What is common between Jennifer Aniston, Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts, Robert Downey Jr., Colin Farrell and Julia Roberts? They are all in great shape and they all swear by Yoga. If you need a sure shot solution to tone down your body and get those unwanted love handles out of your sight, Yoga is a method that you can’t go wrong with. Well, that is if you trust those celebrities named above to know what they are doing!
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise where a great amount of focus is placed on bringing the mind and the body together. It is a soul-changing experience that focuses on bringing out the energy from deep within by relaxing the muscles of the body and easing tension. It is as much an activity for the body as it is for the mind and probably even for your soul.
The word Yoga means to unify. But to unify what? Well as explained above, to unify the mind with the body. But is that enough to burn calories? Well, Yoga is a form of exercise but unlike aerobics or jogging, is not an intensive form of exercise that can burn calories at an exponential rate. Thus, if a 150 pound individual walks / jogs for about an hour at a speed of 8 km/ hour he can burn in excess of 520 calories. Whereas the same individual will only burn about 150 calories if he does Yoga for about an hour. In spite of the statistics which seem to be stacked against yoga, (fact is that the quantity of calories burnt is only about 1/3rd of potentially what you can do by walking / jogging) at the end of the day this is also a form of exercise and an effective form nevertheless for people who prefer less intensive methods of losing weights.
Here are a few Yoga techniques that can help you control your weight.
A very effective Yoga posture / asana which helps you to tone down your upper and inner thighs and also your buttocks, Ardha Chandrasana is a sure-shot way to get rid of the flappy fat that looks downright ugly. If you are trying to get in shape for the summer, try this asana. The name signifies the shape of the crescent moon. Thus the name is a giveaway of the posture that your body will take.
Start by standing in an upright position. Next step is to raise your hands above your head and then clasp them together as if you are doing a namaskaar. This posture is also similar to a variation of the Surya Namaskaar. Stretch your hands as much as you can. Focus on your breathing. Inhale while you are stretching your hands above. Now slowly exhale while bending your upper body to the right. Ensure that you don’t fold your arms at the elbow, keeping them as straight as possible. Initially you will feel that your love handles are getting stretched and they will resent the fact they are having to. A tingling stretching sensation will also be felt all along the back and the thigh muscles. After holding the position for several seconds (initially you may only be able to hold it for around 10 seconds but then try and extend this as you grow comfortable) inhale and come back to the original position. Perform the same posture now on the other side of the body, stretching your arms in namaskaar posture towards the left and bending at the hips.
Warning – people with poor digestive functions and or those with a high blood pressure should refrain from performing this asana.
This is yet another routine which can reduce your belly fat and tone down your body. In this asana you will need to lie down on the exercise mat on your stomach. Keep your arms straight and beside your body. Take a deep breath, fill your lungs and then in one motion lift your legs and thighs off the mat while lifting your arms to grab your hold of your legs at the ankle. Persist with this posture for about 30 seconds before you let go and return to the original position. Repeat it as many times you can.
A Word on Breathing in Yoga
Conscious breathing is something that is always focused in Yoga and every instructor will tell you to occasionally check your breathing. There is a reason for that. Simply sitting in meditation with eyes closed and breathing sub-consciously can only flood our conscious mind with thoughts that can divert our attention. When we breathe with our conscious mind we are focused on a process that emancipates our mind of all unwarranted thoughts.
There are many different breathing techniques in Yoga. This course shows some general breathing techniques in Yoga.
A very intense breathing routine, Pranayama or the ancient knowledge of breath control can not only help you to lose those extra pounds but also release tension from your body. It can as a result, help you to increase your concentration. It is indeed a surprisingly effective method for losing weight without the rigorous gym routines that requires backbreaking workouts. For those who don’t prefer to jog for hours to lose a few kilos this is a preferred method.
Forms of pranayama – Kapalbhati
This asana starts with the basic Padmasana position or the Lotus position that is very common in Yoga. The position requires you to sit on the exercise mat with your legs crossed and ankles placed on the thighs. Your hands should be relaxed placed on the knees or they can also be placed near the belly button one on top of the other. Arms should be folded at the elbow. There should be absolutely no strain on the abdomen muscles. Your spine should be straight and your chin should be upright. Eyes closed.
Start with a deep breath. Hold it and then sniff it out. When you sniff out, your abdomen muscles should be pulled inside in a jerky motion. This is one of the easiest of pranayama techniques for starters. One can easily do this for 1-2 minutes initially and then for a continuous stretch of 5-10 minutes. If you watch someone doing Kapalbhati the routine may seem similar to what a person experiences when he breaks out into a laughter. The same stomach muscle movements and the same breathing routines.
Warning – This exercise should not be done by people suffering from any heart related diseases or from high blood pressure. Women in their periods should also refrain from performing this. Avoid having a meal before doing Kapalbhati. This routine works best when you are in an empty stomach in the morning.
Forms of pranayama – Bhastrika Pranayama
A slight variation of the Kapalbhati routine Bhastrika Pranayama involves the same sitting posture but a slightly different way of exhaling. Please note that both Kapalbhati and Bhastrika pranayama can be done in Padmasana, Sukhasana and Siddhyasana positions. Sukhasana is preferred by people who cannot initially stretch their legs to assume the Padmasana position. If none of the above positions are suitable for you, this can also be done sitting upright on a chair.
The breathing routine is slightly different than Kapalbhati. Instead of rapidly exhaling the air you should now try to inhale and exhale forcefully. The released air will make a sharp hissing sound. When doing Bhastrika Pranayama, care should be taken that you do not try to inhale air into your stomach. Consciously, only fill your lungs with air and then exhale it out as described above. Your shoulders might raise a little as you try to inhale the air, which is okay. Focus on the sound that the inhaling and exhaling makes. This is an indicator that you are doing it right.
Vajrasan is an asana which can be done to reduce belly fat and is the only routine that can be done even after meals. To do this asana, sit on your exercise mat with your knees folded meeting in front of your body, your ankles should be towards the outside and the finger and toes should be towards the inside of the body. Imagine how a Japanese Seiza sitting position is at a traditional low-table and you would get the idea. Watch the position of the feet. Your hands should clasp your knees in front. Sit straight, your spine should be a vertical straight line. Breathing should be normal because in this asana, the sitting position is more important than anything else.
Mandukasan – Version 1
Sitting in Vajrasan fold the fingers of your hand over the thumb, clasp the knuckles of both folded palms and then fold your arm at the elbow so that the thumbs touch the belly button.
This is a complicated asana and you can refer to some good Vajrasan and or mandukasan tutorials to get a clear picture of the correct posture.
The next step is to bend at your waist and lunge your upper body forward while exhaling at the same time. You should be looking straight forward and attempt to touch your chest with your knees. For those with liberal amount of belly fat this will be really hard at the beginning. Try different other positions and get more body flexibility before you attempt Mandukasan. This routine directly melts belly fat and is a tremendous tool for those who prefer to work out at home.
Mandukasan – Version 2
A slight variation of the first mandukasan routine that was explained above is the second version wherein the hand position is different. Instead of folding and touching the knuckles to the belly button place your left hand on the belly button. Then place the right hand over the belly button and repeat the remaining steps of inhaling and exhaling as you move forward. Again, try and touch your chest to the knees and keep your eyes straight.
While staying in the Padmasana position, place your hands, one on top of the other, and covering your belly buttons. Now take a deep breath. While exhaling slowly bend forward the way it was explained in mandukasan version 1. Your attempt would be to try and touch the mat with your chin while not taking your eyes of your own self in the mirror; i.e., looking straight. This is yet again an excellent routine that directly helps in reducing the belly flabs and attain the surfing-board like abs that you always wanted.
Learn about the benefits of Yoga and how it can transform our lives through an intense workout regime together with deep meditative practices.