What’s yoga got to weight-loss? Nothing. And yet when we focus on the asana, pranayama, and meditation aspect of yoga and diligently practice them for just a few months, they exert visible changes in our bodies including our weight. An overweight person not only loses weight but also gains stamina, flexibility, muscle strength, balance, increased concentration, and most importantly a calm and a steady state of mind.
There are several yogic practices that help a person reduce and “manage” body weight. Let us quickly add here that these practices positively affect even someone who is underweight. And this is the beauty of a yogaasana practice. It is meant for everyone. It helps each practitioner achieve a balance in his or her life. And we are not talking of any deviations from popular notions of an ideal body shape or size. Let’s agree to the fact that we have our own ideal since each one of us are unique in every way - genes, lifestyles, beliefs, etc. And this is the beauty of a yogaasana practice. It helps each one of us move towards an ideal that’s ours alone, no one else’s. Isn’t this wonderful enough?
As we already discussed in our previous blog, hatha yogis used yogasanas as powerful tools to explore their bodies. They focussed on developing control of their bodies to control their mind and energy. And in this context, being overweight or underweight is not about body shape or size, but about one’s general health and well-being and, most importantly, about the mind-body connection. Yogic practices affect our minds at a deep level and promotes increased self-awareness and mindfulness. By impacting our daily actions in thoughts, words and deeds, it affects our food choices, eating habits, satiety and, not to mention, self-discipline.
Although yogasanas are popularly thought of as forms of physical exercises, “they are not exercises, but techniques which place the physical body in positions that cultivate awareness, relaxation, concentration and meditation” (Swami Satyananda Saraswati). There are many differences in the way asanas and exercises affect our physical and mental bodies. Yogic practices effective in reducing or managing weight include asanas, shat kriyas (shatkarmas or the six cleansing processes), pranayama, meditation, deep relaxation techniques, combined with yogic diets. Sounds too good to be true but yes you can even relax your way to good health through yogasanas.
One might ask what’s relaxation techniques got to do with weight reduction? Yogic practices are highly effective in stress management and therefore excellent for dealing with stress-induced weight and health issues. It is a well-known fact that too much stress over a prolonged period of time can lead to imbalances in the body and mind that later manifest as food addiction, weight gain, and other physical ailments. And this is one major area where yogic practices have a far-reaching effects in our lives.
Another common doubt that we often come across among new practitioners, regarding body weight is that yogasana is relatively slow - how can it help one lose weight? How do asana, pranayama, meditation practices help us? This doubt arises because calorie is what comes first to mind when we think of burning body fat. However, the whole weight loss/gain problem is a complex one and not as straightforward as it seems. If calorie was the only issue here, millions around the world could have easily burnt a lot of fat just by running or doing circuit training, isn’t it? Many physical exercises are quite effective in calorie burning, “provided” the rest of the factors that contributed to weight gain in the first place are taken care of. And this is where yoga practices come to the rescue.
Another benefit of yogasana practices on body weight is that unlike in other physical exercises, the changes are long-lasting. They not only help us burn unwanted fat, but also tone our muscles. And even if you stop practicing for a while, your body does not gain back weight anytime soon, unlike in other physical exercises.
We have shared just a few of the innumerable and generic benefits of yogasana practice for people dealing with body weight issues. We won’t even try listing all of them. In Yoga, practice is paramount, and nothing compares to a regular, diligent practice if you are seeking answers to weight and health issues. Therefore, we urge you to try it out for yourself and “experience” all the positive changes that yoga can bring in your lives, not just in body weight.