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Want to lose weight? Try yoga!

March 24, 2014 17:54 IST

Want to lose weight? Try yoga!

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Shameem Akthar

You can maximise fat loss through yoga says Shameem Akthar. Here's how

Though around the world yoga is used not just to lose weight, but to tone and shape up, in India it is still largely used to heal oneself.

Weight loss through yoga can be consistent and sustained.

It also does not leave sad foot prints of a sudden fat loss -- like sagging skin, grooves of stretch marks, dull skin and even hair loss.

With yoga, the weight loss will be matched by a glowing skin, a spike in vitality and stamina, and a heightened self-esteem.

Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, shares a few secrets on how to make yoga work for you.


Image: Yoga is one of the healthiest ways to lose weight.
Photographs: Tim P Whitby/Getty Images

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Practice pranayama

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Though many teachers and institutes forfeit this core aspect of yoga, pranayama makes weight loss simple and assured.

This happens through improved metabolism which in turn positively effects not just weight loss but even your attitude towards exercise.

For pranayama to work in this aspect, it has to be done daily.

It must form at least one-third of your daily practice.

It must be intense and meditative.

Adding preparatory practices for pranayama, like jal neti and agnisara kriya (stomach-churning metabolic fire practice), plus the bandhas (locks) will amplify the impact.

Some pranayama practices that are ideal for weight loss are kapalabhati (skull-cleansing pranayama), bhastrika (bellows breathing), ujjayi (victory breath) to name a few.

Adding a harmonising pranayama like anulom vilom (alternate nostril breathing) will remove the psychosomatic triggers to weight gain, such as depression, suppressed anger, anxiety, low self-esteem, and mental lethargy.


Image: Pranayama makess weight loss simple and assured.
Photographs: Jesus Bonilla Tanumanasi/Wikimedia Creative Commons
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Practice yoga poses that impact the throat

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In your workout, it is important to add poses that impact the throat

It helps the delicate thyroid gland get involved with metabolism and moods.

These poses do not need to be exotic or difficult.

For every tough pose in this category there is a simpler alternative which is equally effective.

The poses that impact the throat are usually the backbends and certain inversions.

Some simple backbends are marjariasana (cat stretch), cobra (bhujangasana), fish (matsyasana).

Even the seemingly tough versions like the chakrasana (wheel), dhanurasana (bow), ushtrasana (camel) may be learnt by anybody.

Inversions that impact the thyroid include the shoulderstand (sarvangasana), halasana (plough) and their several variations.

Initially those who are overweight may be intimidated by these poses, but the learning may be transited by using props.

It is important not to compromise the pressure at the throat and keeping as close as possible to the classic structure of the pose if you wish yoga to ensure weight loss.


Image: Bhujangasana is among the simpler yoga poses that gets the thyroid gland involved with metabolism and moods.
Photographs: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Challenge yourself

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Whether it is in doing the poses statically or dynamically, you have to challenge yourself.

Initially, for a few weeks, you may maintain a soft practice.

But over weeks, the practice must increasingly become challenging.

This does not mean doing many poses in one session.

Rather, whatever you do, it must be done to the point where the muscles involved are completely challenged.

An example of this: On the first few days, you may do the cat stretch five times or so.

After that, you should increase the set to about 30 each time.

The same goes for whether it is a simple or a tough pose. Or whether it is done dynamically or statically.

Either way, it must be held longer or done more times.

This is the only way for the weight loss to be sustained.

Also, only when you challenge yourself will you get the special high, when the body reacts to the positive stress of your practice with its own endorphins.

The resulting high will ensure that you do not suffer a relapse.


Image: Push yourself every single day. That is the only way to sustain your weight loss
Photographs: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Practice yoga every morning

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For yoga to work in fat loss, it must be done daily.

There is no getting away from that.

In fact, you must begin to enjoy it so much that not doing a day's practice leaves you craving for it!

It also has to be done in the morning.

First, simply because it means there is less chance of you missing the practice.

Second, because it is more difficult to exercise or move the muscles in the morning, and therefore more effort is required physically. So, the fat burn is more in the morning practice than in the evening one, of similar duration.

Finally, the high that comes from a morning practice will stay with you the whole day, which means you will not need to reach out for food as an external source of gratification.


Image: Start your day with yoga. And do it regularly
Photographs: Brian Snyde/Reuters
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Special fat-loss practices

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Some practices speed up fat loss include certain mudras (hand gestures) like linga mudra, surya mudra.

However, these have certain contraindications and must be done only on expert advice.

Surya namaskar (sun salutations) are also great in controlling and managing weight.

Include yogic visualisation like antar mouna (inner silence) to power the will.

Sitting in vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) will also spike metabolism.

Ensure that all practices are done with meditative focus, and never casually or slackly.

This will give the final spurt that powers your weight loss.


Image: The surya namaskars are a great way in controlling and managing weight.
Photographs: Feng Li/Getty Images
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