Posted by: Trudy Prevost | March 20, 2012

Yoga for Obesity

I have a lot of people come up to me and ask for “abdominal exercises” as they are worried about the weight gathering at their waist.

From experience I know that we can strengthen the abdominals but it won’t be effective at ridding the body of visceral fat.

Researching I found that abdominal fat is a different fat. Fat accumulated in the lower body (the pear shape) is subcutaneous, while fat in the abdominal area (the apple shape) is largely visceral.

This visceral fat can seriously affect our health and it is one of the indicators of metabolic syndrome.

According to the Mayo Clinic having metabolic syndrome means you have three or more disorders related to your metabolism at the same time, including: Obesity, with your body fat concentrated around your waist (having an “apple shape”). Increased blood pressure, meaning a systolic (top number) blood pressure measurement of 130 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or more or a diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure measurement of 85 mm Hg or more. High blood sugar level, with a fasting blood glucose test result of 100 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL), or 5.6 millimoles per liter (mmol/L), or more. High cholesterol, with a level of the blood fat called triglycerides of 150 mg/dL, (1.7 millimoles/liter or mmol/L) or more and a level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — the “good” cholesterol — of less than 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L) for men or 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) for women.

To quote a Harvard Medical University article; “Body fat, or adipose tissue, was once regarded as little more than a storage depot for fat blobs waiting passively to be used for energy. But research suggests that fat cells — particularly abdominal fat cells — are biologically active. It’s more accurate to think of fat as an endocrine organ or gland, producing hormones and other substances that can profoundly affect our health. ”

Visceral fat is directly linked with higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin resistance.

Excess fat at the waist has been linked to several other disorders as well.

A European study of nearly 500,000 women and men found that, for women, a waist-to-hip ratio above 0.85 was associated with a 52% increase in colorectal cancer risk.

A larger waist measurement also predicts the development of high blood pressure, regardless of total body fat, according to a 10-year study of Chinese adults published in the August 2006 American Journal of Hypertension.

Another study presented at the 2005 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience found that older people with bigger bellies had worse memory and less verbal fluency, even after taking diabetes into account.

We CAN reduce our abdominal fat levels with a Healthy Lifestyle Programme.

In a study comparing sedentary adults with those exercising at different intensities, researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that the non-exercisers experienced a nearly 9% gain in visceral fat after six months. Subjects who exercised the equivalent of walking or jogging 12 miles per week put on no visceral fat, and those who exercised the equivalent of jogging 20 miles per week lost both visceral and subcutaneous fat.

A University of Pennsylvania study followed overweight or obese women, ages 24–44, for two years. Compared to participants who received only advice about exercise, those given an hour of weight training twice a week reduced their proportion of body fat by nearly 4% — and were more successful in keeping off visceral fat.

Diet is also important. Eat all you want of healthy foods – emphasize nutrient dense fresh whole foods. Stay away from processed food and soda pop. Replacing saturated fats and trans fats with natural oils such as olive oil or coconut oil will also help.

Drastic dieting is not a good strategy, because it can force the body into starvation mode, slowing metabolism and paradoxically causing it to store fat more efficiently later on.

In toxicologic studies published as far back as the 1970s low-dose chemical exposures were associated with weight gain in experimental animals. These chemicals called obesogens are often endocrine disrupters; we are exposed to them when: we eat non organic foods; we use chemical laundry products; we eat highly processed foods with a lot of chemical additives; we eat food stored in plastic and tin cans; we breathe second hand cigarette smoke; we use chemical based carpeting in our houses.

People under chronic stress secrete hormones that cause their bodies to sock away fat around their bellies.

Non stick teflon type pans leach obesogens into your food.

A Scientist at the Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies at the University of Virginia Health Systems who found that yoga could increase insulin sensitivity and lower cholesterol. She also saw a connection between yoga and weight loss.

Dr. R.P. Agrawal, of the SP Medical College, Bikaner, India, and colleagues evaluated the beneficial effects of yoga and meditation in 101 adults with features of metabolic syndrome. In the study, 55 adults received three months of regular yoga including standard postures and Raja Yoga, a form of meditation daily, while the remaining received standard care. Waist circumference, blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglycerides were significantly lower, and “good” HDL cholesterol levels were higher in the yoga group as compared to controls.

To me what was most interesting was that Restorative Yoga (a gentle; supported yoga practice) has been proven to be very effective at shrinking the abdomens of people with metabolic syndrome, perhaps more so. Restorative yoga, with its emphasis on supported poses, allows the body to enter a deep, restful state. Those interested in losing weight around the abdomen can practice the yoga they enjoy and can rest assured that a gentle retorative yoga class is a good choice for weight loss even though a sweat is not worked up.

Chronic stress makes the body produce too much cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. It is though the extra cortisol nudges the abdomen into opening its fat depots and storing more fat than it would otherwise.

Since most yoga classes taught by trained teachers incorporates a host of stress management techniques – yoga practitioners get the benefits of meditation, mindfulness and exercise rolled into one.

Genetics and hormones released during menopause are also involved but a healthy lifestyle can often overcome these factors.

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