Dr Deepa Apté
Introduction: Ayurveda has mentioned eight types of bodies which are prone to various diseases. One of them is an over weight or obese body. Obesity can be described as a state of body with excess fat.
Ayurveda sees obesity as a Kapha disorder. Usually in such people the digestive fire or Agni is weak and not acting in it usual way. Consumed food is not digested properly and enough calories are not being used or consumed. Hence such people continue eating as normal but not enough of this is being used. As a result most of it is being stored away as fat which leads to obesity.
Gentle approach to weight loss:
Herbs and herbal remedies:
Chyawanprash: This is the best known Rasayana in Ayurveda. Take 1-2 teaspoons mixed in warm to hot water everyday. Breakfast is the best time to take Chyawanprash.
Triphala: This three-fruit combination rejuvenates the membrane lining of the digestive tract and contributes to effective cleansing of the colon, a key condition in Ayurveda to maintaining optimum health. Suitable for long term use, Triphala is popular for its unique ability to detoxify the system while simultaneously replenishing and nourishing it, this traditional formula is considered to support the proper functions of the digestive system.
Trikatu: This three-spice mixture (ginger, black pepper and long pepper) helps to stimulate Agni or digestive fire. One can take one capsule before food.
Guggulu: This Ayurvedic resin is considered to be an excellent herb that gently scrapes these toxins from the digestive system allowing proper digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients. When combined with exercise and proper diet, Guggulu has traditionally been recommended to help the body reach its natural weight.
Punarnava: It is a rejuvenative and its actions are through cleansing and allowing nourishment to reach the tissues. It is a superb diuretic and helps to pacify Kapha in the body.
Diet and nutrition
- Eat only when you are hungry.
- Lunch should be your main meal. Breakfast and dinner should be secondary meals.
- Avoid snacking between meals as this weakens the digestive fire.
Time of food intake:
Avoid food intake during Kapha times. The Kapha period during the day is between 6am and 10am and 6pm and 10pm. It is generally suggested to avoid food intake during this period. And if this is not possible then concentrate on food articles that help to reduce or pacify Kapha in the body. Avoid cold, heavy sweet foods during this time of the day (eg bread, butter, cheese, marmalade etc)
Amount of food intake:
Ayurveda has a very specific rule in relation to the amount of food consumed at each meal time. Ayurveda says that one should eat only the amount of food that fits in both hands when held together. One needs to hold both their hands together with palms facing upwards. The amount of food that can be held with both hands of an individual is sufficient for that individual only. This amount should be consumed at breakfast, lunch and dinner and no more.
Amount of water intake:
Ayurveda also has a specific rule with water intake. In conditions like over-weight or obesity, one should drink approximately 1.5 litres of water everyday. One should also remember that this water should be warm or hot. It is best to drink plain warm/hot water.
Concentrate on foods that help to pacify Kapha in the body. Favour generally hot spices such as cumin, coriander, cardamom, fennel, fenugreek, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, etc. do not hesitate to spice up your food. These spices help to stimulate the digestive fire and hence help to burn up more calories.
Drink plenty of herbal teas especially ginger and lemon tea. Always finish your meal by drinking a cup of ginger lemon tea 10 minutes later. This helps to strengthen the digestive process and prevents slowing down of the metabolism.
Concentrate on tastes like spicy, bitter and astringent as these help to improve the metabolism. But do not completely avoid sweet, sour, salty tastes (these should be taken in very small quantities).
Keep yourself as mobile as possible. One must move every 40 minutes to keep the circulation, bones, joints muscles etc active and fit.
- Spend minimal time in relaxing before a Yoga session. You can directly start practising your exercises.
- Positions can be performed with an increased speed bearing in mind not to strain the muscles.
- Producing heat and warmth gently in the body should be your main aim leading to increased metabolic activity. Warming breathing exercises help to produce heat in the body.
- You can directly move to the next Asana without spending time in relaxation between positions.
- Keep yourself warm during each session
- The following yoga exercises are very beneficial in losing weight:
- Sun salutations
- Palm tree pose
- Forward bend in sitting position
- Shoulder stand
- Warrior pose
- Half moon position
- Bow position
- Half spinal twist
- Breath of fire is helpful to burn away excess fat.
- Kapalabhati (panting breath exercise) is also a good one to help tone the abdominal muscles.
- Right nostril breathing is also beneficial.
Ayurvedic Massage and body work therapy
Any kind of dry massage technique is useful as it helps to produce heat and warmth at dermal level and hence an increase in metabolism.
Udvartana is a very good Ayurvedic massage where by dry herbal powders are used with very little oil. This mixture is sprinkled over the body and massaged. This is also popularly known as "anti cellulite" massage.
- Avoid day time sleep.
- Do not sleep immediately after food intake.
- Stick to regular sleep hours.
- Do not sleep more than 7-8 hours everyday.
- Follow a detoxification routine to remove any Ama (if present) from the body and strengthen Agni.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and smoking.
- Receive regular Udvartana massages.
Do not attempt to lose weight all at once. One needs persistence and patience. If you are suffering from other conditions along with over-weight, please consult an Ayurvedic practitioner.
It is strongly recommended that you consult an Ayurvedic practitioner before starting any detoxification process to eliminate Ama or taking Ayurvedic herbs to lose weight. The treatment protocol may change based on a person's body constitution and disease.