An Approach to Weight Maintenance with Yoga and Ayurveda
by Susan Ni Rahilly for Living With Yoga


In Yoga, we are concerned with the health and vitality of the whole person, bodymind and the spirit. We're making the bodymind a more comfortable place for the spirit to dwell.  Maintaining a healthy weight is vital for enjoying life (and living as long as you can to enjoy it)! And vitality and joy for life is what this wonderful ancient system for living gives us.

Being in a regular Yoga Practice usually has the benefit of naturally maintaining a healthy body-weight. For the obvious reasons of  physical benefits of the postures of Yogasana: not only the toning and strengthening of muscles, or the “fat draining” properties of the twist postures, but also the metabolism regulating of inversions (shoulderstands especially) and the internal organ toning and nourishing of the Surya Namaskara sequences (Sun Salutations). A regular practice of Hatha Yoga brings the balance we need, between the dynamic and passive nature of our energy; and in the more passive states that we attain during practice, then the mind and emotions are given the chance for clearing and detoxifying on a regular basis. And this is so, so important in maintaining balance to your whole system as a human being.  I always think we get rid of more “rubbish” from our systems during the practice of passive poses, deep breathwork in Pranayama, stillness in Meditation and the deep rest of Savasana, or deep relaxation.

Whenever I'm asked which postures are best for weight loss. I always answer: “That's not how I teach. I only teach the whole of Yoga.”  We never do anything in isolation in Yoga – and everything we do is about discovering more, more about our bodies, more about our minds and spirits, more about ourselves. You, as a whole person, are a process to be continually rediscovered!

More, below, about the Yogasana part of this approach to healthy weight maintenance. But now, lets add some Ayurveda (the wisdom or knowledge of life) to our daily routine.  Two very simple tips from this ancient art/science of healing the body are incredibly powerful in detoxifying on a regular basis and regulating/strengthening.  First, have a Sesame Oil “mouthwash” first thing in the morning; and second, after your morning Yoga Practice – see below – take one teaspoonful of organic Turmeric powder with one teaspoonful of honey in half a cup of hot water (I always add a drop of cold water to it's not scalding to drink this mixture).

Here's why:  the Sesame Oil flushes away toxins that have built up in tissue over the last 24 hours, and one of the easiest ways to cleanse them out is from the tissues of the mouth – gums, mouthskin, tongue. You take about a tablespoonful into the mouth and move it around, swishing between the teeth for a few minutes – until the oil changes colour and becomes more opaque. Spit the oil out into the washbasin and rinse your mouth.

The Turmeric is one of Nature's most powerful metabolism regulators – to bring balance for optimum body-weight – and it is an amazing immune-system strengthener, about 5 times stronger than Vitamin C. I have to be honest and say that the morning mixture of Turmeric, Honey and water isn't the most pleasant thing in the world to drink, but you do get used to it. And you'll soon love what it does for you!  Also, make sure the Turmeric is organic otherwise you are wasting your time.

Next, there is absolutely no doubt that belly fat is dangerous – there is overwhelming evidence now to show us that this is the most destructive type of fat to have building up in your body around your internal organs. And one of the easiest ways to “melt” it, is:  drink Green Tea!  Simple. Drink at least 3 cups of Green Tea daily. (And of course there are lots of other benefits to drinking this wonderful tea.)

So now, on a daily basis, this is a simple Practice routine:  Start your day with Surya Namaskara, Sun Salutations, to warm the body up, stretch and wake up, and tone up your internal organs – bringing them to “life” for the day by increasing blood flow and prana. And for this version we're going to add a shoulderstand for the metabolism regulating benefits and weight maintenance.

Taking two rounds of the practice, leading first with the right side of the body and on the second round with the left. As you are coming towards the end of the practice round, both feet at the front of the mat prior to coming into Tadhasana, Mountain or Standing Posture: as you come from the lunge position, bringing the back foot to meet the foot at the front of the mat, go straight down into a squat. Now, take the butt down to the mat behind you, onto the sitting bones, raise the feet, cross the ankles and take a firm grip with the hands on the feet. Go into a sitting bone balance for a couple of breaths.

Okay, now we're going to roll back on the mat, rolling the spine on the mat in Spinal Rocking:  back and forwards a few times to gain momentum, tonifying the spine.  Next time you rock back, roll right onto your shoulders and use the momentum to go into shoulderstand. We are aiming to increase the time spent in this asana gradually until you can manage 2 minutes.  This is the optimum time for metabolism regulation – and your chin needs to be tucked firmly into the throat chakra, which massages this energy centre.  Coming down out of the posture gently, bend the knees, bringing them in the direction of the forehead and rock forwards, come onto your butt, then onto the soles of the feet into a squat and from there either come up into a forward bend, or you can curl gently up to standing: into the standing posture and complete your Surya Namaskara round.

Exercise-wise, you'll benefit from a regular daily walk as well, for the Prana flow and the positive effects on the mind and the moods.

In the evening, spend 5 minutes or so in one of the passive or restorative Yogasanas – a simple, supported forward bend for example, or the Great Rejuvenator with your feet up against the wall. Simply resting and breathing and letting the mental and emotional rubbish from the day just ease away as you breathe. Your mind and your emotions will thank you for this simple practice.

Well now, once you've got used to adding a few simple things to your daily routine, let's think about taking out a few harmful things as and when you're ready to.  First, for a healthy weight and a healthy bodystate you just have to cut down on harmful fats – especially dairy-fat.  So, if you're cooking in butter or a heavy fat like ghee, you just have to stop.  Simple as that, these fats are killers.  Second, cut wheat out of your diet: and you might have to do this gradually. The Gluten from wheat now in our modern world is just toxic to your system as it is a glue which binds rubbish together in your system, making it hard to eliminate. Third, get rid of sugar. Sugar is one of the modern day killers – responsible for rapid ageing and disease. Again, come off sugar gradually as it's a hard habit to break. You replace refined and processed sugar with fruits and vegetables in your diet, especially dark leafy greens.

Allow yourself a little time everyday for this wonderful bodymind system of Yoga and Ayurveda to work it's magic, and by giving a little you will gain so much.  Treat yourself well, tell yourself you are perfect and you will soon be the shining self you are here to be!

Susan Ni Rahilly for
March 2 2012

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