For those who wish to lose weight, pranayama can help reduce physical food consumption.
You won’t feel like overeating, because you get all the nourishment you need from the prana itself.
– Swami Satchidananda, The Breath of Life: Integral Yoga Pranayama
Not too long ago, I battled belly bloat almost daily, thanks to SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
I felt uncomfortable so much of the time, and frustrated too, because it seemed like no matter what I did – my gut just wasn’t happy… and it was sure to let me know.
On top of that, thanks to my anxiety, I sometimes emotionally stress-eat when I feel particularly challenged, overwhelmed, or overloaded.
During those times I’ll crave comfort food like potato chips, pizza, and chocolate cake.
And even though the potato chips are organic, the pizza is gluten and dairy-free, and the Sweet Laurel Bakery cake is gluten-free and dairy-free too, I’ve realized the hard way – making these food choices often isn’t going to help my gut or mood.
So I turned to my yogic practice for guidance on how to better manage my cravings and digestive issues.
Through the research, I learned that yogic breathwork (pranayama) could be a proven potent addition to mindful and clean eating, hydration, sleep, supplements, body movement, and emotional management through meditation and yoga.
Adopting a regular pranayama practice can help the body to better receive the gifts of clean food, pure water, deep rest, quality nutrition, mindful movement, and effective stress management.
It amplifies and enhances the effects doing “all the right things.”
We can use breath regulation as a simple meditative practice to support our fitness and digestive health goals.
Pranayama is breathwork technology used for thousands of years as an effective tool for self-regulation, and the cultivation of mental, emotional, and physical health… this includes digestive health, too!
The word literally translates to:
Regulation of prana (vital force energy) via the breath.The regular, consistent practice of #pranayama offers us a proven way to manage food cravings, appetite, and digestion more efficiently. Click To Tweet
A Daily Pranayama Practice Aids Weight Management in 3 Ways:
1- Helps lower cortisol, aka the stress hormone.
Deep breathing is a common component in yogic breathwork.
It’s also referred to as belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing because breathing in this way expands the lower belly and engages the diaphragm, the muscle underneath your lungs and over your digestive organs.
Several studies indicate that diaphragmatic breathing can help mitigate the stress response thereby lowering cortisol levels. (1)
This is awesome news because high cortisol levels have been linked to weight gain and weight loss resistance. (2)
2 – Helps balance blood pH levels, which leads to fewer cravings and reduced appetite.
Every deep, conscious breath you take during your pranayama practice helps to regulate your blood pH levels which directly impacts your food cravings and appetite.
Unconscious breathing resulting from stress and/or anxiety can sometimes lead to over-breathing or taking in bigger breaths than necessary.
Over-breathing creates an imbalance in your blood pH causing it to become too alkaline, which triggers the body to try to balance this out by craving acidic foods (ie: sugary processed foods) and increasing your appetite.
The pH scale measures the level of acidity and alkalinity in your body.
It’s a scale that goes from 1 to 14.
Values 1-6 indicate acidity with 1 being the most acidic level, 7 is neutral (the Goldilocks Zone is around 7.35 – 7.45), and values 8 to 14 indicate alkalinity.
You inhale oxygen, which is alkaline, and therefore raises blood pH levels.
You exhale carbon dioxide, which is acidic, and therefore lowers blood pH levels.
Your body is extremely intelligent, and always striving for a balance point (the Goldilocks Zone) so when levels get too high or too low mechanisms kick in the bring the scales back to balance.
Yoga trainer and physiotherapist Simon Borg-Olivier explains this mechanism like this:
“The body will balance what you do with your breathing, with what you do with the rest of your life.
And the most significant thing to affect pH or acid-alkaline balance is what you put inside yourself in terms of your food.
If you breathe in a way where you become very alkaline by breathing in too much and blowing off all the carbon dioxide, you will start to crave lots of food, because most food is acidic.
And so the more you breathe the more you’ll want to eat.” (3)
Regular pranayama practice helps you cultivate the habit of breath awareness so you avoid or reduce any over-breathing patterns you may have.
In fact, in its essence, pranayama is a breath reduction practice that can help optimize virtually every system in your body.
3 – Helps better manage stress and anxiety by activating your body’s ‘rest-and-digest’ relaxation response, (and therefore helps you tackle emotional eating while improving digestion.)
Numerous studies outline the beneficial effects of a regular pranayama practice in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depressive disorders.
This is because the simple act of breathing mindfully has the power to send safety signals to the brain, which activates your body’s ability to relax and calm down, thereby enhancing digestion which supports your metabolism and can reduce bloating. (4)
Also, the calmer you feel the more in control you will be regarding your food choices, which will help reduce automatic emotional eating.
According to breathing coach for Olympic athletes and author of “The Oxygen Advantage,” Patrick McKeown using breath reduction techniques like nostril breathing and breath holding (both of which are also pranayama components, by the way) can not only suppress appetite but also increase calorie burning and accelerate weight loss:
“For over a decade I have witnessed hundreds of people achieve a safe method of appetite suppression leading to steady, effective weight loss using breath reduction techniques.
… People often found themselves to be eating more healthfully with less desire for processed food and more demand for water.
What’s more, this weight loss and change to better eating habits occurred easily and without effort.
In many cases weight loss was actually a secondary benefit, as most participants were applying the breathing exercises to remedy asthma, anxiety, or snoring.
The only instruction they were given with regard to their diet was to eat when hungry and stop when satisfied.” (5)
Practice This Simple Pranayama Exercise AT LEAST 5 Minutes Daily!
And finally, here is a simple yet proven breathwork exercise you can practice daily.
The more you practice this routine the better, but do at least five minutes daily to gain the true benefits.
Follow the prompts and just breathe along with me below:
(5) McKeown, Patrick. The Oxygen Advantage: The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques for a Healthier, Slimmer, Faster, and Fitter You.