Yoga for weight loss
by Marion Thornley
As well as improving physical flexibility and strength, and promoting mental and emotional health, the physical postures (asanas) commonly used in yoga classes regulate and stimulate physiological functions like the heart, the blood vessels, the nervous system and the glands.
When you practise yoga, the blood circulation is increased and the internal organs are massaged. Autonomous muscle functions, such as the peristaltic movements of the intestines, are relaxed and brought into balance. Waste product secretion and hormone production are stimulated. When the body is tuned and balanced, it is able to regulate its own weight without recourse to diets and regimes.
In addition to the benefits of a general asana practice, there are a few specific yoga poses that are beneficial for weight loss.
For example, trikonasana, or triangle pose, helps to remove excess weight from the sides of the waist.
The plough pose is also useful as it stimulates the pancreas and the adrenal glands. These glands produce insulin, glucagon and cortisol, all important in the body’s ability to use and break down fat. The benefits of this pose are not limited to weight loss but it is also effective in the management of stress.
Plough, or halasana, is usually performed after shoulderstand, when both legs are lowered behind the head to rest on the floor. The arms are stretched out alongside the body, and the pose is held for several breaths before returning to shoulderstand.
But it is important to warm the body up before coming to shoulderstand and plough, and to do counterposes afterwards. For this reason I do not recommend trying this position without the supervision of a trained teacher. Not all poses are suitable or even appropriate for everyone.
There are also other techniques for weight loss within the yoga toolbox. One of these is a special breathing technique that can be used with a conventional asana practice.
But again, this should be done only with proper supervision. Breathing practices are very powerful and the person should have a certain level of health before trying them.
All of these practices should only be given after a thorough assessment by the teacher and with personal guidance. Whatever your physical or mental condition, there are yogic techniques that will help you improve in whichever direction you wish, and if you do not wish to join a yoga class, a yoga teacher can give you a personal practice to try at home.
Marian teaches yoga in Ceret and is particularly interested in the use of yoga as a tool for health and healing. For more information contact Marian