effects in weight reduction.

Mitahar

Mitahar (Moderation in Food) is the practice of filling half the stomach with sweet agreeable food, one quarter with water and the other quarter left empty, as guided by classical hatha yogic text books like Hatha Yoga Pradipika(Vs. 1:59 to 61) and in Gheranda Samhita (5:21-22).

Along with the practice of Mitahara, one has to follow decreased food frequency which provides an abdominal condition that is conducive for the practices of asana and pranayama and thus reducing weight.

 Endocrine System’s Efficiency by Yoga

Yogic practices calms down your endocrine system, which overwork in times of stress. The activities of endocrine glands are relaxed and thereby regulate their secretions. Repeated bouts of excess cortisol leads to obesity and metabolic syndrome. Various studies demonstrate that Pranayama, Dharana and Dhyana increases Alpha wave which has direct correlation not only in reducing stress and calming the mind, but also reduces the cortisol levels, thereby preventing weight gain.

Connection Between Sympathetic Nervous System, Yoga and Weight Loss

Impaired insulin leads to reduced activity of the Sympathetic Nervous System. Low sympathetic activity is a risk factor for weight gain and obesity. In other words, it could be said that higher sympathetic activity is essential to shed pounds.

Sympathetic activity is experienced while holding an asana (say, Viparita Karani, Halasana) or any other Kriya (Kapalbhati); though it returns back to normal when one comes out of the pose.

Belief correction

Contrary to the popular belief that yoga has to be accompanied with other forms of physical activity to assist in weight loss, appropriate asana principles and techniques, pranayama, dharana and dhyana appear as a promising measure to support in weight loss and of course maintenance too.

Ms. Bindu Sunil

Ms. Bindu Sunil

Post-Graduation in Food Science and Nutrition, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Yoga Education.