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This is the fifth article in a series of articles on how to practice yoga in consultation with Ayurvedic and Yoga Consultant, Dr Pushpika Attanayake.

This week’s discussion is on some of the Asanas that help improve metabolism, which in turn contributes to weight reduction.

Poor digestion and weight gain According to Dr Attanayake, poor digestion is one of the many reasons that leads to weight gain. This is the result of the digestive system’s inability to properly break down food. This leads to inadequate nutrient absorption and reduction in the elimination of wastes and toxins from the body. The result is constipation and bloating.

“The inability to properly absorb essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals affects the body’s metabolism, lowering the rate at which it burns calories, leading to excess body fat as well as fatigue,” she says. The following yoga postures increase digestive power and metabolism.

dhanurasanaDhanurasana
“This is a very helpful posture that improves metabolism, promotes the gastro-intestinal functions and helps slimming down the whole body,” says Dr Attanayake.

Steps
1.   Lie on the ground, face down.
2. Then, bend the knees and hold the ankles by the palms.
3.  As you inhale, raise the head and the chest upwards. Pull the legs outwards and backwards so that the spine is arched back like a bow. Stabilize on the abdomen. Do not bend the elbows. Look up. Keep the toes together. Maintain for about half a minute with normal breathing.
4. Slowly come back to ground while exhaling and relax.

Nadishodhana
Dr Attanayake explains that Nadishodhana is for purifying blood, as well as the respiratory system. It balances the body and nervous system. “This is done via deeper breathing which enriches the blood with oxygen. This controlling of breathing is referred to as Pranayama. This strengthens the respiratory system and helps relieve nervousness and headaches,” she says. Nadishodhana should be practised before practising other Pranayamas (breathing exercises).

Steps
1. Sit in Sukhasana, be relaxed and concentrate on the normal breathing for a few minutes.
2. Lift the right hand, place the index finger   and middle finger at the eyebrow centre and close the right nostril with the thumb.
3. Breathe in through the left nostril, close left nostril with the ring finger and breathe out through the right  nostril. Breaths should be slightly deeper than normal and                  directed into the abdomen. Inhalations and exhalations should be in same length. Continue and complete 20 rounds.
4. Return the hand to the knee and observe the normal flow of the breath.

Suryabhedana Pranayama
“Suryabhedana Pranayama stimulates digestive function, improving metabolism. The breakdown of fats is especially accelerated by this breathing exercise.”

Steps
1.Sit comfortably in Sukhasana.
2. Keep your head and spine erect with eyes closed.
3. Lift the right hand, place the index finger and middle finger at the eyebrow centre
4. Shut your left nostril with your ring finger and little finger.
5. Now breathe in (inhale) slowly and deeply through your right nostril.
6. After that, shut your right nostril with  the thumb of your right hand.
7. Then exhale through  your left nostril, while  keeping  your right nostril closed.
8. This completes one cycle.
9. Repeat this process for 5 to 10 times. As mentioned in the previous article, perform Savasana at the end of each yoga session.

viparitakarni-mudraViparitakarni mudra
According to Dr Attanayake, Viparitakarni mudra is a position which improves venous and lymphatic return and prevents the abnormal distribution of fat molecules throughout the body.

Steps
1. Lie on your back. The arms should be straight and beside the body.
2. Inhaling, bend the knees and raise the legs, as well as the buttocks. Bring the hands under the hips to support the buttocks. Elbows should remain on the floor.
3. Straighten the legs vertically upwards. Relax the muscles of the feet, legs and hips. Remain in this position for as long as you are comfortable while breathing normally.
4. Exhale, bend the knees towards the forehead, slowly lower the buttocks and legs and return to the starting position.

sukhasanaSukhasana
Steps
1. Sit by crossing your shins and widening your knees.
2.  Slip each foot beneath the opposite knee, as you bend your knees and fold the legs in, towards your torso.
3.  Relax the feet so that their outer edges rest comfortably on the floor and the inner arches settle just below the opposite shin.
4.  Lay your hands on your knees, palms down.
5.  You can sit in this position for as long as you like. But alternate the cross of the legs on different days.