Obesity and Yoga Management
Obesity management has taken center stage in most yoga fitness programs in the recent years. Yoga and its methods for weight loss have been known for ages. The yogic way of life is a balanced life, bringing good physical and mental health. Once the cause of obesity is understood, it can be managed quite well by balanced principles of living.
What is Obesity?
Obesity is medically defined as a condition where your Body Mass Index (BMI) is higher than 30. People with BMI in the range between 25 and 30 are considered overweight while those with BMI above 30 are considered obese. The healthy range for BMI is between 18.5 and 25. One can easily find out one’s BMI using a BMI calculator where you input your weight and height. There are many internet sites which provide free BMI calculators. Once you figure out your BMI, then you know in what range you fall.
If your BMI is above 25, then you should look at weight loss programs and if your BMI is above 30, then you should seriously consider taking advice from a doctor for weight reduction. This is important because obesity is known to cause or increase the possibility of many other medical conditions like diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, obstructive sleep disorders, osteoarthritis of the joints, etc.The first step in dealing with the problem is figuring out the root cause of your obesity. One can do this by consulting your doctor or a nutritionist.
What causes Obesity?
The simplest explanation for obesity is based on food intake. If the intake of calories is more than the expenditure of energy in our body, then the excess food gets converted to proteins and fats, which gets stored in the body for future use. If your calorie intake exceeds your daily need, it can lead to deposit of fat in the body and causes obesity in a long run. Similarly if you don’t burn enough calories through proper exercise or work, then the excess calories can also get converted to body fat.
So the basic cause of obesity boils down to two factors – the excess food intake and the lack of exercise and work. If you are overweight, then it is a good idea to meet a doctor or a nutritionist to discuss your ideal calorie intake and include some exercise in your daily routine.
Yogic Management of Obesity
Yogic management of obesity is based on controlled and balanced diet, yoga postures or asanas and breathing techniques. Consuming only the amount of food that we really need, along with regular exercise, performing intermittent water fasts, pranayama, and yoga asanas can give relief to overweight and obese people. While using these methods one should have realistic weight loss expectations, as the process may take time, even months.
Yoga and Food Control
Yoga is all about awareness. Most of us don’t know how much we eat or the amount of calories that we consume. Is it higher than what we really need? Do we follow a balanced diet for our daily requirements? How many times do we eat while watching the TV and not knowing how much we have consumed? Do we eat only when we are hungry or do we eat just out of boredom? These are the self-introspection that we have to do. Many people eat food just to overcome depression. They end up being overweight due to the excess of calories consumed.
The practice of yoga brings about awareness in all our actions. Performing postures with breath awareness makes us conscious of our actions. Every act becomes a conscious act. By studying our actual daily calorie requirement, we will become aware of the right amount of food to consume per day. Those who are already overweight can consider intermittent fasting on pure water or juices. Many do a 24-hour water fast once every week. This will not only reduce your weight, but also give you a sense of lightness and well-being.
Other than the quantity of food, one should also analyze the quality of the food. Reduce fatty, processed and fried food. Include more of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Also, reduce the quantity of red meat as it can increase the risk of coronary diseases. Sticking to a vegetarian diet is advisable for at least few days every week.
Yogic breathing or Pranayama for Obesity
It is said in the yogic text Hatha Yoga Pradeepika and others that practice of pranayama make the body slim and fit. Pranayama can help to burn excessive fat in the body. There are two pranayama practices that are good for weight reduction – Kapalabhati and Anulom Vilom Pranayama.
Kapalabhati or the skull cleansing breath involves forceful exhalation and normal inhalation. This is done in a comfortable sitting posture with erect spine. The belly is drawn in with every forceful exhalation and filled again with normal inhalation. This is known to reduce the fat around the belly.
Anulom Vilom Pranayama or the alternate nostril breathing technique also helps to reduce weight. This pranayama is said to generate heat in the body and to burn down excessive fat. Both these breathing exercises should be learned from a qualified yoga instructor.
One can also practice simple yogic breathing which involves deep inhalation from the belly, chest and neck which relaxes the mind and clears depression and anxiety. This will give more awareness of wrong food habits that needs to be overcome to reduce your weight.
Yoga Postures for Obesity
There are many yoga postures or asana that can help with weight reduction. One has to approach a qualified yoga instructor to tailor the postures to your needs. Obese people cannot perform all the postures as it requires good flexibility of the body. Do not over strain. Just do what is comfortable for you.
One of the best ways to burn calories is the Surya Namaskara or the Sun Salutation postures done in the early morning. It is a series of 12 postures performed in sequence. When done briskly, it is said to burn more calories than doing a workout or going for a morning jog. Even if one cannot do all the 12 postures perfectly, one should do as much as one can, maintaining the sequence correctly. It is a sure way to make the body flexible and reduce weight.
Many people may not be obese, but still suffer from fat around the belly. This can be reduced by doing asanas like Mayurasana or peacock pose. If one finds Mayurasana difficult to perform, then do Hamsasana or the Swan Pose. Both helps to put pressure against the abdomen and relieves belly fat.
There are several postures that are good for obesity. Pawanmuktasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Gomukasana, Vajrasana, Paschimottanasana, Trikonasana, Pada Hastasana, Yoga Mudrasana, etc. are few to name. In fact, most yogic postures will help to bring the body to perfect shape and to reduce unwanted fat around the body. Consult your yoga instructor for the right combination of postures that suit your body condition.
Thus weight reduction can be achieved by watchful living, practice of yogic postures and breathing exercises, food awareness and regular fasting methods.