This is the second of a series of articles on how to practice yoga, in consultation with Anantara Kalutara Resort Ayurvedic Consultant and Spa Manager, Dr. Pushpika Attanayake. This week the discussion is on weight loss effects of yoga.

According to Dr Attanayake, weight gain is due to several reasons. These include the intake of more calories than required by the body and inadequate level of exercise. “Lack of sleep and late night snacks can increase the calorie intake. Sleep deprivation triggers biochemical changes which results in hormonal changes that increase hunger. Also, one would feel less full after eating due to lack of sleep,” says Dr Attanayake.

Also, when in stress, the stress hormone cortisol, causes an increase in appetite. Certain drugs such as anti-depressants and corticosteroids are known to cause weight gain. Weight gain can also be the result of medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism. Menopause can be a contributing factor as well.

It is important to identify the cause of weight gain and start controlling weight and its consequential negative effects.  Best option is to consult a medical practitioner and find out whether there are any medical reasons behind the extra pounds you have been putting on.

“Daily practice of yoga helps manage a healthy weight.  Asanas are beneficial for weight loss. However, in the beginning its best to consult a yoga expert,” recommends Dr Attanayake.

An individual who has led a sedentary lifestyle should do some simple stretches before starting to practice asanas. “Somebody who exercises moderately could directly start with simple yoga postures and then gradually go on to intermediate and advanced asana. With time, yoga would help tone the whole body,” she adds.

It is important to adhere to the yogic diet (discussed in the previous article) to reap best results out of the yoga practice. In 2005, medical researcher and practicing yogi, Alan Kristal and colleagues from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, conducted a medical study on the weight loss effects of yoga. They found that yoga could help weight loss or keep people from gaining weight.

“Surya namaskar (sun salutation) is a set of yoga asanas done in succession. This is a good set of postures to start with. It includes forward and backward bending asanas. As a result, it stretches and flexes the spine, giving a workout to the entire body. This is highly beneficial for weight loss, detoxifies internal organs and deep relaxes the body,” Dr Attanayake reasons.


1. Stand erect with your feet together. Make sure the weight of your body is balanced between your legs. Join your hands together in front of the chest with fingers pressed together. Close your eyes and breathe normally.

2. Inhale, raise both hands above your head and bend backwards.

3. Bend forward from your waist, gently exhaling as you do. Try to reach the ground with your palms and to bring your head to your knees.

4. Bend the right leg and take the left leg backwards. The toes of the left feet should be on the floor. Right foot should be in line with the palms. While inhaling, raise your head and stretch your back.

5. Exhaling, move the right leg backwards, to the same level as left leg. Raise your hip upwards and bring the head between your arms. Do not bend the heels and elbows. Feet should be firmly placed on the floor.

6. Bring your knees to the ground. Chest and chin should also touch the floor. Belly and butt should be raised high above the floor.

7. Bring the abdomen area down to touch the floor. While inhaling, raise your trunk off the floor, bend slightly backwards and look up.

8. Go back to step 5 by raising your abdomen area up and bringing your head between your arms.

9. Go back to step 4 by bending your right leg and taking the left leg back. Remember to inhale while raising your head and stretching your back.

10. Go back to step 3 by bringing your feet together, bending forward from your waist, try to touch your knees with your head.

11. While inhaling, raise both hands above head and bend backwards.(step 2)

12. Go back to step 1 by standing erect and bringing down the hands together in front of the chest.

13. Repeat the whole set of exercises by changing the sides. That is, whatever you did with right foot should be done with the left foot now.

14. Now, repeat everything for 11 more times.

“It might be difficult to do 12 rounds of sun salutation in the beginning. This should be practiced bit by bit. Also, don’t try to forcefully stretch your body, gradually, the body would achieve flexibility.  Practice these steps in slow motion to avoid injuries,”
Dr Attanayake recommends.