I gave a talk in 2003 at Bikram’s one time Yoga Expo, “Why Do We Practice Yoga, Firm Buttocks or Self Realization?” And I of course say “Yes” to both.  In a recent article on MSN/health, “10 Reasons Your Belly Fat Isn’t Going Away” I realized that I could now give a talk entitled: “Why do we Practice Yoga: Flat Belly!”

The List

“Your sweat sessions don’t involve sweat [ Make sure your cardio intensity is high enough so that you sweat.]

You’re on a low-fat diet [Add healthy plant based fats such as olive oil or avocados to your diet.]

You’ve been feeling blue for a while [Depression is linked to poor eating habits and limited physical activity.]

Your food comes from a box [Carbohydrates can spike insulin levels.]

You’re skimping on the miracle mineral [Eat foods rich in magnesium.]

You’re hooked on diet soda [Think you are saving more calories than you are?]

You love Burgers [Eat more salmon.]

You think girls don’t get beer guts [Wine or beer can cause belly fat.]

Can’t recall when you last said ‘Om” [See explanation below.]

Your meals are beige” [Eat a rich pallate of color for a skinny mid section.]

This is a good list and worth your consideration.

However, Sheila Dugan, MD was cited suggesting, “Not a fan of Sun Salutations? Take an hour to do something nice for yourself, which could help control your stress hormones.”

I am suggesting that a regular hatha yoga practice can positively affect your belly fat and your mood. This online article went on to say,   “Menopause-related hormonal changes (which typically begin in your 40s) make it harder to shed stomach pudge——but vigorous yoga can help offset the effects. A 2012 study found that postmenopausal women who did an hour-long yoga session three times a week for 16 weeks lost more than 1/2 inch around their waists.”  Even though this study cited women, yoga for streamlining the torso applies to men as well.

I would say that it is not just sun salutations, the yoga practice warm-up preparing your muscles and your spinal column for the demands of other postures.  It is rather the gentle squeezing and releasing action of the yoga postures that contribute to a flat belly.  Various postures put a tourniquet on the muscle, organ or gland.  The release increases circulation.  This increase in circulation is beneficial and allows the glands to release their hormones directly into our systems.

These five asanas are at the top of my list for reducing and utilizing the middle section of our body.  Sitting at desks, driving, checking our devices has us in forward facing, none twisting positions most of our day.  Twisting and backbends reverse this habit pattern.

IMG_3163IMG_3164Use Warrior one…

with the focus on lifting the arms, pulling them back and stretching through the whole Rectus Abdominis (RA). Breathe in through the nostrils and exhale deeply feeling the spot where your ribs split, where the diaphragm lifts and deepen the breath into this spot.  Do 3-5 breaths here. Then, add a twist by lifting the back heel, bringing your palms together and twist over your front bent knee. This is a spinal twist, a bit of a balance since your back heel is lifted.   Bring the bottom of the rib cage as far around as possible by squeezing the heels of your hands together. Look up and back.

FullSizeRenderUse Plank Pose…

which asks the Transverse Abdominis (TA) as well as (RA) to hold the contents of your abdomen up and away from gravity.  If straight arms are an issue, go to forearm height.  I like holding plank for 8 to 10 seconds and repeating several times.  It is easy to move into a side plank using a front, right side, front, left side plank sequence.

FullSizeRenderUse Carmel…

which is a backbend extraordinaire.  It is not necessary to put your hands on your heels.  Camel can be done with your palms on your mid back.  Lift your chest and press your hips forward in this pose.  Again, use your breath to deepen into and stretch your abdomen.

FullSizeRenderFollow with Rabbit…

by gently folding forward and taking hold of your heels.  Inhale and as you exhale open your mouth breathing as much of your breath out as possible.  Feel your (TA) and (RA) lift, hollowing out your abdomen.  You are facing your knees; avoid looking up at your navel.  This is contraindicated for your neck.

FullSizeRenderEnd with a Seated Spinal Twist…

holding the twist focusing on a deep exhalation and the crown of your head lifting.  Perform on both sides.

These postures are probably already a part of your yoga classes.  Be mindful while you are performing these 5 postures of their inherent benefits to your trunk, abdominal area.

(Thank you to my yoga class participants for allowing me to capture them in a pose.  And to yoga teacher, Laura Burkhart for her beautiful plank.)

From Ananda Marga’s yoga teachers’ manual, “The entire human organism is controlled by the hormones. Every system, every organ, every tissue, every cell is guided in its functioning by hormones. The proper growth and functioning of the various parts of the body is possible only when there is a balanced secretion of all these hormones.

Asanas balance the hormonal secretions from the various glands. The twisting and bending positions of the asanas, held for specific periods of time, place continued and specific pressure on the various glands of the body, thus stimulating them in various ways and regulating their secretions.

In the Shoulder Stand, for example, the contraction of the neck muscles combined with the pressure of the chin on the chest squeezes blood out of the thyroid and parathyroid glands. In the Fish Pose which immediately follows the Shoulder Stand, the glands are stretched and flooded with blood. The combination of these two poses effectively massages and stimulates these two glands, thus greatly improving their functions.”

real face.2

Whispers of the Breath Diva:

“In this moment I can fully exhale and feel my diaphragm.  I can fully feel the wave of my breath moving through my core.”