Almost everyone I meet, myself included, wants to lose some weight. Whether it’s to fit into a dress at a wedding, into that bikini for the beach or to reverse that guilty feeling that comes with binging and falling for temptations; everyone is looking to lose weight. Engaging in an exercise program and following a weekly diet plan are two excellent ways to start on the weight loss journey, but what about yoga? How can it contribute?
by Sandra Shama Kaur
What I learned through my weight loss journey with yoga is that sometimes the answer is not in high-intensity workouts, but it’s actually in combining exercise, diet, rest and relaxation and the restoration of the relationship with yourself.
Have you ever been part of an exercise or diet program and hit a wall? When you’re doing everything right, exercising frequently, eating right, but you are still not losing weight? I have certainly been there. As long as we are running high on adrenaline (the fight or flight hormone which zaps the body into a state of survival), cortisol is released in the body, which tells it to produce more insulin, thereby increasing cravings for carbohydrates and sugar and making it impossible to lose weight.
Can you imagine how much adrenaline and cortisol are released into your body when you are always on the run? Moving quickly from one thing to another with little or no time for rest and relaxation? On a physical level, yoga works on the adrenal glands (regulating the stress response and thyroid glands) and regulates metabolism and weight. Yoga also integrates high-intensity exercises such as sun salutations, jogging in place, crow squats and frogs a Kundalini yoga favorite that strengthens the largest muscles in the body and improves mobility and flexibility.
Try Sun salutations (10-20 rounds); planks (hold for 5-10 breaths); warrior 1, 2, 3 (hold each for 10-15 breaths, repeat 3 times); chair pose (hold for 5-10 breaths, repeat 3 times); running on the spot for 3-5 minutes; crow squats.
In Kundalini yoga, you will often find these exercises combined with a powerful breath known as rapid breath of fire, which builds an extremely intense heat capable of burning fat, boosting digestion and improving your metabolic rate. On a mental level, what I love most about Kundalini are the little breaks (usually between 1-3 minutes) that we get between the exercises to breathe, integrate the energy and reconnect the body with the mind.
On an emotional level, what I love about yoga is that it makes you more aware of your emotional patterns and provides you with the tools to change your state. If you’re like me, you probably noticed how common it is to eat as a reaction to anger, disappointment, fear, worry or even in celebration. But if we go back to our roots and try to understand why God created food in the first place, it is purely for nourishing and sustaining the body. As you’ve heard it said before eat to live, don’t live to eat!
For weight loss try deep breathing 3-5 minutes before meals and bedtime. This breath fills the stomach with a lot of air, which reduces hunger and speeds up fullness levels. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which gives us a calm and relaxed feeling before a meal. Our portions become smaller, our food choices become smarter and fullness is reached faster.
Alternate nostril breathing for 6-11 minutes releases excessive worrying, thinking and brain activity. It effectively balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain, allowing you to see the big picture while stuck in the day-to-day micro-details.
Stiali Pranayam (3-5 minutes) is a cooling breath and works to reduce cravings.
Sandra Shama Kaur is a Kundalini yoga teacher and founder of Yalla Yoga.