Lose Weight with Yoga

Regularly touted for its stress-reduction prowess, yoga's potential to reduce that other common undesirable (weight) gets forgotten. "Yoga works on so many levels for weight loss," says Aruni Nan Futuronsky, director of the Integrative Weight Loss program at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Massachusetts. "Most important, it teaches you to pay attention to your body and respect it, which leads to the desire to care for it properly—and that includes giving it the proper nutrition." It also reduces stress and improves sleep, which cuts back on the mindless, one-chip-after-another eating that anxiety or exhaustion tend to encourage.

To start slimming down, Futuronsky and Steve Hartman, director of professional training at Kripalu, recommend incorporating these activities into your week.

1. Do gentle poses. Because yoga is more about getting back into your skin and listening to your body than it is about burning calories, there's no need to kill yourself with super-hard yoga classes—unless that happens to be something you enjoy. It's much better to do a class that feels comfortable than one that pushes you so hard you don't want to work out the next day. And there's also no need to do the same type or amount of yoga every day. If all you have time for is a single sun salutation (surya namaskara), that's fine. But doing a little something every day is the best way to form a healthy habit.

2. Take a breath break. "Deep breathing oxygenates the body and stimulates the immune system, which, in turn, increases the metabolism and releases feel-good endorphins into the system," Hartman says. That extra oxygen helps our bodies process nutrients more quickly. Stop everything once a day and try this crazy breathing exercise—preferably when you don't worry about your appearance. You stand forewarned, it makes you look absolutely crackers.

Twisting hara breath
This exercise stimulates the metabolism and stretches and relaxes the spine.
Stand with feet a little wider than your hips, arms at your sides. Begin to rotate your hips and shoulders from side to side, allowing your relaxed arms to flop around and slap your shoulders like empty shirtsleeves. Let your head follow by looking over one shoulder and then the other. Exhale through your mouth as you twist; and inhale through your nose as you come back to center. After 10 to 20 seconds, slow your twisting to a stop. You should feel tingly and energized.

3. Eat like a monk. It doesn't matter if it's breakfast, lunch, or dinner, just pick a single meal once a week and eat it alone in complete silence. Focus all of your attention on how each bite looks and smells, and how your body feels as you slowly chew, swallow, and digest. See if you can pick up on the signals your body sends when it's had enough. What does it feel like to stop eating when you first start feeling full? What does it feel like when you overeat? Do you enjoy your food more when you eat slowly or when you eat quickly? How do different foods make you feel? The answers will help you make your own decisions about eating better.

4. Do 15-minutes of anti-activity whenever you need it. Never underestimate the effect of stress on your diet. Too many hectic days in a row can turn even the healthiest, most disciplined person into a pizza-inhaling, beer-guzzling Chris Farley. Stop that from happening to you by creating a mental menu of relaxing activities that you can do on the spot with little, to no, preparation—taking a hot shower with a Beth Orton CD blasting, reading a beloved short story for the zillionth time, lying down on the living room carpet and watching a fish mobile spin around and around—and do it whenever you could use some distance from all of your responsibilities and obligations. Need inspiration? Light a candle, sit down, and focus on the flame. Notice how its shape is constantly changing, how it's composed of different colors, how it interacts with the wick. For a few brief moments, just hang out and contemplate that little bit of light.


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