Yoga For Improving Your Figure
Knowing as you do that Yoga can give you a perfect figure, you have made this your main reason for pursuing the subject. I assure you this is no worse a reason for beginning the study of Yoga than any other. There cannot really be a bad reason for wanting to do something good, and though Yoga offers much in the way of a peaceful and healthy existence, your main concern at this stage, anyway, is how to get that pad of fat off your hips and reduce that bulging tummy.
There is little need to explain to you the connection between obesity and your health. Apart from being aesthetically all wrong, it puts a strain on the heart, the internal organs, the legs and feet and in fact the entire body. It is dangerous to be overweight. It is your duty to improve your figure for the sake of your health, your peace of mind and your general well being.
But before I explain how Yoga can help you to regain a slim, supple, and graceful figure I must impress on you right at the beginning that there is no magic formula which will sheer those extra pounds off you while you go on eating four square meals a day with snacks in between and goodness knows how many cups of tea sweetened with sugar. In short, Yoga is not black magic. It is sheer common sense. It will help you if you are prepared to help yourself.
In presenting various Yoga asanas, I must impress on you that these alone will not make you lose weight. Yoga you see is a way of life not just a system of physical culture.
I do not suggest that you try drastically to alter your eating habits. Let Yoga gently do that for you. Practice Yoga as a complete science and very slowly adjust your eating habits according to your state of mind. By this I mean that, at the moment, maybe food is of major importance to you. It is right that you have this incentive to eat for it is necessary to take food in order to live, but many people, far too many, take far more food than they need. This results in a gradual build up of fat in the body until there you are-two, three, or even more stones overweight.
Having warned you that I have no magic formula dreamed up by the ancient Yogis with regard to recovering a slim, beautiful figure, let me discuss the first step in this 'battle of the bulge'. Here is a Yoga asana which will help you on your way. It is called the SIDESLIP and it should not present too much difficulty if you spend the first couple of days limbering up your torso with the following simple movements.
Limbering up Exercises
Stand up straight, feet together, arms raised to shoulder level. Holding your arms steady, swing them as far as possible round to the right. Twist your body to the maximum to bring your right arm as far round as you can and at the same time turn your head to look over your right shoulder so that you twist your neck to the utmost; as you turn slowly, bend your left arm so that when the swing to the right is at its height your left thumb should touch your right shoulder. Hold this position for a few seconds and then repeat the swing to the other side. You can repeat these swings ad lib but at first it is as well to limit yourself to a maximum of six if you have never taken any exercise before.
Two points to remember. These swinging movements from side to side should be performed slowly and rhythmically. Emphasis is on the full sweep of the arms and the twisting of your torso to the utmost rather than on speed. Speed isn't a word used in Yoga, rather substitute the word pressure. At the extreme points of the twisting movement, you can exert a slight pressure to enhance the value of this limbering exercise. And having practiced it for a day or two you should graduate with no difficulty to a more advanced lateral twist called THE SIDESLIP POSTURE.
1. Kneel down on the floor and sit back on your heels. Raise your arms above your head, clasp your hands together and turn them palms upwards. Slide your body off your heels to the right and at the same time gently swing your arms towards the opposite side. You should not bend forward while performing this movement but move from the waist to the side only. Now raise your body off the floor, swing it slowly and gently to the other side and at the same time swing your arms over to the opposite side. Try to keep your knees together throughout the Sideslip Posture, but if you find this difficult or impossible at first, you may hold your knees apart to maintain your balance, but at all times endeavor to bring your knees together.
Many people, while attempting this asana for the first time, have difficulty with stage 3, that is the lifting of the body off the floor and the swinging it to the other side. In fact some people have trouble in getting themselves off the floor at all in this position and others, if they do succeed, land with a great thump on the opposite side and have difficulty getting up from there. Be patient. This exercise is not quite so easy as it looks. Graceful, and a great favorite with women everywhere, it looks simple enough but in actual fact it requires a high degree of muscular control and concentration.
Remember your head while you are doing the SIDESLIP POSTURE. It should bend the same way as your arms which you should, throughout the movement, try to press backwards as far as possible to avoid any possible sagging forward of your body.
This asana is one of the finest in the entire Yoga range for slimming the waist and reducing that pad of fat which often settles on top of the hipbones. You will feel a powerful stretch from your hips to your armpits and if you do this exercise correctly you will feel rather sore in the region of your hip joints the next day. This is normal and it will prove to you that this Yoga exercise has already begun to work for you. While one side of your body is being stretched the other side is being powerfully contracted. You can feel it squeezing the fatty tissue. It also imparts a healthy massage to the organs and muscles of the abdomen and helps the torso towards a new suppleness and grace.
In its perfect form, the Sideslip Posture should be as follows. Lean to the right while inhaling. Remain immobile as you complete your inhalation and hold your breath for as long as possible. When the impulse to exhale appears, do so, as you raise your body off the floor and swing it to the other side. Remain immobile as you complete your exhalation and remain holding your breath for as long as possible before inhaling again. This constitutes one round. Perform up to a dozen rounds a day, starting with four and adding two rounds per week.
Like the Sideslip Posture, this next exercise is not so easy as it looks. It is called AROHANASANA or in English THE RAISED HEAD AND LEGS POSTURE. This asana wages war on that bulging abdomen. Lie flat on your back with your legs outstretched and your feet together. Lace your fingers together and place them at the back of your head just above your neck. Inhale very slowly and deeply and at the same time raise your head, shoulders, and legs off the floor, remembering to keep your knees straight. Hold this position until you have completed your inhalation. After holding your breath for a few seconds, very slowly return to the original position.
Those two words 'very slowly' in connection with the lowering of the legs will catch most of you out at first. You will want to plop your legs down on the floor in a great rush, but try as hard as you can to resist this impulse. It is the easy way out and you will gain nothing from employing it. You want to reduce that abdomen don't you? Then do please remember that there is no hurry at all in this exercise and the slow s-l-o-w lowering of the legs is precisely what strengthens, tones, exercises, and reduces those flabby abdominal muscles and helps to reduce fat in this area.
This is an exercise that requires a lot of patient practice before you can perform it perfectly. As it is a strenuous posture, do not do it more than twice a day for the first few days and after that very gradually increase the number of times you do it up to six.
In addition to toning and strengthening the abdominal muscles and reducing excess fat, this exercise also helps to relieve constipation, so it is doubly beneficial to the would-be-slimmer. The back and shoulders are also strengthened by the slow motion lifting and lowering of the head and shoulders.
A word of warning. This is not an exercise for women during pregnancy or who have any internal disorders, and people with hernia should practice it with extreme caution.
For those readers who find the Arohanasana too strenuous or simply beyond you, here is a similar though much easier exercise which is called UDHITTA PADASANA or THE RAISED LEG POSTURE.
1. Lie on your back with your legs outstretched and feet together. Inhale slowly and deeply and at the same time raise your right leg, keeping the knee straight until it is at right angles to your body.
2. Remain thus as you complete your inhalation, hold your breath for a few seconds while keeping absolutely still, your other leg flat on the floor.
3. When the impulse to exhale appears, do so, and at the same time very slowly lower your leg. Repeat with the other leg.
Let us now try a standing posture for the improvement of the figure. This one will keep your spine healthy and supple, reduce abdominal fat, tone up sluggish bowels, and slim your waist. It is called THE WOODCUTTER Exercise.
Stand erect, feet far apart. Stretch out your arms, lace your fingers together and imagine that you are holding a very heavy axe. Inhale slowly and deeply and at the same time slowly raise the 'axe' above your head until you are leaning back as far as you can without losing your balance. Remain in the backward bend as you complete your inhalation, remain immobile for a few seconds holding your breath. When the impulse to exhale appears, swing the 'axe' down slowly as though there were actually a log in front of you and you were chopping it up. The downward movement should be a very powerful one, but do not stop when you reach the imaginary log, but let your hands follow through your legs.
Repeat this exercise six times, and do watch the following four points. Firstly that your elbows should be straight throughout, secondly that your feet should be firmly planted on the floor without moving, thirdly that you do not move your buttocks whilst you are bending down, and lastly, that all the movement should be done from above the waist. The lower half of the body should remain absolutely still.
The next posture for reducing abdominal fat is called THE TRIANGLE BEND.
Stand erect with your hands clasped together behind your back. Your feet should be far apart with your knees straight. Inhale slowly and at the same time turn your torso, from the waist upwards, slightly to the right. Continue with your inhalation as you bend your head slowly until your forehead touches your right knee. Your hands should still be clasped behind your back. Remain in this position for as long as you comfortably can without exhaling and, when the impulse to exhale appears, do so, at the same time slowly straightening up. Repeat the movement to the other side, bending your head towards the left knee.
That is the Triangle Bend. Repeat it twice each way at first but when you are limbered up you can perform it up to half a dozen times. Did I hear some of you say 'impossible'. I'll admit that if you are very stiff or very much overweight, the Triangle Bend may well seem so, but again I must ask you to practice it, without straining, and you will soon be pleasantly surprised at how easy this exercise really is. It reduces fat on the abdomen, waist, and thighs.
And now for another posture which has a similar name. This is TRIKONASANA or THE TRIANGLE POSTURE, and you may find it easier than the previous one. It is one of the most effective Yoga asanas for reducing fat round the waistline, the hips, the upper arms, and the thighs, and it should present little difficulty even to the beginner.
Stand erect, feet far apart, and your arms extended sideways at shoulder level. While keeping your head in the same position (that is not turning it), bend slowly to the right until your right hand touches your right foot. You will have to bend your right knee a little to do this and at the same time your left leg should remain outstretched to maintain balance. Your left arm should be gradually brought up and over your head as far as possible. Remain in this position until you have completed your inhalation. When the impulse to inhale appears, do so and at the same time slowly return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise to the other side.
The most important feature of this exercise is the gradual increase of the stretch of the free arm, which should be brought over farther and farther each time you practice this exercise. It should be performed four times a day at first and, when you become more flexible, it can be performed up to a dozen times a day. The accent is on slow and rhythmical movement, as this exercise is much more beneficial to the health and the figure when performed slowly and gracefully. The breathing should also be carefully timed to coincide with the appropriate movements. Trikonasana is not a very strenuous posture but, all the same, I do not advise it for women with any kind of internal disorders or for people suffering from hernia.
This being the last of the so-called 'slimming' Yoga asanas, I should like to lend a helping hand to those of you who, with the best will in the world to practice Yoga and grow slim, feel that you cannot find the time to practice. I know it isn't always easy especially if you go out to business, as the mornings are filled with rushing about, and breakfasts and bath water, and if something has to be left out-well that's Yoga isn't it? This is one of the main reasons, I find, why would-be devotees of Yoga do not pursue the subject.
In view of the fact that Yoga asanas should be done on an empty stomach, it is usually convenient to perform your practice schedule first thing in the morning when you get out of bed. You may feel you are too sleepy to do them then but you will find that some of the asanas are very bracing owing to their stimulating effect on the nervous system and soon give you a wide-awake feeling. And once you have established the habit of doing Yoga postures first thing in the morning, it should become as much a part of your routine as having your morning bath or cleaning your teeth.
Ten-Minute Practice Schedule
1. Limbering up for Sideslip -1 minute
This ten-minute practice schedule can be varied of course, according to your individual needs and the amount of time at your disposal. There may be one exercise which you find you like better than some of the others, in which case, do spend more time on that one. The schedule I have set out is a mere indication of what can be done with a few minutes set aside for Yoga practice. Do not omit the correct breathing as you perform these exercises and if you would slim do please avoid constipation, as this is one of the worst enemies of the body and of the figure. Yoga will do wonders for your health and your appearance and for your figure, but do please give it a helping hand by watching your diet.
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