Do you want to gain weight? Breathe.
Do you want to lose weight? Breathe.
That's right. Breathing exercises can help you normalize your weight. If your body mass is below where it should be for your height, they can help you gain weight. If your body mass is above where it should be for your height, they can help you lose weight.
One breathing exercise in particular that helps with this is a form of what is known as agni sara in yoga. Agni is the Sanskrit word for fire. Agni sara is a cleansing exercise to normalize the fire of digestion. As with many breathing exercises, it is not complicated. The hardest part is learning to isolate the muscles involved in its practice. This form I learned from Swami Rama as described at Swamij.com
How to Do It
- Stand with your feet about 6 - 12 inches apart and lean over to rest your hands on your thighs just above your knees. Your knees should be slightly bent, with your head hanging down freely, and your back and abdominal muscles completely relaxed.
- Tighten and draw in and up the lower abdominal muscles below your belly button. This will force air out of your lungs.
- Relax the lower abdominal muscles. This will draw air into your lungs.
While you are doing this focus on a point approximately halfway between your belly button and your genitals. Develop a smooth rhythm. The tension and release shouldn't be jerky. The breath should glide from exhalation to inhalation. The upper abdomen should stay relaxed throughout. Start with around 20 - 30 rounds of practice, and work your way up to 100 -150 rounds. It should take you 2 - 3 months to get to this point.
- Be gentle with yourself. This isn't aerobics.
- If you're pregnant, don't do this exercise.
- They say that you shouldn't perform this exercise during your menses.
- If you have blood pressure problems, think twice before doing this exercise. If you decide to do it, it would be a good idea to sit, rather than standing for this exercise. Again, rest you hands on your knees and incline your upper body slightly forward. Optimally, rather than sitting in a chair, sit in lotus, half lotus, or a cross-legged posture.
Speaking from my own experience, this exercise will oxygenate your blood thoroughly and energize you. It is helpful in waking up if you are feeling tired.
As I've mentioned before, I have Crohn's Disease. With Crohn's, there is a tendency toward malnourishment as food is not properly digested. This leads to weight loss. In high school I lifted weights regularly and weighed 170 - 175 pounds. After school I stopped lifting and began doing yoga, including the breathing exercises I talked about in Meditation Breathing Exercises. For 20 years before I developed Crohn's, my weight stayed at 150 -155 pounds. With Crohn's, I went down to 125 pounds. With medical treatment, I gradually returned to 150 pounds. Since I've started doing agni sara regularly, my weight has increased to 162 pounds. As best I can determine, my diet has stayed the same.
As they say, your mileage may vary, but I've found breathing exercises to be an integral part of maintaining a healthy weight.