By: Callie McBride
Have you ever considered that yoga in the form of structured breathing, chanting, and meditating could help with weight loss? If not, think again!
Hot yoga, Power yoga, Hatha yoga, Vinyasa flow-all are rigorous forms of exercise that build core strength, flexibility, agility, and muscle; they also most assuredly account for weight loss and/or maintenance. But has one ever considered that structured breathing, chanting, and meditating could also help with weight loss? If not, I don’t blame you. Its difficult to imagine that such low-effort activity, while mentally stimulating, wouldn’t result in a slimmer figure. Think again!
This past week I attended my very first Kundalini yoga class-an extremely relaxing session that combines breathing and stretching techniques with mantras and meditation to create a peaceful and cleansing yogi experience. I can honestly say that after all of the numerous yoga classes I have taken in my lifetime, I have never felt as physically calm, emotionally balanced, and mentally fulfilled as I did after this particular session. I have only dabbled in meditation before and had never chanted any yoga mantra prior, and yet it felt completely natural and familiar to me. Friends, I think I’m hooked.
After a little research, I learned that Kundalini (which stands for “creative spiritual potential”) yoga originated with Hinduists in India during 1400 B.C…like, forever ago. It is considered to be the yoga of awareness because it cultivates both individual and universal consciousness through its continued practice. The yoga instructor (an unassuming, typical Midwestern man in his early sixties, bearing a Packers hat upon his arrival) explained that the Kundalini is also thought to be an untapped energy that lives within us and that, when aroused- can offer yogis the ultimate joy and happiness. How cool is that?! He explained a theory that his former yoga teacher shared with him: the body responds to positive light and reciprocates it back to us. So instead of relying on our own bodies for that energy, we must actively put “light” into our bodies and then be able to receive joy and peace of mind. This can be done through yoga!
The class began with a series of stretching the arms, legs, and torso; we then moved into some extremely interesting breathing exercises, in which the physical posture is focused on the spine and the abdomin. By paying close attention to the body’s posture, we were actively distributing that aforementioned energy to the spine and thus throughout the rest of the body. This could explain why I left the 8am class feeling so charged for the rest of my day. Among more stretching and breathing exercises, our awesome instructor led us through a guided meditation. Sitting cross-legged with our hands resting on our knees and our abs lightly sucked in, we worked on clearing our minds of all activity and focusing on the breath. Later on the instructor shared a truly special idea about Kundalini yoga. Yogis believe that man=mind, human=light, and being=acting. Therefore, the phrase “human being” translates to “acting on the light of the mind.” I love that! He really made my day when he added under his breath, “If man means mind, then woman must mean WOW mind.” Yep, I’d have to agree.
So, how does this form of yoga help me to lose weight, you may be asking? Think back to the idea that Kundalini yoga is “the yoga of awareness.” One of the main purposes of the class is focusing on being more aware-of the breath, the body, the mind, and the world in which we live. When we are able to do so, we can spread that focus to multiple areas of our lives-our attitude, relationships, and even our food intake! This heightened awareness that we strive for in class travels with us to the kitchen, where we make more conscious decisions to be healthy and to treat our bodies with clean and nutritious food. I promise you, I was much more inclined to slurp down a fruit and protein smoothie after my class than a sugary cinnamon bun the size of my face. Here’s another way to think of it: maybe under normal circumstances, I would choose the healthier breakfast option, but with the mindset that I was practicing self-control, and that I honestly would have rather had the carb-loaded treat. But the state of being that meditation put me in caused me to want that smoothie, because of how beneficial it is to my body.
I realize that meditation can seem intimidating at first, or even a little boring. I strongly urge you to search out a Kundalini yoga class or even a guided meditation class and give it a try. If you have trouble, try at-home meditation! I’ve had luck in the past Youtubeing “meditation routines” before. Wherever you are able to practice, consider the benefits of this type of exercise before you completely write it off; its a wonderful low-effort, highly beneficial aid to weight loss.