Sculpture your body
Define, tone and sculpt your body into shape, just in time for summer! Lose any extra pounds you gained during those winter months, and get toned so you can both feel lighter and build self- confidence. Practicing any type of yoga will build up strength, but you need to ensure you raise your heart rate enough (over a prolonged period of time) to make yoga a form of exercise that will help you to lose weight. It all depends on what type of yoga you choose to participate in, and how frequently you practice it. In order to lose weight, you must eat a healthy selection of fresh food, and burn calories by doing exercises that raise your heart rate on a regular basis (two-to-three times per week).
Maintaining a routine, and practising a powerful, dynamic sequence of yoga movements, are two good places to start. Even practicing 20 minutes on a daily basis will soon add up to hours ( and then weeks ) of physique-sculpturing workouts that will make you look and feel fabulous. So try not to brush a short practice aside – with just a little bit of effort, done often and consistently, you will keep building strength, massaging your organs, trimming your tummy, and toning your whole being.
Yoga is a well-being investment that your ‘being’ will be truly thankful for – but how can yoga help you sculpt your whole body while aiding you in losing those added extra kilos? Yoga can help reduce weight because it has no ‘break-down’ metabolic side effects within your muscle tissue. It ensures that you will become proportionate to your own body weight, in accordance to your height and lifestyle.
Yoga acts on the metabolic systems of your body as well as on your fat cells. As you breathe deeply while assuming every pose and movement, it increases the oxygen intake to the cells of your body, including the fat cells – which are ‘consumed’ in the presence of so much oxygen. Also, the practice of yoga can de-stress your mind-body connection, and help you to overcome anxiety – a major cause of overeating. Some of the yoga poses can help control your weight through stimulating your lethargic thyroid glands, thus increasing their hormonal secretions, which leads to weight reduction.
Also remember that yoga is a practice that works your whole being, not just the ‘physical’ side. It will feed positivity into all areas of your mental, emotional and spiritual life, and you’ll reap the rewards of a toned, lean body shape as an added bonus. There’s no time better time to “jump in” than the present moment, so lets begin!
Sculpture by the moment
There’s a fine line with ‘working your edge’ and it’s important to put your full awareness, effort and heart into everything you do, including your yoga practice. The key element to yoga (and your every day living) is your breath. It’s your anchor to the present moment. Start in a cross legged position, hands folded into prayer. Keep your chin tucked into your throat and take a few (deeper than normal) breaths. Your lips are closed as you breathe through both nostrils, tongue resting on the top palate of your mouth. As you breathe, there’s a slight rasping sound, this is called the ‘ocean’ breath. This subtle sound is something you can hear throughout your whole practice. It keeps you focused and mentally aware of every movement and pose you make, taking you deeper within. Take a round of approx. 20 long deep breaths with this ‘ocean’ sound and to release, come back to your normal breathing rhythm.
Sculpture as your turn
As we twist and turn, it empties and releases your belly, creating lightness and allowing you to get deeper into your practice. Stand at the top of your mat. Bend your knees if your back is tender. Bring one hand to the opposite foot, and turn from your belly, chest and shoulder. Keep your chin tucked in as you look up to your top raised arm. If your neck’s tender, please look down to your base foot. Hold and breathe deeply for 10 breaths before repeating to the other side. To really empty yourself, you can repeat both sides again. To add a greater strength dimension to the pose, twist a little more on every exhalation to squeeze, which will serve to massage your digestive organs and activate your belly muscles.
Sculpture in a tree
To stay focused, grounded, balanced – and to sculpt and shape up your legs – a tree pose is the perfect answer. It helps to build strength in the legs, opens the hips and stabilises the sacrum.
Stand with your feet together. Lift your right heel onto your left ankle bone. Stay here or lift your foot and press it into your inner leg, below or above the knee (but not on the knee). Press your palms together. Move the knee of the raised leg out to the side to open up the hips. Look directly ahead. Keep your legs active and belly strong. Lengthen your torso on every inhale. Press deeper into your standing foot on every exhale. Breathe deeply and hold for 5-10 breaths. Release your foot to the floor on your exhale and then inhale to repeat on the other side.
Sculpture as you tone
Yoga is a muscular practice, as we use our muscles to ‘lift’ out of our joints. The best way to tone your muscles is to lengthen and strengthen them at the same time. But how do we know if we’re ‘sitting’ in our joints? Usually, if you’re locking your joints, you’ll find that your knees are locked back; or, seeing your elbows jarred further inward than your arm position is a good indication. The best way out of this situation is to bend them all! Begin in ‘downward facing dog’ with your arms and legs bent. This way you can’t ‘sit’ in your joints, you have to use your muscular strength. As you bend your elbows, keep them in towards your side waist; as you bend your knees, keep your hips lifting up and back. Press firmly into your palms and the balls of your feet. Keep your chin tucked into your throat and breathe deeply. Hold this for 5-20 breaths before resting into child pose. Repeat another 2-3 times as you feel appropriate. If your body starts to shake, it’s an indication that your body is catching up with your nervous system – breathe through it for a few breaths and rest, before continuing, as you return to feeling comfortable.
Remember to be kind, and not to over-stay your correct form threshold in any pose, or throw yourself into any movement – use your true inner strength, which builds in power the more you practice the poses.
Sculpture into shape
Now we’re going to incorporate the power of your breathing and ‘downward facing dog’ into this next sequence. As we work to move constantly, it’ll get your heart rate up and will build stamina and endurance. Follow this next mini-sequence with determination (no force) and you’ll be amazed with your results. This powerful movement will increase your heart rate and allow you to start shedding pounds.
*From ‘downward facing dog’ (as above)
*Inhale forward to the ‘high plank’ and hold for 5 breaths. Make sure you don’t dip your hips or your lower back; keep your chin into your throat and lift up slightly in between your shoulder blades. Keep your wrists and shoulders aligned and heels working towards the back of your mat.
*Exhale to lower down to ‘chatturanga’ (option, drop to your knees) and squeeze your elbows by your sides – hold and take 5 breaths
*Inhale back up to the ‘high plank’ – hold for 5 breaths
*Exhale back into into downward facing dog – hold and breathe for 5 breaths.
Repeat this 5 times or more and move powerfully with your breath. Breathe fully and deeply into every part of this sequence to get your blood flowing and muscles activating.
Sculpture your middle
Get a toned and flat, chiseled belly with this next movement. Along with healthy eating, this pose will give you a great result: a taut, muscular abdominal wall that will become visible soon after you incorporate it into your routine.
‘Boat Pose’ – come onto your sit bones and hold onto your legs out in front of you. Slowly draw your toes away from the floor, hovering onto your sit bones and with your legs up, straight if you can; otherwise keep your knees bent if your lower back is sore. Release your arms from your legs and bring them parallel to the floor, keeping your biceps strong and legs together. Take your gaze to your pointed toes. Belly, legs and upper body active and fully alert. Hold and breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths, release your toes to the floor to rest for a few breaths before repeating another 2-3 times. For a additional variation, drop your finger tips down to one side, twisting from your belly in your boat pose. Hold and breathe for 5-10 breaths and repeat to the other side.
Sculpture as you rest
Ensure that, after any short practice, you lay in ‘savasana’. Lay flat with your palms faced upwards and feet rolled out to the side naturally. Rest and digest for 5-10 minutes. It lets your body absorb everything you have done, and digest all the wisdom of the practice into the wholeness of your being.
As you feel energized and glowing from your yoga practice, you’ll notice that your food decisions and daily emotional choices start to improve, and this (in turn) feeds positively into the rest of your daily life. As your sculpture every part of yourself, soon you’ll bounce through your practice and meet the challenges of your everyday life. Namaste.