Singaporebrides | Beauty

June 2013

Shape Up for Your Wedding with Yoga

Not a gym rat? With the help of yoga, you can shed the pounds and tone up without ever having to step into a gym.

It is every bride’s wish to look her absolute best on her wedding day and that involves a stunning wedding gown, a radiant complexion and above all, a lean and toned physique. Now, not all of us are blessed with the lean genes and in order to achieve a svelte physique, we have to put on our trainers and get on that treadmill – even if running or going to the gym isn’t your cup of tea. But there is another way around to getting that lean and toned body for your big day without having to maneuver exercise machines. To learn how yoga can aid weight loss and body toning, SingaporeBrides speaks with a certified yoga and Pilates instructor and former National Track & Field Athelete, Sabu Maricar.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a low-impact exercise that utilises a combination of Asanas (physical poses), Pranayama (breathing techniques) and Meditation to stretch out and strengthen the body. A common misconception of yoga is that is it a slow moving exercise. There are many different forms of yoga, each varying in intensity to accommodate the practitioner’s needs. The idea of meditation is also commonly mistaken as keeping one’s mind in a blank state, when in reality, it simply means keeping one’s mind quiet by preventing the mind from wandering through a complete focus on the task at hand.

The yoga form most widely practiced all over the world is known as Hatha Yoga. Within Hatha Yoga, there are many variations such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Sun Salutation and Hot Yoga. Hot Yoga is undeniably the most popular and talked about form of yoga to aid with weight loss. It is a series of yoga poses and breathing exercises done in a heated room of 37 degrees. Attending a class of Hot Yoga encourages the purging of toxins from the body through perspiration and looses and stretches the muscles to prevent the occurrence of injuries.

Shape Up for Your Wedding with Yoga

Brides will also welcome the knowledge that Hot Yoga also increases metabolism and fat burning, among other health benefits, in the long run – perfect for losing weight and toning up. Vinyasa is a variation of Ashtanga yoga and both forms are performed in a room temperature environment. They consist of a powerful series of flowing and jumping movements where the length of one inhale or exhale dictates the length of time spent transitioning between Asanas. It works the cardiaovascular system while building strength and endurance, and like Hot Yoga, it detoxes the body and aids in weight loss as well.

Benefits of Yoga

Practicing yoga yields a myriad of benefits, ranging from an increase in flexibility to weight loss in the long run. “Yoga is a good way to elongate muscles that become contracted during other forms of physical activity or due to long periods of inactivity,” Sabu explains. “It also increases the range of motion and lubrication in our joints, which results in a sense of ease and fluidity throughout the body.” Practicing yoga also helps improve muscle tone and strength because you learn how to carry your weight while executing the poses. No external weights are used during the workout, making it perfectly safe for individuals with sports or any form of injuries to rehabilitate and strengthen their bodies without further injuring themselves.

Regular practice of yoga also results in an alert and calm mind. “Yoga is the only exercise, aside from Pilates, that allows blood to flow towards the head and brain through inversion poses such as the downward facing dog or standing forward bend,” Sabu reveals. “This rejuvenates the mind while building upper body strength and improving flexibility in the lower back and legs.” The breathing techniques you learn during yoga will also help in quietening your mind to relieve stress – a skill that will definitely come in handy during your stressful wedding planning.

Shape Up for Your Wedding with Yoga

Yoga and Losing Weight

Just because yoga is a low-impact workout that comprises mostly of stretching and breathing techniques doesn’t mean it doesn’t aid in weight loss. Higher intensity forms of yoga such as Vinyasa and Hot Yoga is great for weight loss as it keeps the body in constant motion to build up the cardiovascular system while simultaneously stretching and toning the muscles. “As compared to running or other high intensity exercises, yoga is a more complete workout because it works the cardiovascular system while stretching and toning the muscles – the 3 criteria every complete workout is made up of,” Sabu shares. For optimum results, try a combination of Hot, Vinyasa and Sun Salutation Yoga lessons if you’re a veteran yoga practitioner. For beginners, it is advisable to start with a basic Hatha Yoga class to learn the fundamentals before advancing into more challenging classes.

Certain yoga poses such as the plank, boat and triangle poses are especially helpful in firming up the mid-section, waistline and arms. The plank pose and its variations requires you to support your body weight using your arms and core muscles, thereby strengthening and firming up these areas. The boat pose is especially useful in toning the upper thighs and mid-section while the triangle pose and its variations stretches the side muscles and targets the waistline. Maximise your practice by keeping your core muscles engaged by tucking in your belly during every yoga pose for a trim and fit waistline.

If you wish to tone and strengthen your core and arm muscles further, you should complement your yoga practice with Pilates. “Pilates is more about spot targeting and going back to the basics,” Sabu explains. “It teaches you which muscles needs contracting and lengthening for better control and allows you to zoom in on problem areas for additional tone-up.” Pilates also encourages better posture in the practitioner. Once you learn how to engage your core muscles and use your improved flexibility and strength to hold your body upright, you are more likely to sit and stand “tall”. This way, you’ll look taller and slimmer without having to grow an inch or lose a pound.

Shape Up for Your Wedding with Yoga

So how often should you practice yoga and Pilates before you see any changes in your body? “Ideally, five times a week,” Sabu urges. “But if that’s not possible, do it 3-4 times a week on a regular basis for any results to surface. Diet should also play a part in any weight loss plan. Try not to deprive yourself of certain foods; the plan might backfire when you over-deprive yourself and end up overeating. Instead, keep to a clean and healthy diet to complement your exercise regime and reward yourself with an occasional treat every now and then.”

It isn’t too difficult to see why yoga is growing increasingly popular, especially among the female population, as a weight loss exercise. Even though yoga is a low-impact exercise, it works the cardiovascular system as hard as and burns just as much as or more fat than high-impact exercises like running do. Veteran yoga practitioners looking to take their yoga practice further or beginners who want to learn the proper way of executing poses can opt for one-to-one yoga sessions with a seasoned yoga instructor. Each yoga practice is only an hour long and with fitness centers specialising in yoga conveniently located around the CBD, there is no reason why you shouldn’t hop onto this bandwagon. Want an alternative closer to home? Then enroll yourself in a yoga class at a community center near you to kick-start your journey with yoga.