Ayurvedic Weight Loss
If you’ve ever had a bloated stomach, excess water weight or been constipated for days, then you know that eating habits and weight loss goals are like a merry-go-round. Things start off good and then you realize you’re spinning in circles and not going anywhere.
How can you achieve your ideal weight if it feels like your body is resistant? How do you eat healthy when stress, illness or hormones can quickly short circuit your disciplined food regimen? If you’re interested in a holistic weight loss approach that helps your body respond the right way, Ayurveda might have the answer.
Let’s take a look at Ayurvedic weight loss and how it can give you a new relationship with your body (so you can always love the skin you’re in).
Perhaps you are looking for a weight loss diet in Ayurveda. Ayurveda is Sanskrit for “knowledge or science of life.” The 5,000-year-old healing tradition promotes balance in the mind-body connection while improving vitality and overall health.
With doable and effective tips, each step helps you to better understand your body chemistry. Hence, you can achieve your weight loss goals and not simply drop excess water weight around New Years and swimsuit season.
Because diseases start in the digestive tract, food is like medicine. Making dietary and lifestyle changes can help you enjoy foods that promote weight loss. You can have a diet that results in the weight loss you want and it’s long-term so there are no unrealistic goals.
Ayurvedic for weight loss includes exercises, meditation, breathing exercises, adequate rest, massage and other helpful activities. Your journey becomes one that you can easily do every day with small and simple changes.
Ayurveda focuses on air, earth, water, ether and fire. These are all elements that make up body types or doshas. Their names are Pitta, Kapha and Vata:
- Kapha (water, and fire) is the energy of your body’s structure.
- Vata (space and air) is the energy of movement.
- Pitta (water and fire) is the energy of metabolism.
In exploring Ayurvedic weight loss, having excess weight (water, fat, uneliminated stool) can, in part, stem from the body carrying excess kapha.
In particular, based on Ayurvedic research about the doshas, carrying excess weight whether it’s body fat or if you are retaining water is a property consistent with the dosha kapha. Its characteristics are heavy, cool, dense, soft, slow, stable and oily. Hence, a pattern develops where too much kapha can lead to obesity and vice versa.
Essential Ayurvedic Weight Loss Tips
Aside from making Kapha-related dietary changes and eating well-balanced meals, other areas can help you lose weight. These include practicing yoga, exercise, meditation and daily routine changes. It’s also important to work out at the right times.
Kapha time frames are from 6:00 am to 10:00 am and 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm. These represent windows when Kapha is the most stable and dominant and you will have extra stamina. Keep these times in mind when you plan your exercise routine, yoga and other physical activity.
Let’s explore these in-depth to help you understand how they can help with your weight loss goals.
Having a daily routine can help you avoid becoming sedentary. Hence, it’s best to start in the early mornings. If you find that you are unable to get to bed early because you’re tired, avoid napping during the daytime.
Starting yoga in the morning on an empty stomach is a powerful practice. Morning stretching can massage the organs, improve your circulation and promote digestion and waste elimination. You are also toning the muscles and opening the chest, arms, hips and legs which creates internal heat. This activates what’s called Agni or your digestive fire.
Additionally, you are calming anxious nerves, reducing stress and activating prana which is your life force energy. Consistently doing yoga sets each morning can help you start your day centered, especially if you start each morning with a few Sun Salutation Poses (Surya Namaskar or Surya Dhyana). It’s rhythmic yoga that improves the lymphatic system and can balance your entire system.
Sun salutations can honor your body and you are taking in Vitamin D from the sun’s rays. This can decrease your heart disease risk, reduce skeletal deformities and serve as a blood cleanser. Vitamin D is nature’s antibiotic that clears up infections as it stimulates Cathelicidin, your immune cells.
Other yoga poses to try include:
- Bow Pose: It’s a backbend that massages the organs, abdomen and Agni (internal digestive fire).
- Half Moon Pose: It stretches the abdomen and waist, improves digestion, awakens the digestive organs and reduces mucus.
- Headstand Pose: It helps with digesting food and decreases fluid in the legs.
- Tree Pose: It strengthens the glutes and legs and promotes better balance.
- Triangle Pose: It assists with digesting your meals and tones the legs, back and core.
- Twisting Chair Pose: It sends heat to the legs, reduces fluid and opens the lungs and chest.
- Upward Plank Pose: It warms the body, strengthens the core and opens the legs, back, chest and arms.
- Warrior II Pose: It burns kapha and opens the chest, lungs, heart and hips.
Watch a few kapha-pacifying poses and then add them to your morning routine!
Cardiovascular exercise is an important aspect of any weight loss routine. It can boost the metabolism and help to burn calories while aiding in digestion and reducing stress. You are also creating a schedule that your body will remember so maintain it.
The primary objective is to find a rhythm that works for you and then stick with it. Whether it’s walking, jogging, biking or spinning class, your consistency will help. To fight boredom, mix up your routines and try new activities, too.
Ayurvedic practices emphasize incorporating physical movement into your daily living habits. Hence, increasing your physical activity can support your weight management goals. According to Ayurveda, breathing through your nose while you exercise is also helpful as it can reduce physiological stress. Try it with your daily exercises (walking, hiking, biking).
Another option that can help mix up your workouts (and maximize the calories you burn) is to incorporate short bursts of intense cardio with brief recovery times. This lets you briefly rest before the next series of intense stretches or lunges.
Try a workout like HIIT which stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. It’s usually a mix of short warmups and short workouts but with 15-30 second cooldowns. Hence, it can really burn the calories! Try this 10-minute beginner HIIT video or go for it with this 30-minutes fat burner (no equipment needed except a towel).
Regardless of the type of workout you begin, always consult a doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.
An added benefit especially if you are busy, is you only need to work out about 30-minutes a day three times a week. However, for long-term success, work up to about 150-minutes (5-days a week) as a way to reduce your risk of heart disease and premature death. Aerobic activity along with daily yoga are keys to success. And, the fun part is you can do exercises that you enjoy, so you won’t feel overwhelmed or become bored.
No time to workout? Exercise for 10-15 minutes and then pencil in a longer workout later in the day. Moderate intensity workouts, cleaning the house, running errands, window shopping and physical activity all count (really!).
Regular exercise can:
- Balance blood sugar and lower blood pressure
- Decrease asthma-related symptoms and dementia risks
- Reduce muscle and joint pain
- Decrease heart disease risks
- Lower risks for certain cancers (with 30-60 minutes of activity daily)
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Because you lead an active life, a daily routine can keep you on track. It’s also beneficial because you can include time for exercise, healthy eating and even a walk with friends. Keeping daily routines helps you to feel successful each day because both the body and mind perform better with routines and habits.
As you maintain a sense of balance with your day, there’s less stress and your nervous system can relax. Intuitively, this can support your weight loss goals because you won’t feel overwhelmed which can lead to stress eating. When you accomplish more, you feel more confident, calmer and you have a clear approach because your daily routine is a central element in your new journey. Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say you oversleep, forget to eat breakfast and now you’re late for work. You grab a coffee and bagel at the diner but your sugar crashes and now you feel behind all day. Your heart rate goes up, you’re stressed because your boss is yelling and you feel self-defeated. You go home and cry it out, eat a bowl of ice cream and order fast food. You then stay up late and subsequently oversleep again.
As you can see, your busy life starts early and you need a daily routine that can change your approach. Hence a schedule that supports your habits can center your state of being. You can still accomplish your goals and have time left over for fun.
Your alarm goes off at 6:00 am. You drink a full glass of warm water with lemon and start yoga, exercise and meditation. The water and digestive organ stretches help move your bowels. You eat a balanced breakfast and look at the busy day ahead. You make it to all your meetings and have a protein-packed lunch that’s your biggest meal of the day.
After getting home, you schedule the next day’s agenda and have a light meal before taking a hot bath and massaging yourself with oil. You put on your favorite show and get to bed early. Because you had your biggest meal at lunchtime, your body is not up all night trying to digest a heavy meal.
The difference with this approach is it includes Ayurvedic lifestyle elements. Hence, your weight loss journey is about starting a new rhythm that your body will appreciate and benefit from.
Here are some daily practices that you can incorporate into your weight loss goals.
Children aren’t the only ones who benefit from consistent sleep. Adults can also benefit from adequate rest and a regular routine as poor sleep can lead to weight gain.
As previously mentioned, kaphas are more alert from 6:00 am to 10:00 am and from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm. That doesn’t mean you have to stay up until 10:00 pm every night but it’s a reminder that you have these windows when you can get more accomplished.
Once your body starts getting tired, begin to unwind and prepare for sleep. If you don’t get to bed during that window, pitta dosha will start to activate between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am. During this pitta time, you can start to feel invigorated energy again that keeps you up much later. Hence, it then becomes even harder to get to bed.
By aligning your dosha cycle with your sleep cycle, you can develop better sleeping patterns. Depending on your schedule, try getting to bed by 10:00 pm and getting up at 6:00 am. You will have more energy during that 6:00 am to 10:00 am time slot and won’t feel so groggy or foggy during the day.
Another consideration is naptime. You shouldn’t take naps during the day or oversleep as this can slow down your metabolism.
If you get eight hours of sleep at night consistently, your body should be adequately rested. If, however, you toss and turn at night, it might be a sign that you’re eating heavy food late or having caffeine or sugar that can keep you up.
Dieters tend to find better success if they have adequate sleep at night that’s uninterrupted. Hence, you might want to ensure the atmosphere is conducive to sleep.
Here are a few thoughts:
- Get to bed at the same time each night after your bath or shower. Try Ayurvedic self-massage (Abhyanga) with sesame or kapha massage oil to calm the nerves, improve circulation and rejuvenate tissue.
- Turn off your phone (vibration, alerts) and TV before bed. Let the room be dark so your brain does not stay up as it can sense light that is in the room. A small nightlight is fine.
- Use white noise, earplugs or ocean and nature sounds if there’s distracting background noise. If you have loud neighbors, consider noise cancellation headphones or run a fan.
- Use the 4-7-8 sleep method to avoid needing OTC sleep aids. Simply breathe in for 4-seconds, hold that breath for 7-seconds and then release it for 8-seconds. Do this a few times and you should fall asleep. Your body will remember this each night as a sign that it’s time to unwind.
“I recently started using the meditation app Headspace. I use it for 10 minutes first thing in the morning. Carving out that time to help me get centered and clear my mind has proven to be incredibly valuable,” Nadia Boujarwah, CEO Dia&Co.
Perhaps you are dealing with lethargy, depressive or anxious thoughts or stress eating. Hence, your unprocessed or undigested emotions might be the culprit for your weight gain. And, that’s why shifting your morning regime is imperative.
With kapha times strong from 6:00 to 10:00 am, an expanded morning routine can help you start each day effectively. It’s a pivotal time when you can engage in self-care, meditate, eat breakfast and prepare for what’s ahead.
Long-term stress can cause obesity as it taxes your endocrine system and targets the thyroid, adrenals and pancreas. Hence, channeling and removing your stress can have a profound impact on your state of being – even if it’s only 10-15 minutes daily. Not only can it reduce chronic stress but removing those anxious or panicked thoughts can stop the excess weight gain.
Here are a few helpful weight loss meditation practices to try:
- Pranayama is a powerful breathing technique that gives added energy to your body and aids in weight loss. Try this daily weight loss routine.
- Check out Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath) or Bhastrika (Bellows Breath). Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) is recommended for reducing stress and unresolved feelings.
- Aside from the breathing techniques above, weight loss sleep meditation is an option. Another alternative is meditation as it repatterns your brain away from anxious thoughts and overthinking. Or, try an effective six-week dietary plan.
Making dietary and exercise changes alone are oversimplifications as weight loss is physiological, physical and emotional. Hence, early morning regimens that include subtle therapies are strategic in reducing stress which is the root of excess weight for many. Meaning, how you start the day sets the tone for correcting imbalances like emotional unrest.
Even the most successful CEOS and business leaders start their day hours before they have to go to work:
- Padmasree Warrior, NIO, CEO, rises at 4:30 am to exercise (resistance training, cardio) and check emails.
- Nadia Boujarwah, Dia&Co CEO and cofounder does meditation and goes to early morning exercise classes at 6:00 am.
- Stacey Bendet, The Designer, CEO, wakes up at 4:45 am and has quinoa cereal before ashtanga yoga.
- Keri Glassman, The Nutritionist, Founder, wakes up at 5:45 am/6:00 am and has a large glass of water with a lemon wedge.
- Claudia Chan, S.H.E. Summit, Founder, does 15-45 minutes of yogaglo.com or an exercise video. She also does a minimum of 5-minute meditation. Focusing on courage and strength, she writes what she wants to accomplish for the day.
Reflective practices like starting the day early can shift your psychology to one that improves your mind-body connection. Reducing the stress in your day can help you stop binge and stress eating. Instead of being reactive to everything around you, you’re more in control.
Here are a few tips to help reset your morning routine:
Obviously, if you get up at 3:00 am, you will want to get to bed at 7:00 pm to get in a full eight hours. However, the early time slot is Vata time or ambrosia hours with clarifying energy before dawn. As there is more lightness, which lends to a healthier metabolic capacity, you can connect with your consciousness and inner nature. It’s also a pre-preparation stage for kapha which is characteristically heavier from 6:00 am to 10:00 am.
Cleansing your tongue and mouth can remove any bacteria that developed overnight. Do this before your daily oral hygiene regimen. These are essential ways to clean your organs and digestive tract to promote healthy metabolic functions and digestion. Sometimes that excess waste is a blocked colon (backed up stool).
Coldwater reduces the heaviness and lethargy that you might experience in the early morning hours. You can feel invigorated and alert as the cold water touches your skin. This counters daily activities that can draw heat to the body later in your day.
Water with lemon can help clear the digestive tract, promote peristalsis and a morning bowel movement. Drink it after cleaning your tongue and oral care to avoid swallowing additional bacteria or toxins.
The water, tongue cleansing and your morning yoga routine can help with elimination. Depending on your dosha and which foods you should avoid, if you are constipated try a natural remedy. Prunes, ginger, flax, anise, rosemary, papaya, oregano and chamomile can help. Or, try Ayurvedic medicine for weight loss like Triphala. It’s an oxidant-rich, multi-herb laxative that supports routine eliminations. See more natural remedies in the section below.
Because excess kapha can build up on the nose, you might have congestion or extra mucus. Avoiding oils and dairy can reduce mucus and phlegm. A neti pot nasal rinse or Nasya nose oil can help.
Neti pots with warm saltwater solutions (never tap water, too much bacteria, protozoa) can moisten your mucus membranes and remove pollen, dust, dirt, mucus and viruses. If dryness occurs post nasal cleaning, lubricate your pinky with sesame oil and gently swab each nostril.
Nasya can soothe your delicate tissues and it promotes unobstructed breathing. It can also increase mental clarity, improve vision/voice quality and reduce stress. Note: It is not recommended for pregnant women or those menstruating. Here’s a helpful Nasya tutorial.
Have you ever been told to eat a big dinner before bedtime so your food can digest overnight? Or, that you should have small meals throughout the day? The problem with some of these remedies is if not done correctly, they can cause weight gain and slow your digestion.
Your body needs about four hours to digest food. When you allow for that digestive time, fat metabolism kicks in and your body can burn through the extra kapha. Therefore, having three meals at the same time each day can help to increase your metabolism and improve your nervous system and digestion.
Ayurvedic meal times are about 8:00 am for breakfast, 12:00 pm for lunch and 6:00 pm for dinner. That said, having a big meal at lunchtime when Agni is strongest can support your weight loss efforts. You’re giving your body a chance to digest each meal fully.
And, if you do find yourself hungry, avoid snacking. When food doesn’t have a chance to digest properly, it creates toxins in the digestive tract that can accumulate in the tissues and fat. It can also cause inhibited absorption of your food. Instead of snacking in between meals, if you get hungry, eat a couple of raisins, or have celery and carrot sticks. A hot cup of water with lime juice and honey can also help.
Note: If you have digestion problems, ask your Ayurvedic doctor about natural remedies like Trim Support. It scrapes digestive toxins and promotes Agni for better absorption and digestion.
Physiologically, the body responds better to an Ayurvedic diet for weight loss ( Ayurvedic weight loss )because you’re not just eating to become full. You’re actually fueling your body with specific foods it needs to increase Agni (digestive fire). Hence, to stoke that internal flame and promote a healthy metabolic rate, you need balanced, appropriately-sized meals.
To help increase Agni, about 30-minutes before you eat lunch and dinner, eat a little piece of fresh ginger (nickel-sized amount) with a mix of lime juice, ¼ teaspoon of honey and a dash of sea salt.
Eating too little can slow your metabolism while snacking can diminish your digestive flame. That’s why what and when you eat matters. Meaning, a sensible breakfast should tide you over until lunch, while a full lunch (as your biggest meal of the day) should satisfy until you have a light dinner.
Having your biggest meal at lunchtime is essential as your digestive strength works best in the middle of the day. Try to have your lunch from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm so your body can capitalize on this digestive window. If you can, eat dinner at 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm. This can let your stomach digest a light meal and empty itself before you go to sleep. Hence, you can activate the detoxification that occurs naturally during the night.
If you avoid eating after 7:00 pm, you might even notice that you sleep more soundly (and don’t hear those strange stomach noises overnight!).
Excess kapha can lead to obesity, lack of sleep, lethargy, depression, water retention and a sluggish metabolism. Therefore, kapha-pacifying foods can support your goals for a more balanced weight.
As kapha is cold and heavy, you need to eat foods that are dry, warm, light and easy to digest. Choose these over-processed or prepared foods that are overly salted or have too much sugar in them (junk food). Here is a helpful dosha food guide on the best foods to eat and what to avoid.
Because the right food combinations can support your digestion, it’s essential that you add proper food combinations into your diet. As your health starts improving you will notice that the cravings diminish. Hence, the wholesome food choices you make are life-affirming so be patient with your body.
Aside from diet changes, there are natural Ayurvedic remedies that might help with your weight loss regimen.
A few botanical and herbal recommendations include:
- Ajwain: The powerful seeds include Thymol, an essential oil, and it can boost your metabolism.
- Aloe vera: In a juice, tablet or powder form, it can raise the metabolism and improve blood sugar.
- Cabbage or horse gram: Used in different diets, they reduce weight and horse gram which includes fiber and protein, can increase energy levels.
- Ginger, lemon and honey: In a drink, the mixture detoxifies, boosts the metabolism, has anti-inflammatory properties and is antioxidative.
- Guggal: It’s a dried resin from the Mukul myrrh tree that helps with weight loss.
- Nigella: The oil and seeds are effective as weight loss treatments in various studies.
- Kalonji: Its tiny black seeds are also called Nigella Sativa or black cumin. It helps fight obesity.
- Pepper (piperine): it can serve as an appetite suppressant, improve gut health and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
- Punarnava: It reduces kapha imbalances and helps the body expel excess fluid.
- Vijaysar or Kino: It is from the Pterocarpus marsupium or Vijaysar / Kino tree and has been effective in studies for weight loss.
Ayurvedic medicine for weight loss recommendations include:
- Ayurvedic dietary cleanses: They can help reset your digestion with a half-day or full-day fast and juice cleanse. Or, consider kitchari for a mono fast or detox.
- Triphala: Ideal for balancing the doshas, it cleanses the digestive tract and can be taken before bed. Some versions of this herbal supplement include Indian superfruits: Amalaki which is Indian gooseberry, Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica) and Haritaki, which is Terminalia Chebula.
- Kapha Digest tablets or Trikatu: With black pepper, ginger and pippali, it rekindles Agni. Other benefits include that it increases metabolism, burns fat, clears breathing, calms kapha and removes toxins.
- Pitta Digest tablets or Avipattikar powder: It includes herbs that reduce excess pitta which comes from unwanted heat in the digestive tract. It soothes the GI tract, promotes a healthy stomach lining and can maintain adequate digestive acid levels.
- Vata Digest tablets or Hingvastak: It promotes digestion, reduces vata and acid reflux and can calm excess air (bloating, gas) for better waste elimination.
Note: Some Ayurvedic herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Consult a physician about any dietary changes or herbal supplements you would like to start.
Among the top-rated are Ayurvedic cleanses, Kitchari and Triphala. Other options include powders based on your dosha. Kaphas can try Trikatu. Pitta types can try Avipattikar and Vatas may want to try Hingvastak.
To lose weight, know your dosha, eat dosha-pacifying foods and include diet, exercise, yoga and meditation in your daily routine. Get to bed early and maintain a consistent schedule where you start each day before dawn. Better sleep and decreasing stress are also keys for weight loss success.
First, know your dosha (Pitta, Kapha, Vata) and then explore the best foods for your dosha and what to avoid. Try treatments like pranayama breathing exercises or meditation to reduce stress factors. Another option is self-massage, which can help stimulate the lymphatic system.
Yes, because it includes natural remedies like exercise, meditation and yoga that you can do long-term. Hence, there’s no crash dieting involved.
For short-term weight loss, try a diet like the cabbage soup diet, pepper diet, aloe vera diet or honey, lemon and ginger diet. And, include gentle yoga that can stimulate the digestive organs. But, always consult your doctor before starting any dietary changes.