Pranayama for Weight Loss

Pranayama is an effective method for weight loss. Due to our busy lifestyle we tend to have less time for attending fitness programs, going to a gym or going for a morning walk. Practice of pranayama is simple and can be done at home. It can be easily integrated with our daily routine. Most weight loss programs are focused around exercises, aerobics, yogic postures and dieting. Pranayama or the science of breathing usually takes a back seat, but the practice of yogic breathing techniques is an effective way to reduce body fat. Once learned, the benefits of pranayama are tremendous.

To understand the yogic approach to weight reduction, one has to look at the root causes of obesity. Yoga is all about developing awareness. We develop life style problems like obesity, hypertension, diabetes, etc. due to our stressful and busy way of life. We have no time to think about our body and health. We are not even aware of our in-disciplined way of living which is damaging the body. A healthy body is the gateway to bliss. An unhealthy body creates irritation, anger, over-reaction to external events, depression, lack of self-confidence, etc.

Practice of yoga in general helps to develop awareness in our daily life. Most yogic postures are performed in coordination with breath. One has to be aware of the body movements as well as the breathing. This increases our alertness in our day to day activities, most importantly our food habits. Many of us don’t tend to think about our calorie and nutritional needs. We just eat whenever we feel hungry. Is our calorie intake more than what we need? Are we overeating? Are we eating out of compulsive behaviour. Do we eat to forget our depression? Do we take to eating as an external activity, to cover up our inner mental agitations? If not, have we found the root cause of our obesity?

The yogic way of life is aimed at conscious living. One should know the daily calorie requirements by consulting a doctor or a nutritionist. Once you have fixed the daily requirement, be aware of all wrong habits that make us overeat. With awareness, we can disciple our sense of taste and the vagaries of the tongue. One simple practice is to be aware of our process of eating. While eating, concentrate on the way we chew the food and the way we swallow. Are we eating too fast, maybe because of anxiety? These are the questions we have to ask one self. Eat slowly and steadily and chew the food well. By eating slowly one will overcome the tendency to overeat. Whenever the mind goes out control, slowly and gently bring it back. Take a few slow deep breaths before proceeding to eat. Be fully aware of the act of eating. To increase your awareness, practice of yogic breathing is useful. Yogic breathing involves a full and deep breath where the abdomen, chest and neck region is fully expanded. It fills the lungs fully. Exhalation is also full and complete with the abdomen depleted at the end of exhalation. This can be practiced by even sitting on a chair or in any sitting yogic posture.

Pranayama helps in Weight Loss

Apart from the practice of general awareness, one can practice specific yogic breathing techniques focused on weight reduction.

The yogic texts say that a practitioner of pranayama develops a slim body. Practice of pranayama can balance the fat in the body. Excess fat is burned up. There are two yogic breathing techniques which are specifically suited for obesity – Kapalabhati, Anulom Vilom and Bhastrika.

  1. Bhastrika or the Bellow breath involves brisk and forced deep inhalation and exhalation like an iron smith’s bellow. This can be done in any comfortable sitting posture or even on a chair. Bhastrika Pranayama oxygenates the blood and heals to all the tissues and organs. It encourages the endocrine glands to function optimally. Those who suffer from obesity related to thyroid gland malfunction will find Bhastrika very useful. Bhastrika has to be performed for maximum of 2 minutes before moving on the main pranayama practice for obesity namely Kapalabhati.
  2. Kapalabhati or the Skull Cleansing Breath can be performed in any sitting posture like Sukhasana, Vajrasana , Padmasana, etc. In Kapalabhati, inhalation is normal while the exhalation is forceful. Exhalation forces the air out of the lungs fully. This is done by pulling the belly inwards during exhalation which forces the diaghram to move upwards. To begin the practice, take a deep breath and exhale forcefully without holding it. Breathe in again and repeat this process. Continue for at least 10 rounds. With practice one can go up to 120 rounds without stopping. One can also do multiple sessions in one sitting. Practice this initially for not more than 5 minutes. Later one can increase it even to 20 minutes under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Kapalabhati is a great way to reduce fat around the abdomen and the wait. After constant practice one can visibly notice the reduction in belly fat.
  3. Anulom Vilom Pranayama or Alternate Nostril Breathing can be performed in any comfortable sitting posture. Breathe in slowly and steadily from the left nostril while blocking the right nostril with the right thumb. Then block the left nostril with the right ring and middle finger and exhale through the right nostril. Now, breathe in from the right nostril and exhale from the left nostril using the same method. This is one round of Anulom Vilom Pranayama. The ratio of inhalation and exhalation should be 1:1 in the beginning. For example if the inhalation is 4 seconds, then the exhalation should also be 4 seconds. Later the ratio can be changed to 1:2. With practice one can increase the duration of inhalation up to 12 seconds. Advanced practitioners may also go up to 20 seconds. At some point of the practice, one can add Kumbhaka or holding of breath. As a word of caution, holding of breath should be avoided by those with blood pressure and cardiac problems. Others can do it as long as one is not ambitious in the practice. Initially the practice can start with 1:1:1 ratio for inhalation, holding of breath and exhalation. Later the ratio can be increased to 1:4:2. Please remember that practicing of Anulom Vilom Pranayama with Kumbhaka should be learned only under the direct guidance of a qualified yoga expert.

Hence, pranayama can be an effective way to reduce weight if incorporated into your daily routine.