Within yoga’s ability to create total well-being, lies its ability to reduce excess weight through burning calories, boosting metabolism and encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Yoga is not a quick fix, but can be an excellent long-term holistic approach to loosing excess weight – and keeping it off. Not only that, yoga creates many other positive changes: improves self-esteem, increases mental focus, reduces stress, promotes flexibility and increases strength and balance.
Metabolism is the chemical processes that create energy in the body that are regulated by the endocrine system, especially the thyroid. Yoga has a powerful stimulating and strengthening effect on the endocrine organs and thus can boost metabolism to burn more calories. The twisting and compressing of the yoga postures massage the internal endocrine organs regulating their function and improving local circulation. But even with yoga’s effect on metabolism, the age-old weight loss formula of reducing calorie intake and increasing calorie output is still important to follow.
Twisting poses, back bends, forward bends and inversions are used to stimulate the endocrine system and boost metabolism. If the weight gain is due to a hormonal imbalance poses that affect the thyroid in the neck will be helpful: camel, shoulder stand, rabbit, plow, and bridge. Practicing the Sun Salutations will be especially helpful in boosting the body’s metabolism as will moving quickly (vinyasa) between any series of poses. Do not attempt a fast paced vinyasa until you have achieved a basic understanding of the poses. Being significantly overweight may cause difficulty in forward folding poses and inversions, you may want to avoid or minimize these at first.
The standing poses, especially the warrior and lunging poses are used to strengthen and tone the muscles, build endurance, warm the body and increase caloric output. The standing poses are empowering and grounding, and regularly practicing them increases self-confidence and self-esteem. Use Kapalabhati and Ujjayi Pranayama to help warm and energize the body and further boost metabolism. Practice Kapalabhati before or after your yoga practice, and use Ujjayi with vinyasa and holding yoga poses.
Incorporating a yogic diet and lifestyle will create a holistic weight loss program and positive long-term change. A yogic diet is high in fiber, whole grains, legumes and vegetables; and low in fat, animal protein and processed foods. A yogic lifestyle encourages awareness and consciousness, compassion, self-knowledge, and the practice of the principles of right conduct and lifestyle of the yamas and niyamas. Yama, respect for others, includes nonviolence, truth, honesty, moderation, and noncovetousness. Niyama, positive self-action, includes purity, contentment, discipline, self-study, and devotion.
Yoga is a process and should be approached as such. Focus on slowly increasing your commitment to the yogic practices outlined above and enjoy the gradual changes that appear. Ideally practice yoga 6 times per week or alternate your yoga practice with other forms of movement taking one day off per week for rest.