Yoga is an ancient form of exercise and way of living that focuses on your mind, body and soul. It’s a holistic practice for all ages. The word ‘Yoga’ has been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yug’ which refers to the union of our individual consciousness and the universal consciousness.
“Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul”, says Amit Ray, Yoga and Vipassana: An Integrated Life Style. Yoga is not a recent phenomenon. It is an ancient Indian practice which is associated not just with the physical well-being of the body but with the overall health of a human being. I see yoga as a holistic package, which unlike other physical activities aims at cleansing and rejuvenating the human body from outside as well as within. If one adopts the practice as a part of everyday routine, one can actually feel the difference – mentally, physically as well spiritually. And as an added bonus, it can bring about weight loss too.With the growing trend of people getting more cautious of their expanding waistlines and increased instances of metabolic disorders – cancer, diabetes and others – there has been a sudden upsurge in people prioritising their health and resorting to tailor-made diet plans and fitness regimes.
For the longest time in my life, I was of the opinion that yoga involves a set of exercises where holding certain postures for a few seconds was the main objective. I used to think of it as a regime meant for those who were already fit but were keen on building their flexibility. I could somehow never relate it to being an effective tool for weight loss as compared to the high intensive workout sessions in the gyms. It took me quite some time to understand the mechanism of different asanas and their efficacy but I must tell you, the understanding of it was enlightening, affirmative and oh, so gratifying!
Yoga for Weight Loss
To understand the importance of yoga and its relationship with human body, I got in touch with a well renowned yoga practitioner as well as fitness expert, Seema Sondhi. On being asked how yoga helps in losing weight, she proposed to start from the very basics of the practice.
According to her, before we target weight loss, it is important to understand the various factors that contribute in weight gain. Apart from faulty dietary habits, one should identify that weight gain also stems from inefficient functioning of various bodily functions. Yoga has some of the most basic breathing practices at its base which aims at cleansing, balancing and rejuvenating our inner organs and their functions. Various breathing exercises and basic asanas help in increasing metabolic and heart rates. Once you are healed from within, the focus then shifts towards the outer body.
“I can’t really pin-point any specific set of asanas for weight loss. Almost all of them aim at cleansing your inner mechanism, strengthening your core and stamina, increasing flexibility, and upping your metabolic rate,” says Seema.’
She explains how yoga aims at making you fit by increasing flexibility. It involves twisting the body, forward and backward bends, inversions and other poses that help in opening up the otherwise rusted muscles and thereby facilitate weight loss.
Here are few simple yoga asanas to help you get started:
1. Surya Namaskar
One of the basic, most well-known and widely practiced asanas, surya namaskarliterally translates to sun salutation. It comprises a series of twelve different yoga poses that focus on various parts of body. What makes surya namaskar great for the entire body is the fact that it involves twelve different poses encompassed in one – for example, basic prayer pose, forward bend and the bhujangasana (cobra pose).
According to various experts surya namaskar is a great way to keep your body active as it helps in exercising all possible areas of your body. It helps in strengthening your skeletal system including ligaments and also aids in easing stress and anxiety.
2. The warrior pose or Veerabhadrasana
It involves going into the mountain pose, followed by stretching one of your legs back and with the other leg going into a lunge like position with your knee at a ninety degree positioning and your hands stretched right above your head. You can take this further to the veerabhadrasana II or warrior pose 2 wherein you bring your hands in front of the chest and straighten your stretched leg, pointing it outwards while your other leg is still at ninety degrees and your both arms are stretched out wide apart.
The warrior poses work on your legs, thighs, back and arms. It helps in improving blood circulation.
3. Triangular pose or Trikonasana
Start with a wide legged stance; turn your right foot out. Now stretch your arms out, wide open pushing the right side of your waistline over your right leg and slowly go down, facing downwards with a flat back. Keep your right palm on the ground (you can choose to keep it in front of your right foot or behind it) or on a block with your left arm stretched upwards. Repeat the other side.
This asana works on the sides of your body, arms and thighs.
4. Upward plank or Purvottanasana
This may seem a bit difficult to crack towards the start but the results that this asana yield will leave you much gratified. This works extensively on your back, shoulders, arms, spine, wrists and fortifies muscles. It is also great for the respiratory system. It is great for the core strength of the body as it works on your legs, inner thigh muscles as wells as hips.
Sit with your legs stretched in front of you. Put your hands behind your hips pointing towards your feet. Now, point your feet, prepare your body to rise up. Raise your body from the tailbone and try pulling your head back as well. It is the exact opposite of the position which you get in just before preparing for a conventional push up.
5. The boat pose:
You lie down on your back and as the name suggests go in to a V shaped position resembling a boat. Try holding the position for 10 seconds to begin with and increase the bar with every passing day. You will feel your stomach muscles going for a toss but trust me, this will kill that stubborn belly fat.
6. The bridge pose:
Lie down on your back with your hands stretched sideways now fold your knees, spread them out and raise your body up from your pelvis area. Take support from your hands and hold the position. This works wonders on your hips, thighs, stomach as well as back.
Physical exercise has always been held important for the overall well-being as well as to keep health related troubles at bay but it should always be kept in mind that any form of physical activity will remain futile and unproductive if not teamed with proper diet.