We live in a world where many people are over weight or even obese. According to Auyerveda and yogic philosophy, it is not about losing that extra weight but about making our bodies less prone to putting on weight in the first place. Before we explore how yoga is beneficial for weight loss.
Let’s look at the reason for weight gain.
The obvious reason for weight gain is that we consume more calories than we use. Humans were once hunters and gatherers; this meant that they had to work hard for the food that they consumed; but our lifestyles have changed rapidly and now most of us live very sedentary lives. Our work environment has shifted from the outdoors to desk jobs; the majority of us spend our days hunched over a computer. Modern convenience such as cars and bikes mean that we don’t have to walk anywhere any more. Household conveniences such as washing machines and dish washers mean that we don’t have to do much besides lounge in front of the TV when we are at home. All our forms of entertainment (TV, video games) have moved indoors and we no longer look to sports or nature as a way to pass the time. The other major contributor to weight gain is of course the food that we eat. If we indulge in high calorie food, then we end up eating less but gaining weight. In India as burgers and pizzas replace traditional healthier food such as rotis and vegetable curries, we are following the West down a path towards obesity. But the amount we eat is not the only factor we should focus on, but also the quality of the food we eat. Today we eat food, which is highly processed, contains chemicals, contains preservatives, has artificial ingredients and is often stale or frozen. All this has an ill effect on our bodies and challenges our digestive system. When our digestive system fails to process food efficiently this leads to lower energy levels and weight gain.
So how is yoga beneficial for weight loss?
The obvious reason is the physical action involved in an asana practice. Asanas, especially if linked into a flow (vinyasa) will allow the body to burn calories. Many people look at asanas and find them deceptively simple, but once on the mat, one will find that yoga is challenging. Different types of yoga asana practices have been evolved to cater to different needs of the individual; so whilst Shivananda yoga might have more focus on relaxation, the Ashtanga yoga practice is highly energetic and ideal of weight loss. Ashtanga yoga allows the heart rate to increase and thus increases the metabolic rate leading to a healthier body. But if the yoga practice was only about burning calories, then it would be the same as all other forms of exercise and we know that yoga is a way of life and not just an exercise.
Yoga is not only about working the external muscular structure, it is also works with the internal organs of the body. As we move into different postures and hold these postures, the organs of our body are being massaged.
We are creating heat in the body and allowing blood to flow freely towards these organs, thus allowing the organs to function in a more efficient way. When our organs are functioning better then we experience better health. If our digestive system is not function at an optimum level then food is not digested properly leading to a sluggish metabolic rate and to weight gain. Finally the yogic practice (asanas, pranayamas and meditation) will lead to a calm, strong mind. Many people turn to food during emotional times; we eat when we are sad, we celebrate with food, or we starve and then binge. When our minds are strong, we can avoid these urges, and begin to see food as sustenance and not as pleasure. We learn to eat to live and not live to eat. A rounded yoga practice is beneficial for weight loss.
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