Question of the Month: Can Yoga Alone Help with Weight Loss?

This is a question we get constantly. January is traditionally fitness month, so we’re interrupting our Emotional Alignment series to address something which seems to be on many people’s minds this time of year.People often equate weight loss with strenuous aerobic exercise only, and don’t really understand how an ancient technique such as yoga can possibly yield results. But this is why it’s been around for so long: it works. While cardio is an obvious fix for fast calorie burning, it is only one piece of the puzzle. If weight loss were a simple equation of calories in – calories expended, weight loss would be far less of a national obsession.There are so many seen and unseen reasons why we put on weight and can’t seem to lose it. The solution, therefore, must also be multidimensional. Yoga works on all levels, and on actual causes not just symptoms. Cardio workouts, especially for those who most need to lose weight, have, for many, a high dread factor. As people discover yoga is doable, and experience its attendant sense of well being, they sense, and hope, it can do it all for them. And after all, who has the time for two workouts? So the question is, can yoga really help you slim down? The answer is yes! A dedicated practice can reshape your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies for permanent weight loss.According to yoga, when energy flows are unimpeded, then so called “problem areas,” can be reduced. When energy enters the Shushuma, the central energetic pathway of the spine, miraculous transformations can occur. Of course, this does not guarantee a free ride. Much dedicated practice is necessary to attain this level. We believe Kundalini yoga can get us there more quickly, and in the context of life as we know it. PHYSICALPeople often say “Yoga’s not aerobic enough.” Naturally some types of yoga are more cardiovascular then others. Flowing movements practiced for extended time periods (as in certain Power and Kundalini classes) definitely help you work up a sweat. Kundalini Yoga is physically enjoyable to do. It feels natural perhaps because these techniques were developed spontaneously by ancient sages who were highly in tune with their bodies, their internal energy systems, and the rhythms of nature. Kundalini Yoga is not only about static poses. It employs vigorous movement combined with breath that students find very liberating. You find yourself rocking and rolling, twisting, stretching, and above all, breathing. Students experience a sense of vibrancy and spontaneity they often haven’t experienced since they were children. Many breath techniques, like Breath of Fire (often cited as ‘more aerobic than aerobics,’), will also generate heat from within and stimulate the body to burn more calories. After all, our bodies use oxygen to turn food into energy. But there is a much deeper and more powerful way yoga is working for you. In addition to promoting core strength, flexibility, and balance, yoga stimulates metabolic processes in the body like no other form of fitness. Twists, forward and back bends, and other specific Kundalini exercises target the endocrine system. Many Kundalini Yoga sets for weight loss focus on the thyroid gland. Shoulder Stand and Plow Pose, done with Breath of Fire, are two of the most powerful exercises for the thyroid.Yoga also teaches us to use our own body weight to tone, strengthen, and lengthen muscles. We become leaner. When we create lean muscle tissue we burn more calories, even when resting. Yoga also effects the organs and digestive and eliminative processes, to help rid the body of excess water and bloating.MENTALHow we perceive ourselves has a powerful and direct effect on what we become. Our yoga practice can help us change harmful mental conditioning and negative self-concepts. Through new found awareness, which comes from zoning in rather then zoning out (as we are likely to do during cardio), we can create new patterns to overcome old habits.Stress causes biochemical changes in the brain. Brain chemistry has much to do with appetite control. An example of this is the brain chemical dopamine which is linked to depression and increased appetite. Low levels of serotonin may cause carbohydrate cravings. Norepinephrine, which normally causes the brain to be more alert and enables one to stay ?positive,? has been linked with increased appetite when levels are low. Kundalini Yoga can help you turn the tide against stress. EMOTIONALMany people eat to alleviate stress and to avoid feelings of loneliness, i.e., emptiness. We treat food as a comforting friend. When you take time for yourself to do your practice, you become, in effect, your own best friend. As you strengthen your nervous system through yoga, you are more able to handle daily stresses in a healthier way. It is becoming more and more apparent that the use of mood altering drugs such as Zanax and Prozac is increasing exponentially. For most people these are just a deceptively easy fix that numb the sensors. In effect, a chemical form of television. For many people, food itself is a mood altering drug. It represents security and the sweetness that life does not always provide.Kundalini Yoga proves that happiness is not a myth, that it is eminently possible to be exuberant, expansive, healthy and vibrant. When circumstances pull us away from our optimum state Kundalini Yoga provides the means to revive it. This is a day to day affair.SPIRITUALWhen we begin to tap into our spiritual aspect we feel lighter, more joyful and balanced, and are not as hungry for the numbing effects of impulsive eating. We have tapped into our own internal source of sweetness and in a sense are feeding our soul. Spiritual means ‘of the spirit,’ that part of us that accepts every challenge as a test to grow by. Of course we can’t discuss yoga and weight loss without talking about how meditation plays a part. No system can work for you unless your mind is under your conscious control. One of the cornerstones of classical yoga is the control of the thought waves of the mind.When we are stressed, our bodies pump out stress hormones. Training too hard can actually increase these hormones. When we still the body and calm the mind, we allow our breath to circulate to our inner organs which helps to filter out toxins which could lead to a build up of abdominal fat. When we are less stressed we automatically turn off many mechanisms that can lead to weight gain.CONCLUSIONThis is not to say that cardio alone can’t work. For fast calorie burning it can be very effective. Remember, when you try anything new, aerobics or yoga, you tend to get immediate results. However, don’t depend on these overnight effects. if you dedicate yourself to practicing yoga on a regular basis it will change your body. The best news is yoga is something you can do the rest of your life with increasing rather then diminishing returns!MEDITATION OF THE MONTH: RISING STAR MEDITATIONThis was taught by Yogi Bhajan on Sept. 12th 1983. It has many elements which combine to help you access your inherent greatness, which is one definition of Kundalini, the energy which moves you beyond your limits. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Your eyes are closed. Place your left hand, palm down, over your Heart Center (sternum). The left elbow is resting against the left side of the body. Your right hand is in a fist with the right index finger extended. Extend your right arm, straight out in front of the body (palm down), up to a 60 degree angle. Then move your right arm 18 in. to the right. The position of the arm should not creat tension in the body. Do powerful long deep breathing through the nose. Feel that you’re breathing down to your navel. As you exhale the navel pulls inward. Start with 3-5 min. and work up to 11 min.Breath is an energy delivery system. Breathing quickens the soul, balances the mind, body, and emotions. The index finger relates to Jupiter energy, luck and expansion. The angle of 60 degrees activates your magnetic field. In this meditation the Universe imprints blessings onto the template of your life. Practice this technique with firm devotion and in 2006 your star will definitely be on the rise!

All Best to You,Ravi Singh & Ana Brett / contact us at 1.800.243.9642 /

by Ravi Singh & Ana Brett
Ravi and Ana been featured presenters at the Midwest Yoga Conference, The Toronto Yoga Show, and the Six Days on Freedom Retreat. Their clients have included Olympic Athletes and celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Lou Reed, Carrie-Anne Moss, Donna Karan, and The Red Hot Chile Peppers. They’ve taught in many diverse contexts: from Iceland to Maui, Canada to Costa Rica, from boardrooms and Park Avenue Penthouses, to scientists at Bell Labs, from Opera Singers at the Aspen Music Festival and street kids in Los Angeles to backstage at Broadway plays. They are Authors of the Fat Free Yoga DVD series and the forthcoming book Fat Free Yoga.