Yoga can help you to lose weight both in the ways you may already know — by burning calories, but also through yoga in a broader sense.
Yoga for weight loss goes beyond the mat. Here’s how.
Tip #1: Breathe
Sounds silly, but if you’re trying to lose weight (or be a healthier person) you better be breathing correctly. It’s a common and bad habit to clench the belly and breathe only into the chest.
This type of breath is the body’s natural instinct when under threat — the “fight or flight” response — but if there’s no threat present, this breath doesn’t serve you nor your mission to lose weight.
When the body is in fight or flight mode, and the sympathetic nervous system has kicked in, secondary functions like digestion get put on the back burner. And if you’re trying to lose weight, this is no good.
Your body won’t digest food as well as it should because it’s so hyped up rather than taking breaks in “rest and digest” mode. Instead of converting into healthy body tissues, food can turn into what yoga’s sister science, ayurveda, calls aama.
Aama is a sticky toxic substance that clogs the body channels and can lead to weight gain.
So, breathing correctly is very important for maintaining a healthy weight.
Here are the main elements of correct breathing:
- Breathe through your nose, not your mouth.
- Unclench your abdominal region.
- Open your chest so that your shoulders aren’t hunched forward nor dramatically thrown back.
- Breath all the way into your belly. It should expand and contract with each breath.
- Match the length of your inhalations to the length of your exhalations.
Tip #2: Take Cues from the Yogi Diet
The yogi diet is a well-balanced, wholesome way of eating that naturally lends itself to losing weight.
It focuses on foods that are full of fresh prana — the life force and vital energy that pulsates through nature. These foods are real foods. They come from farm to table with the least amount of processing in between.
The main components of the yogi diet are whole grains (rice, barley, quinoa, amaranth, etc.), legumes (beans and lentils), fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy dairy products (ghee and milk).
In general, the yogi diet avoids processed food (most of the stuff you’ll find in the snack aisle), it’s devoid of prana (canned food, frozen food and leftovers), heavy food (rich desserts and deep fried food), and that which goes against yoga’s principle of ahimsa, or non-violence (meat).
The yoga diet is a super healthy diet. It is not a restrictive way of eating, but one that most closely links you to mother nature’s bounty.
And it is absolutely not a “diet” in the sense of starving oneself. On the contrary, it’s a conscious way of eating real food.
Once you start to eat this way, your cravings for that which lacks prana, or is processed, diminish. You are naturally attracted to what nourishes you, and the pounds naturally drop off for a healthy and sustainable weight.
If you’re not into giving up meat, you can still enjoy the benefits of the yogi diet. Just adapt and customize.
Embrace its other aspects and choose meat mindfully. Buy meat which is as close to nature as possible: from animals that have lived happy lives by eating healthy and appropriate foods in a happy and healthy environment.
Tip #3: Tune Into Nature’s Rhythms
Living in sync with nature is part of being a yogi. Yogis honor that there is a divine force at work — mother nature, god, energy…
She comes with many names. She is visible in flowers, in the warmth of the sun, in the soil beneath your feet. She is everywhere.
And yogis surrender themselves to her divine flow. This means keeping themselves in sync with her rhythms; a practice that is very much emphasized in Ayurveda.
So how does this aid in weight loss?
Firstly, synchronizing oneself with nature supports overall well-being.
We are, after all, a microcosm reflecting the macrocosm — and we can’t deny the influence of nature on our bodies. But more importantly, this practice helps with weight loss by improving digestion.
Nature exerts its influences on the body in various ways throughout the day. This includes the digestive fire — one’s appetite and ability to process food.
The digestive fire actually mirrors what’s happening with the sun (again the microcosm reflecting the macrocosm concept). When the sun is highest in the sky, so is the power of digestion at its height.
This is the time to have your biggest meal of the day. It’s also the best time for heavier foods like proteins and meat.
In the morning and evening when the sun has only a gentle influence on the earth, the digestive fire is relatively low. It’s a bad idea to weigh down the system at this time with heavy breakfasts like eggs, bacon, and potatoes; or to douse the digestive fire with a cold smoothie.
Instead, a light warm breakfast like oatmeal is the way to go. And as for dinner, something light and warm is again ideal, like a vegetable soup or kitchari (a blend of rice and beans).
This synchronized way of eating works with nature to improve the process of digestion. AAnd for anyone who wants to lose weight, good digestion is key.
If you’re looking to lose weight, practice yoga but also take your yoga off the mat, the yogic lifestyle has much wisdom to offer that helps us to each find our healthy weight.