We gain weight for a variety of reasons but stress, improper diet, irregular schedules and lack of exercise are some of the main culprits today. These habits have caused us to gain weight over time, so it is not healthy or safe to attempt to lose weight very quickly, as tempting as it is. We have tried before and know that it does not work. Tedious exercises and diets may give us some results in the short term but they are not permanent. And extreme weight loss can be dangerous.
If we want to lose weight permanently in a natural and safe way, yoga gives us one of the most attractive solutions. With a combination of a sensible and practical diet, a fasting regime, exercise and meditation, we can conquer the main causes of unhealthy weight gain, lose weight for good and maintain a happy body and mind.
We need to recognize that meat is not a natural food for humans. Note that none of the higher apes are flesh eaters and neither are some of the strongest and most intelligent animals, including the elephant. While it may be impractical for many of us to avoid meat altogether, it does make sense to stick to relatively healthier meats like fish, chicken and turkey and to limit our intake of these foods, both per meal and during the week. It should help us to know that ounce for ounce, beans and lentils contain more protein than meat and zero fat. If you take the trouble to find out how, they can become delicious additions to a sensible diet along with fruits and vegetables. Bottom line, there is no need to make sudden and extreme changes to our diet but choose your foods carefully, keep to a sensible portion per meal and maintain a regular schedule diet wise. Try to maintain a fast on one day of the week when you only drink liquids, preferably fresh fruit juice mixed with luke warm water, never cold water. It is not that difficult and you may come to like it and in fact, stretch the fasts out for longer.
Diet by itself will not give us the desired permanent results. We need the right kind of exercise to complement it while toning the body without stressing it. There is really no need for strength training with weights and such unless our daily lives require feats of brute strength. Muscles for their own sake are pointless and actually counterproductive. And if we are careful with what we eat, there is no need for vigorous, calorie burning exercises either. In other words, there is no need to work up a huge sweat if we do not have to. What is required is toning of both the muscles and nerves and this is accomplished with selected yoga poses or asanas and breathing exercises or pranayama. Amongst the most helpful asanas are the Suryanamaskar or Sun Salute done fairly rapidly at the start of each session to get your hear pumping. This should be followed by asanas that tighten the abdomen like the Halasana or plough pose, the Dhanurasana or bow pose and the Bhujangasana or cobra pose. Depending on what caused your own weight gain, there may be others but the most important rule of thumb is to pick a few that you can manage easily but maintain a strict daily regimen.
Meditation and breathing exercises round out the full program for natural and permanent weight loss as they provide the psychological strength to do what is right for you. Start with simple concentration exercises like focusing on the breath leaving and entering your nostrils. Every time your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath. Observe your thoughts without judgement but be firm. This simple exercise, done at the same time and place daily either early in the morning or in the evening when it is quiet, will greatly reduce your mental stress levels. This alone will correct many imbalances in your life.
A final note: Like with any exercise plan, it is very important to consult with your doctor, specially if you have any conditions that need special attention. Also, you should ideally do the fasting, meditation, breathing exercises and asanas under the guidance of a qualified instructor. A general rule of thumb with yoga is this: if it hurts or does not feel pleasant, you are probably not doing it right.