Weight gain is one of the important concerns every nation is facing today. As people increasingly work from home and are at home for a longer duration compared to before with their physical movements reduced to a minimum or restricted to the frequent trip(s) to the kitchen, weight is something they can no longer be nonchalant about! The weight gain during the pandemic, in fact, has its own term. Called Covid pounds, weight gain during the pandemic is the result of a global uptick in sedentary lifestyle, overeating, and snacking mindlessly throughout the day (Hello, gluttony).
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” -- Thomas Jefferson
The excess weight is no longer a sign of prosperity. It in fact brings a sea of issues with it, some of which include inflammation and accumulation of weight around the knee area, reduction in immunity, a longer recovery time from diseases, infections, wounds, and more. Once the body weight starts accumulating in and around the knee area, the individual may face difficulty walking properly or even getting up once their weight surpasses the permissible threshold. Excess weight is also proven to increase the risk of bacterial and viral infections posing a barrier in the body’s responsiveness towards vaccinations of certain kinds.
So, how should one deal with their excessive weight? The answer is to lose it through the Ayurvedic way. Ayurvedic weight loss is different from the other ways of weight loss you might have come across. As per the Ayurveda, weight gain occurs due to an imbalance in the five elements of the body. It also regards doshas, particularly Kapha dosha, to be the main culprit behind the weight gain. The weight gain can aggravate Kapha in the body; thereby creating an unending vicious loop of weight gain.
“Because we cannot scrub our inner body we need to learn a few skills to help cleanse our tissues, organs and mind. This is the art of Ayurveda.” -- Sebastian Pole
Weight management in Ayurveda is done to pacify this dosha along with the ama (the toxins from food and drinks.) In other words, Ayurveda aims to correct the propensity of digestive fire to normalize metabolism activity. Ama, in Ayurveda, is a generic term used to describe all the toxic substances accumulated in one’s body. Think of Ama as the evil step-sister of Agni (digestive fire). A buildup of Ama can disrupt the body’s natural process down to the cellular level; making it susceptible to infections, diseases, and weight issues.
At this point, it is appropriate to discuss anabolic and catabolic metabolism and how they contribute to Ayurvedic Weight Loss. Let’s start with catabolism first. Catabolism occurs both on a synchronous and asynchronous basis. That means it takes place whether you are having your meal or not. In case you aren’t, catabolism breaks down the muscle and fat to circulate energy within the body.
If catabolism is north; anabolism is south. Anabolism largely helps one to heal faster in case of an injury. What it does is that it takes smaller units, combining them together to make a bigger structure. So a catabolic state can help reduce the overall mass; whereas an anabolic state helps you create that. However, one requires both these opposite forces to reach their weight loss goals (Hey, opposites attract, right?).
To explain further, the anabolic metabolism is responsible for creating complex molecules from plain ones through the process of biosynthesis. The catabolic metabolism breaks down these complex molecules as and when required by the system. So, while anabolic metabolism requires energy for the purpose of creation; catabolic metabolism circulates this energy by breaking down the complex molecules created by the former. While anabolic activity helps in creating body mass; catabolic activity, on the other hand, helps in burning calories. Therefore, a combination of both the activities are essential to reduce the body fat proportion and to increase the lean muscle mass.
(image source kairali ayurveda)
“Whatever your problem is the answer is not the fridge”
The refrigerator was never the answer to the weight gain problem anyways. It was in fact Ayurvedic Weight Loss all the way along. Panchakarma is an effective way to address one’s weight gain dilemma. The word Panchkarma translates to a five-step procedure or a set of five actions that are performed on the body to help it get rid of the accumulated toxins a deep detoxification of the body, mind and soul. In simpler terms, it exorcises the toxins and pollutants from your system through a combination of several massages, and other Ayurvedic procedures done over a course of a certain period.
The human body, at any particular time, is said to store close to seven hundred toxic chemicals with varying levels of toxicity. What Panchakarma does is that it clears the clogged passages of the body, letting the energy flow freely. It is also said to prevent one, from future diseases and ailments. However, it should be done by a certified Ayurvedic practitioner and ideally in an Ayurvedic center to make it work.
The entire process of Panchakarma is largely divided into three steps:
It involves preparing the body for the main step i.e. Panchakarma; Poorva Karma involves the process of Snehan and Sweden to help the body shed some toxins.
It is the main or principal step of Panchakarma involving five stages of purification namely Vaman, Virechana, Basti, Nasya and Rakta Mokshana.
It is the follow-up phase during which the practitioner prescribes the dietary regimen to an individual. From a weight loss perspective, various steps of Panchakarma help in correcting the specific doshas responsible for an individual’s weight gain. For instance the process of Vamana helps in regulating the Kapha, whereas the process of nasya (nasal sneezes through medication) helps in balancing all the three doshas in a considerable way.
Ayurvedic Weight Loss through Panchakarma has also been clinically proven and documented through various studies published in reputed research journals.
(image source Shreyas Ayurveda)
Ayurvedic treatment for weight loss may include one or more of these steps (depending upon an individual’s dosha and prakriti):
The pores and orifices of the body play a vital role when it comes to weight loss in Ayurveda. Swedana, in Ayurveda, refers to steam therapy. Its goal is to help an individual perspire. Swedana is performed normally to ‘warm up’ the body before Panchkarma (and, quite literally at that) and can be of the following types namely, Nali Sweda, Ooshma Sweda, Pinda Sweda, and more.
Abhyanga involves rejuvenating the body through a warmed oil body massage. The warmth of the oil along with the strategic strokes of massage is said to reduce stress, improve blood circulation apart from providing a host of other health benefits. Though Abhyanga can be learned; it is best to get it done by a trained Ayurveda therapist in order to avail of its numerous health benefits.
Kizhi refers to the hot fermentation therapy done by using medicated pouches. The pouches used in Kizhi contain ingredients ranging from sand, rice to powders made from herbs. Kizhi is used for people having excessive weight as it helps to pacify the vata-kapha dosha. Kizhi is said to reduce stress and is also said to help the body get rid of ama, thus leaving the body refreshed.
Kizhi, depending on the boluses (a soft mass of material filled with herbs, rice, etc, applied to the body for various purposes ranging from providing relief to the aching muscles to reducing the inflammation of skin) used, is known by the different names. An Elakizhi helps in improving blood circulation throughout the body, boosting the immunity of an individual, making the muscles strong, combating various kinds of arthritis, injuries, cramps and more. An Elakizhi increases peripheral blood circulation, helping an individual to achieve their detoxification goals.
Udvarthanam refers to the dry powder massage done to reduce the excessive cellulite in an individual. In Ayurveda, Udvarthanam is mainly used as a weight-loss intervention as it reduces body fat by improving blood circulation. This rub down is usually performed by two therapists who work in synchronized motions to stimulate the body. Its brisk upward strokes combined with the penetrating medical herbs such as black pepper, long pepper, dried ginger and more help promote the reduction of excess fat and cellulite. The massage is followed by a herbal sauna and a shower to wash off the extra powder from the body. Read about the process in detail here!
Udvarthanam comes with a set of to-dos and don’t’s such as maintaining the hydration level of the body and more; which have to be followed religiously in order to make it effective. Further, the massage powder used in this dry massage varies from person to person owing to their different body constitutions and doshas.
Commonly known as the Ayurvedic oil bath, Pizhichil is often used as a weight-loss measure in Ayurveda. This luxurious massage is performed by the therapists under the watchful eye of an Ayurvedic physician. Pizhichil normally involves applying warm medicated oil through a muslin cloth, in a way so that it covers all the areas of the body. The Pizichil is said to help the body get rid of toxins along with improving the state of mind of an individual.
(image source art of living)
The sister practice of Yoga can be applied with Ayurveda for a holistic weight loss program. Yoga, in fact, has many asanas that help to burn fat on a cellular level through a combination of patterned breathing, stretching, bending, meditating, and relaxing. These asanas can be further, combined with clean dietary practices and pranayama to enhance their effectiveness. Let’s take a look at some of these asanas, shall we?
Dhanurasana: First up is Dhanurasana. The asana literally translates to the bow pose. It puts the yogi in the position of bow requiring them to hold the pose for some time before they can switch and release. Dhanurasna is effective in melting belly fat as it targets the abdominal area besides toning one’s muscles for an improved blood circulation.
Bhujangasana: Also known as the cobra pose, Bhujangasana is a dead-sure way to lose weight. Basically, one has to mimic the posture of the cobra while performing this asana. This yoga posture burns those extra calories by stretching the muscles of one’s abdomen.
Shalabasana: Known as the locust pose, Shalabasana is an excellent way to lose fat from certain areas of the body such as hips and thighs. The asana is also said to correct agni (the digestive fire) and prevent the ama from accumulating inside the body such as constipation.
Ardha matsyendrasana: Ardha matsyendrasana is a version of matsyendrasana. Also known as the half lord of the fishes pose or seated twist pose, this posture is said to aid digestion as it stretches one’s hips and thighs, besides elongating their spine.
Trikona asana: Trikona asana requires one to assume the shape of trikona i.e. triangle. This asana, again helps in improving the digestive process of an individual, by making them stretch their muscles around their thighs. It is also effective in torching belly fat.
Vakra asana: Known as twisted pose, Vakra asana, as its name suggests, requires one to twist and turn on each side. This asana helps to kill the belly fat making your belly completely flat. All the asanas, mentioned above, should be done after a detailed discussion with a yoga practitioner, as some of these can be pretty harmful to people with certain medical conditions such as hernia.
It is said that reaching the top is easier than maintaining the position at the top. The same applies to one’s weight loss journey as well. It is extremely essential to continue following the weight-loss measures and steps, as suggested by the Ayurveda practitioner, even after completing the Ayurvedic treatment.
The Ayurveda treatment is not a panacea for weight loss and hence needs to be backed up with continual efforts. Some of the ways you can do that post-Ayurvedic treatment include:
Integrating an Ayurvedic Lifestyle
One can integrate Ayurveda into their daily lifestyle by taking meals on time, watching what they eat (i.e. eating mindfully and with intention), and organizing their routine before the day begins. The Ritucharya diet (eating according to the season) in Ayurveda, suggests that an individual should avoid eating bitter and cold food items during Shishira season (January-March). Heavy food items should be avoided during Vasanta (March to May) while salty food items are advised to be eaten during the Varsha ritu (i.e. from July to September.) The individuals should also eat as per their doshas. An individual with vata should eat food that is lightly spiced whereas an individual with pitta and kapha should consume food items that are sweet and dry respectively in order to prevent their doshas from going overdrive.
Integrating Ayurvedic cooking
Ayurvedic cooking, in general, tries to align all the doshas in one sequence by cooking the meals using the right ingredients in the right amount. A research published in PubMed Central discovered that Ayurveda diet along with yoga could result in weight loss of six kilograms over the period of nine months. Ayurvedic cooking is said to provide benefits such as a healthy sense of well-being, freedom from stress, increase in the energy levels, and a better emotional state. And did we mention, it increases the taste (and nutritional value) of the cooked food too?
Practicing yoga asanas
One can continue to practice the yoga asanas – and the ones that are specifically helpful in controlling weight gain as mentioned above. These yoga asanas, in general, help to improve the agility of an individual while keeping their digestive fire burning bright.
Staying in Touch with Ayurveda practitioner
One should constantly stay in touch with their Ayurveda practitioner should they have any queries or concerns. Nowadays, a lot of centres allow the option of staying in touch via emails or calls in case one is not able to visit the centre physically.
It should be noted that Panchakarma is the start of one’s weight loss journey as it puts one on the track of a healthy lifestyle. However, it should be backed up with healthy lifestyle practices and healthy habits. Weight loss, is a journey that comes with many health benefits. Getting rid of excessive weight strengthens the immunity, increases the efficiency of the body and mind, and improves the physique of an individual. Ayurvedic weight loss is completely safe and free from side effects as it works on a deeper level. All one has to do is not to slack once their treatment gets over. And as Morgan Spurlock says,
“There’s no magic bullet. You gotta eat healthy and live healthy to be healthy and look healthy.”
Published Research about Ayurvedic Weight Loss
**The benefits of Ayurvedic Weight Loss vary from person to person and the results may vary immensely based on the quality of the herbs, oil concoctions and medicines. BalanceBoat.com is not responsible or liable for the effectiveness and outcome of the Ayurvedic treatments. The information above is shareable purely for educational purposes; it is not to be considered as a replacement for medical advice. Please always consult a certified specialist/Doctor before you embark upon a treatment.