YOGA: Finding balance for a leaner, healthier body
by Maya Maymon (Brosnan) on Mar 14, 2023
Just thinking about or hearing the word yoga, almost makes me feel instantly more relaxed. It makes me think about my personal yoga practice, and how chilled and calm I feel during and after it. At the same time, I am also very aware of other types of emotions different people associate with the practice of yoga. Intimidating, difficult, too challenging, are just a few that come to mind. While some people can't touch their toes, are overweight or uncoordinated, there is still no reason why anyone should miss out on the incredible benefits making friends with yoga can bring into their lives.
Friends with Benefits
Increasing strength and becoming more flexible are just a couple of the obvious physical benefits you will notice when you allow yoga to become one of your best friends. But reducing blood pressure, reducing stress levels, learning to connect with your spiritual self and becoming more aware and connected with your true nature, those you share your life with as well as your physical environment, are a few more of the deeper benefits you become aware of once you welcome regular practice into your life.
Weight Loss for Stress Heads
Although the basic practice of yoga will not burn as many calories as going for a jog or getting on the stair climber at the gym, it can certainly make an incredible difference to those of us who struggle to lose weight. Especially the stress heads amongst us. Through my practice as a Naturopathic Nutritionist, I often come across many individuals who struggle to lose weight. Their bodies simply do not seem to respond to regular cardiovascular exercise, intense boot camps and even the weight loss winner and well researched high intensity interval training (HIIT). It can get quite frustrating as they push their bodies to the limit physically but the scales are stuck on the same numbers. When the body is already under continuous mental or emotional stress, adding intense exercise can further contribute to this nervous system imbalance (as the body only has one mechanism to cope with any type of stress). I find this type of people to be Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) dominant (see below). This is exactly where yoga can help.
Weight Loss Starts in your Head
Unless you are living on a secluded island with no bills to pay, no jobs outside and inside the home to attend to, no exposure to media, mobile phones and internet, you are experiencing different levels of stress every single day. Our basic stress response, the fight or flight response, governed by the Sympathetic Nervous System, still functions exactly the same way today as it used to thousands of years ago. The SNS turns everything on and up; our blood pressure, our heart rate, blood flow to our limbs and head. It helps us to either fight a predator or run away from physical danger real fast. It's basically designed to save our lives. In small dosages the Fight or Flight Response is actually not bad for us, it keeps our Nervous System sharp and 'on its toes'. But when the stress is continuous or unresolved, we can get into some serious trouble. When the SNS is over active (when we experience continuous unresolved stress) we do not only produce too much of our stress hormones unnecessarily, our bodies also go into conservation mode. Our primitive SNS gets us to hang on to our fat stores in case there's famine around the corner and no more food is left in our environment to nourish our starving bodies. The good news is, the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS), the Nervous System which regulates our stress hormones, turns everything back down‚ and helps us rest and digest, can also help us lose that stubborn, diet and boot camp resistant fat. Yoga is the PSNS best buddy. And a lot of it has to do not only with practicing yoga poses but with simply teaching yourself how to breathe.
Losing fat can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths
Most people believe our breath is instinctive. We don't need to really think about it as it happens automatically. Or do we really? Just bringing awareness to our breath as we practice Pranayama in yoga, as well as being aware of our breathing and controlling it in different yoga poses will help activate our Rest and Digest, energy burning PSNS. You will not only instantly feel more relaxed, but your body will begin to produce less and less of the stress hormone Cortisol, allowing you to sleep well, digest well and burn stored fat a lot more efficiently.