03 Jun Drop weight… Just by breathing
Not many people are aware of this, but pranayama is one of yoga’s most powerful practices. From the Sanskrit ‘prana’ meaning life force and ‘yama’ meaning control, controlling our breathing ensures we keep feeding our prana (qi, life force) with oxygen, making a significant impact on the wellbeing of our body, mind and spirit.
“In terms of yoga techniques, asanas don’t have nearly as much of an impact on your health and mental wellbeing as Pranayama,” says Michelle Ricaille, yoga and pranayama instructor at Flex. “However pranayama must be taught by a competent teacher as it is so powerful.”
One possibly less expected impact of regular pranayama is weight loss. Of the many exercises there are four that are particularly good at boosting the metabolism and digestion: kapalabhati, bhastrika, surya bheda and kumbhaka.
Michelle will be teaching these at her upcoming Pranayama as an Aid to Weight Loss workshop and in yoga classes this June and she explains how they work.
Kapalabhati, also known as the breath of fire, is a stomach pumping style of breathing. Inhale, follow with a forceful exhale through the nose by pumping the stomach in and then a passive inhale. “Yes it works the abdominal muscles, but that’s not the goal,” says Michelle, “Kapalabhati increases the fire element in the body, boosting the digestion and increasing the qi. Plus the forceful exhale helps to cleanse the lungs.”
Bhastrika, or bellows breath, is a fast hyperventilation style inhale-exhale through the nose using not only the stomach but also the chest boosting the blood’s oxygen while decreasing the carbon dioxide, increasing the circulation and stimulating the digestive function, while speeding up the metabolism and the breakdown of fats.
Surya Bheda is the practice of inhaling through your right nostril and exhaling through the left, repeating the right nostril inhale and the left nostril exhale. The right nostril is associated with prana and bodily functions so this practice activates them, increasing the metabolism and helping to burn fat and calories faster.
Kumbhaka is breath retention. “This is very powerful for increasing the metabolism,” says Michelle. Slowing the heart rate and diminishing the concentration of oxygen in the blood is good for the circulation.
While these breathing exercise all help digestion and metabolism, a pleasant side-effect is that they increase your prana, meaning you don’t feel like you need to eat so much.
And, focusing on breathing techniques is a useful preparation for meditation as it naturally leads to a meditative state.
Fitting it into your day
For most people it’s hard to imagine the effect pranayama could have, but Michelle says just ten minutes a day will bring benefits. “I have two children and two part-time jobs, so if it’s a busy day I’ll do ten minutes. If I have more time I’ll sit for 20. When I practice it makes a big difference, and I can feel it energetically. If I don’t I feel very tired and struggle the whole day.”
Michelle always finishes a pranayama session with Nadi Shodhana, alternate nostril breathing – in through the right, out through the left, in through the left, out through the right and so on. This helps to balance the body and mind.
Pranayama as an Aid to Weight Loss workshop
11th June | 2pm – 3pm | One Island South
All yoga classes will include vinyasa, twists and pranayama
1st to 13th June | One Island South | Central
Unlimited yoga access (over 30 classes) at Island South and Central
1st-13th June | HK$1900 | One Island South | Central
This offer includes one free workshop (worth HK$350) of your choice. Add-on Mas Vidal’s 2-hour Ayurveda and Weight Loss workshop on 13th June at the Asia Yoga Conference at a discounted price.