Katherine Roberts is founder and president of the FlexFit program that promotes flexibility, fitness, performance and life balance. For more than two decades, shes been teaching all levels of yoga around the world. Shes also a motivational speaker, author and producer of 9 DVDs.

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Yoga For Weight Loss

by Katherine Roberts, Yoga Expert

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Know anyone who is not stressed with life experiences?

Stresses exist on a daily basis in today's society. We worry about our families, friends and -- even more so -- our diet and weight.

Breathe Away Your Stress With YogaI've often heard the comment, "I've got to do something about my stress level." A lot of improper diets and weight problems are related to stress levels. So, what's the answer, and is there anything under my control that can be utilized to make me feel better?

The overwhelming answer is yes! Yoga is an established system of exercises that has been in existence for well over 5,000 years. It is a well known fact that yoga tones the body, calms the mind, enhances circulation and flexibility, and balances the mind, body, and spirit through stretching, breathing techniques, basic postures, and guided relaxations.

One of the greatest gifts of yoga is the tremendous health benefits. Everyone can benefit from yoga. We will start slowly with the basics. The practice of yoga begins with breathing awareness. Let's get started with basic information on breathing and then end with some breathing exercise that are appropriate for everyone.

The Sanskrit word for yoga breathing exercises is pranayama. "Prana" refers to the energy in the body or life force, the fuel or oxygen that keeps us alive. "Yama" refers to expansion, extension, meaning the ability to expand the breath and increase the energy in the body. It is critical in the game of life to be aware of how the body and mind react to the stresses of today's society. With awareness comes change.

Anytime we experience stress, the heart rate accelerates and breathing becomes erratic. Physically, breathing sustains the metabolic processes of the body; mentally, breathing keeps the mind calm and focused. When the body is relaxed, the lungs, diaphragm, and the muscles of the rib cage, and chest move in an unrestricted way. This is often referred to as deep diaphragmatic breathing.

Additionally, this type of breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system relaxing the body and mind. When under pressure, the physiological effect of holding the breath is a "fight or flight" response, resulting in rapid uncontrolled breathing and a loss of blood flow to the extremities, including the brain. The body becomes tense, the mind races, and the ability to function becomes more challenging. It is the mirror of your internal physical and mental condition.

When feeling the need to control the swirling of emotions under stressful situations revert back to breath awareness to settle down and allow the body to relax and release tension. Focus on the breath to allow the mind to come into stillness.

The explanation below introduces diaphragm breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is also referred to as the core breath or the abdominal breath. After practicing the following breathing exercises featured below begin to use this breath while sitting whenever you start to become tense.

This breath can be used anywhere -- at home, at a meeting, in the car... wherever. No one will know that you are practicing breathing awareness.

When sitting, bring awareness into the abdominal area. Inhale gently and allow the belly area to expand. On the exhalation allow the belly area to gently deflate. Try to breathe naturally through the nose without force.

Begin on your back, knees bent, with support placed under the backs of your knees. Place the finger tips on your ribcage. Begin inhaling to the count of four, exhaling for a count of four. Repeat 10 times.

Remove your hands from your ribcage and place your palms facing up. Keep your eyes closed. Now increase your exhalation to a count of six. Repeat 10 times.

Continue on your back, feeling the warmth of the increased blood flow throughout your body and pay attention to the quietness of the mind.

Katherine Roberts is founder and president of Katherine Roberts Yoga for Golfers and the Katherine Roberts' Flex Fit website. Roberts' unique approach to golf conditioning is a hybrid of western biomechanical research and eastern mind/body conditioning for performance. She is a fitness expert and ...    Continue

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@ 11:55am ET on July 28, 2008
Thanks this is helpful! I also wonder at times about breathing while I am doing my cardio workout. I am working away at burning calories, but I thought if I had a few breathing exercises to do during this time it would help me overall. Any suggestions - I want to make sure I am breathing deeply enough!!! Patty

@ 2:49pm ET on July 28, 2008
I can testify that the claims of the benefits of yoga and the breathing and relaxation that go with it can truly change your life and can keep you calm and focused under stressful situations! I would even go so far as to say that it is an essential in my life!

@ 6:13pm ET on July 28, 2008
Hi Patty,
Thanks for your question about cardio conditioning and breathing. A few comments...
1. while you are doing your cardio conditioning be sure to engage your core, specifically the area below your navel and above your pubic bone.
It will feel like you are slightly pulling in the lower part of your belly. This is so critical because it enhances proper posture as you practice your cardio and it helps you maintain an elongated spine.
2. Focus on deep breathing, in and out through the nose if possible. Remember you should be able to carry on a conversation while doing your cardio. I am off to the gym now and I will think of you while I sweating on the treadmill! Stay in touch!

@ 6:18pm ET on July 28, 2008
Hi YummyMommy,
Thank you for sharing your experience regarding the benefits of yoga breathing. As a mother, I am sure you practice deep, stress reducing yoga breathing on a regular basis. Personally I practice this breathing when I am feeling stressed, exercising, looking for more increased energy and anytime I need to refocus.
Thanks for your feedback!

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