3 Yoga Poses and Pranayama for Weight Loss
Research at The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that movement-based yoga practices like Hatha yoga lower risk factors including high blood pressure, body weight, body mass index, and cholesterol. “The stress-reducing, meditative component of yoga may translate into cardiovascular risk-factor benefit,” says lead study author Paula Chu, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University.
The conclusion of the study[i] showed that yoga can be thought of as “a safe and effective intervention for reducing waist circumference and systolic blood pressure in individuals with metabolic syndrome who are not adhering to conventional forms of exercise.”
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that happen together, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions cover increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
Yogic breath practices increase levels of leptin, a hormone produced by fat tissue that tells the brain to inhibit hunger. This is according to research from Shirley Telles, Ph.D., director of the Patanjali Research Foundation in Haridwar, India.
A study on “Breathing Through a Particular Nostril Can Alter Metabolism and Autonomic Activities” was led by Shirley Telles, R Nagarathna, and HR Nagendra[ii]. This study focused on finding if breathing exclusively through either nostril may alter the autonomic functions, and if such changes do actually occur when breathing is consciously regulated.
A group of subjects was asked to practice one of three pranayamas or yogic breath techniques through the right nostril only, through the left nostril only, or do the alternate nostril breathing. The study went for one month.
The three groups showed a significant increase in baseline oxygen consumption. This increase in metabolism could be due to increased sympathetic discharge to the adrenal medulla. The results suggest that breathing selectively through either nostril could have a marked activating effect or a relaxing effect on the sympathetic nervous system.
The therapeutic implications of this is being able to alter the metabolism by changing the breathing pattern.
3 Yoga Poses to Help Lose Weight
1. Bow Pose (Beginner’s Level)
Caution: Recent or chronic injury to the knees, hips, anus or shoulders, pregnancy and recent abdominal surgery.
Benefits: strengthens the core body and opens the chest; stimulates the endocrine, nervous, circulatory, respiratory and reproductive systems.
- Lie down on your belly, with the chin on the floor, arms alongside your body and legs together.
- Bend both knees and reach the hands back to hold onto the feet or ankles.
- Try to lift yourself into a bow, by attempting to extend the legs at the knee joints with the quadriceps muscles.
- Keep the deep back muscles relaxed.
- Breathe and hold for three breaths.
- To release: exhale and slowly lower the chest, head and thighs to the floor.
- Release the arms and legs down to the floor. Tum the head to one side and rest.
2. Cobra Pose
Caution: Recent or chronic injury to the knees, back, arms or shoulders, pregnancy or recent abdominal surgery.
Benefits: opens the chest and strengthens the core body; aligns the spine and invigorates the kidneys and nervous system.
- Lie down on your belly, with the chin on the floor, palms flat on the floor under the shoulders and legs together.
- Pull up the kneecaps, gently squeeze the thighs and buttocks, and press the pubic bone down into the floor.
- Inhale and lift the head and chest off of the floor, keeping the neck in line with the spine.
- With your elbows close to your sides, press down into your palms and lift you up even higher. Drop your shoulders down and back and press the chest forward. Keep your legs, buttocks, and keep your pubic bone pressing down into the floor.
- Hold for three breaths while breathing normally.
- To release: exhale and slowly lower your chest and head to the floor and relax.
3. Locust Pose
Caution: Recent or chronic injury to the back or legs, pregnancy and recent abdominal surgery.
Benefits: strongly strengthens the core body and the low back muscles; stimulates the endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems.
- Lie on your belly with the chin on the floor, legs together and your arms alongside the body.
- Inhale and point the toes of the right foot, extend the knee and lift the right thigh as high as possible, without strongly pressing the opposite thigh against the floor.
- Breathe and hold for three breaths.
- To release, exhale and slowly lower the right thigh to the floor.
- Now Inhale and point the toes of the left foot, extend the knee and lift the left thigh as high as possible, without strongly pressing the opposite thigh against the floor.
- Breathe and hold for three breaths
- Exhale and slowly lower the left thigh to the floor.
Now lift your head, upper body, arms, and legs away from the floor. Rest on your lower ribs, belly, and front pelvis. Firm your buttocks and reach strongly through your legs, first through the heels to lengthen the back legs, then through the bases of the big toes. Keep the big toes turned toward each other.
- Raise your arms parallel to the floor and stretch back actively through your fingertips. Imagine a weight is pressing down on the backs of the upper arms, and push up toward the ceiling against the resistance.
- Release and come down to the floor and relax.
- Do a couple of rounds.
Bonus: Alternate Nostril Breathing
Caution: no holding the breath for pregnant women or people who suffer from high blood pressure, epilepsy, or asthma.
Benefits: calms the mind, soothes anxiety and stress, balances left and right hemispheres, and promotes clear thinking.
Note: The counting is done mentally.
- Use your dominant hand. In this example, we use the right hand.
- Bend the forefinger and middle finger towards the palm; thumb, ring, and pinkie in the air.
- To do one round:
- Close off the right nostril with the right thumb and exhale through the left nostril to the count of eight;
- Inhale into the left nostril to the count of four; close both nostrils and hold to the count of seven;
- Open the right nostril and exhale through the right to the count of eight, then inhale into the right nostril to the count of four; close both nostrils and hold the breath for seven, open the left, and exhale through the left nostril to the count of eight.
Do a minimum of three rounds and a maximum of five minutes as a start.
Cumulative Benefits With Regular Practice
The relaxing effect of yoga practice tends to reduce anxiety-induced or stress-induced overeating. The benefits of a yoga practice are cumulative. Significant improvements are observed with regular practice over time.
With time, yoga practitioners become mindful of their nutrition behaviors and diets, and how they manage stress.
[i] “Yoga for metabolic syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis”. Holger Cramer, Jost Langhorst, Gustav Dobos, First Published August 22, 2016.
[ii] Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. Volume 38, Pages 133–133 in 1994/4/1 by the Department of Physiology All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences.