Yoga has the power to transform almost all facets of our well-being – to balance chakras, beat stress and anxiety in daily life, alleviate lower back pain, and so on. There are specific asanas and pranayama techniques to manage or prevent any health condition or illness as a result of the hectic lifestyle and unhealthy food habits.
One of the major consequence for leading a sedentary lifestyle or sitting for long hours on the computer, lack of exercise and proper diet etc., is obesity and weight gain. Research suggests that obesity has doubled in the last 35 years and has impacted 1.9 billion adults till 2014.
The first step to deal with excess weight is to eat healthy, nutrient-rich food and the second step is to incorporate yoga in the daily routine. Yoga can be used as needed according to each person’s requirements. The two combined is a surefire way to shed those extra pounds and restore your health. A 2013 study found restorative yoga burned calories and promoted weight loss in overweight women.
Here is a combination of asanas and breathing techniques that can be used to reduce weight.
Paripurna Navasana or Boat pose
Method: Sit on the floor with back straight and legs extended out in front of you. Exhale and slowly lift your legs off the floor as you lean back to find balance to rest your body’s weight between the sitting bones and the tailbone. The toes are pointed outwards and the legs form a 45-degree angle with the torso. Lastly, stretch your hands alongside the legs, parallel to the floor.
If you’re finding it difficult to do this, then keep the hands on the floor beside your hips or hold on to the backs of your thighs. The spine is in line with the neck. It is advisable to keep the belly sucked in for greater results. Stay here for 5 to 7 breaths and as you exhale gently bring the legs back to the floor, and repeat this two to three times.
Benefits: Paripurna Navasana buns the fat around the waist because the entire balancing act is shifted to the core especially on the rectus abdominis muscle and obliques. It strengthens the abdominal region, thereby firming the loose skin on the area along with stimulating the digestive system. The pose also stretches the hamstring and thighs, which leads to firming and toning of the muscles here.
Contraindications: People suffering from lower backache, neck pain or headache are advised to practice this pose in moderation or after the pain has subsided.
Kumbhakasana or Plank pose pose
Method: Start in Downward Facing Dog pose or Adho mukha savasana and then inhale and draw your torso forward until the arms are perpendicular to the ground and shoulders in line with the wrists and palms pressed on the floor. Keep your neck in line with the spine and the legs are strong and engaged.
Ensure that the lower back is not swaying towards the floor and is kept firm. Hold the plank for 30 seconds to a minute and slowly exhale to come down to the floor and rest for a few breaths here. Inhale as you lift up, place the hands by the side of the chest and perform the pose again for two to three times.
Benefits: This is an arm balancing yoga pose that tones the abdominal muscles while strengthening the arms and spine. It also strengthens the wrists and shoulders, and is often used to prepare the body for more challenging arm balances. Plank strengthens the muscles surrounding the spine, which improves posture. It is also one of the poses in Surya Namaskar.
Contraindications: If you are suffering from wrist, arm or lower back pain or injury, avoid this pose till the time you recover.
Virabhadrasana or Warrior pose II
Method: Stand straight with your legs 3-4 feet apart. Turn your left foot out 90 degrees and right foot in by about 15 degrees. Align the right heel with the left heel. Raise both the arms till they are parallel to the floor and are in line with the shoulders. Breathing out, bend your left knee, ensuring that the knee and ankle are forming a straight line.
If you are more flexible you can align your right thigh parallel to the floor. The right leg is stretched and the head is turned towards the left hand. Make a gentle effort to push your pelvis down.
Stay in this pose for a few breaths, then inhale to come up as you straighthen the left knee. Exhale and turn the feet forward. Repeat the same steps, keep the right foot in and the left foot out to perform the pose on the right side. Repeat the same procedure twice on both the sides.
Benefits: An effective pose that helps in toning the lower body, especially the thighs, calves and ankles. It strengthens the arms, shoulders, lower back and chest. It also helps deal with excess flab on the lower body. You can add warrior pose I, II, III to your routine as you progress and increase your stamina.
Contraindications: People suffering from knee injury, high BP or diarrhea should avoid this pose.
Utkatasana or Chair Pose
Method: Begin in mountain pose or Tadasana. Inhale and raise your arms towards the ceiling and lengthen the spine. Keep the hands in Namaste mudra or shoulder width apart. Exhale, and bend your knees and bring the hips down as if you were sitting on an imaginary chair.
The weight will drop to the calves, the lower back is straight and heels are pressed on the floor. The upper body is slightly tilted forward to create a 45-degree angle to the floor. Hold for 5 to 7 breaths, inhale and straighten your knees. Exhale and bring your arms to the side. Repeat the pose two more times.
Benefits: Just like a squat exercise, this pose works on the quadriceps. It shapes and tones the thighs, calves, ankles and knee muscles and strengthens the lower back and torso. Utkatasana also stretches the shoulders and opens the chest.
Contraindications: People suffering from headache, insomnia and low BP should avoid this pose.
Ardha Chandrasana or Half moon Pose
Method: Perform triangle pose or Trikonasana on the right side. Exhale and place the right hand on the floor, a little ahead of the right foot. Place the right hand and foot firmly in the ground. Simultaneously, lift the left leg off the floor and bring it parallel to the floor or higher/lower as per your capacity.
The left hand is lifted up towards the ceiling whereas the upper torso is twisted slightly toward the leftt side to maintain balance. Beginners can keep the right knee slightly bent whereas, advanced practitioners can lock the knee.
Most beginners should keep the left hand on the hip and the head in a neutral position, gazing forward. Stay here for 5 to 7 breaths, exhale and slowly bring the left leg back to the ground and torso back up. Repeat on the other side & then perform the pose two more times on both the sides.
Benefits: Half moon Pose works on the entire body. It stretches and tones the abdomen, hamstrings, spine, hips and thighs. It helps maintain balance, improves sense of coordination, relives stress and is also great for improving digestion.
Contraindications: People suffering from low BP, diarrhea or headache should avoid this pose.
Method: Kapal – skull, Bhati – light, this advanced technique of pranayama sends light & energy to the skull by pumping the abdomen. The sharp movement of the abdomen under the influence of breath helps in balancing the channels in the body.
Be seated in a comfortable position on the mat, either Sukhasana (a simple cross-legged position) or Vajrasana (Thunderbolt pose, sit on your heels with calves just under the thighs) and place both the hands on the knees. Bring your awareness to your lower belly. Take a deep breath in and contract your lower belly, forcing out the breath with full force. Your stomach will contract with each exhalation.
Do not make an effort to inhale, it would happen naturally. Without really pausing to breathe again, keep exhaling in quick short bursts. Remember not to contract your abdomen when you inhale. Begin slowly, doing 15-20 times initially. Gradually quicken the pace to 40-45 exhalation/inhalation cycles per minute. Move at your own pace, and with regular practice you will be able to increase the speed.
Benefits: The movement of the abdominal muscles works on the stomach fat, thereby offering the effect of an ab crunch each time you practice. Along with this, it reduces the stress level and creates pressure on the intestines thereby forcing a healthy bowel movement, which helps in cleansing the body. It also increases the serotonin level, which keeps you relaxed, calmer and more aware. Regular practice strengthens the diaphragm and abdominal muscles.
Contraindications: People suffering from cold, high BP, headache, asthma and also pregnant ladies or during menstruation one should avoid this.
Agnisar Kriya or Yoga Fire Cleansing
Method: Stand with legs hip width apart, inhale deeply through the nose, while bending forward and bending the knees. Place your hands on the knees and exhale quickly, contracting your abdominal muscles fully to push as much air as possible out of your lungs. The pressure of the shoulders should come onto your knees.
Relax your abdominal muscles. Keep moving your belly in and out towards the spine, in a rhythmic fashion. Perform this kriya as many times as possible. Once you are done, gently come back up. Always practice this in the morning on an empty stomach.
Benefits: Agnisar Kriya creates fire in the belly or heat in the stomach, which burns all the excess fat in the abdomen. It opens up the Solar Plexus chakra, aids in digestion, releases toxins, creates suppleness in the intestines along with detoxifying them. Perform this technique for two weeks and you will find your abdominal area strengthen like your spleen, kidneys, liver, intestines, get relief from constipation, acidity and gastric troubles.
Contraindications: People suffering from High BP, diarrhoea, heart diseases and abdominal surgery should not practice this.
Combine these asanas with Surya Namaskars or Sun salutations and when practiced daily and consistently, you will notice a great deal of improvement in your health and feel rejuvenated.
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