Ayurvedic Weight Loss (Part 2): Stress Reduction

By Dr. Harrison Graves, MD
September 20, 2016


In our last blog we discovered how Ayurveda has given us the tools for losing weight and keeping it off.  We learned what to eat and when and the reason why fad diets don’t work. Right lifestyle is the key to successful weight management. That lifestyle includes not only right foods but also right stress reduction.
In this blog we’ll look at the reasons why  stress = weight gain. You will also discover the #1 way to destress —  the stress-busting practice of conscious breathing, or pranayama.

Is Stress Causing Your Weight Gain?
For many of us, stress is a fact of life. Unfortunately, stress is also a fact of fat. “Even if you usually eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight—or even add pounds,” says Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women.

The Cortisol Connection
Few of us reach for carrots in stressful situations. Instead we go for the cupcake or the Krispy Kreme. Why? According to Elissa Epel, PhD, a researcher on stress eating at the University of California, San Francisco, ”We crave sweet, salty, and high-fat foods because they stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that reduce tension.” This soothing effect becomes addictive. When you become anxious, you start to crave fattening foods.


Krispy Kreme

Whenever you are having a stressful day, your brain instructs your cells to pump out more cortisol, that damaging stress hormone. When cortisol skyrockets, food cravings appear.
Cortisol also drives up the blood pressure and the blood sugar. It encourages the body to store fat. It tells the body to replenish energy, even if few calories have been used up.
Unfortunately, the body will keep on producing cortisol as long as the stress continues. For that reason,  stress reduction is a critical component of weight management.

Ayurvedic Stress Management
Obviously, getting completely rid of all stress isn’t an option. But by taking steps to beat stress, you can get your cortisol levels and your weight under control—and improve your health. Let’s look at one of the most effective tools for managing stress and lowering cortisol: conscious breathing, or pranayama.
Breathing with a Purpose: Pranayama
Both Yoga and Ayurveda, the healing branch of yogic science, have given us the tools to reduce the effects of life stress. Perhaps the most effective (and fastest) stress reduction practice is conscious breathing, breathing with a purpose.
The yogic science of breath (pranayama) links body, breath, mind and spirit. Just as a kite string links the kite-flier to his kite, the breath links the mind with the universal life force, cosmic prana. In Yoga, conscious breathing is a unique way to soothe the nervous system and influencing stress-related disorders.

Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY)
One of the most powerful pranayamas in Yoga is the Sudarshan Kriya, taught at Art of Living centers around the world. Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) is a special breath technique that calms the mind and energizes the body.  Sudarshan means “proper vision” and kriya is a Sanskrit term for “purifying action.” Here purifying means to make sattvic —  balanced, centered and calm.
Sudarshan Kriya Yoga has been taught to more than 6 million people in 152 countries worldwide. SKY has been reported to be effective not only for treating stress and anxiety, but also for PTSD, depression, stress-related medical illness and substance abuse.
A recent article in the International Journal of Yoga, “Sudarshan Kriya Yoga: Breathing for Health,” highlighted the benefits of this powerful technique on the body-mind. The article states, “rather than allowing the emotions to alter the breath (and cause physiological changes which may prove unhealthy), one can skillfully use the breath to transform one’s emotional state.”
Besides reducing stress, SKY helps the body burn more fat. It boosts oxygen and stokes the digestive fire. In this respect, pranayama (regulating the flow of breath and energy through working with the breath) is instrumental in natural weight loss.
For those interested in learning the The Sudarshan Kriya, it is taught at AOLRC each month in the Happiness Program weekend workshops.

In this blog we learned how stress is a major contributing factor for weight gain.  For optimal weight management, we must learn how to manage life stress. Yoga and Ayurveda have given us the tools for stress reduction. One of the most effective tools for stress management is conscious breathing, or pranayama, like the Sudarshan Kriya. The Sudarshan Kriya is taught in the AOLRC Happiness Program each month.

Question:  What is the fastest way to reduce the effects of stress on the body-mind?

Comments? Please share your favorite way to de-stress, using the comment box below.


And to learn more about Ayurveda’s holistic approach to weight management, please check out the ebook: Weight Loss with Ayurveda.


weight loss guide from retreat center


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


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happiness program patricia pranayama

Happiness Program: Recovering From Illness & Sustaining Happiness

By Andrew
May 21, 2016

For this blog, we were fortunate to join Patricia as she explains some ways the Happiness Program transformed her experience of illness.


Being comfortable in the present moment brings me happiness and I just think we’re supposed to feel good. This breathing works very well for me. Also, just paying attention to what’s happening and appreciating that. Lots of appreciation and gratitude help me with that. And meditation.


From Illness to Happiness

I was very, very ill and my father passed away in the early part of that illness. And so I was grieving while being very ill. The only thing that seems to help me other than allopathic medicine was pranayama (yogic breath-work). So I had been praying for more and more pranayama.

the happiness program patricia pranayama

After my dad passed my children agreed that a silent retreat was a good thing for me to do. With their help, I was fortunate enough to take what I thought was a week-long silent meditation retreat up in Boone with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, but it turned out to include the Art of Happiness Program first. And then, Christmas day, the silent retreat part began. I didn’t know I was going to get more pranayama. I got so much pranayama! I was so blessed by it and immediately felt the health benefits. It was a complete change; when I got back people looked at me and said things like “Well, you’re back in the saddle again.” I was much healthier right away.

It was a complete change; when I got back people looked at me and said things like “Well, you’re back in the saddle again.” I was much healthier right away.

Health Benefits

The medication and the actual illness were very disturbing to the mind. Yet my mind became clear and I became more comfortable in my body. Another health benefit I’ve noticed is that even though I had this one thing, I never caught anything else. Whereas other people would get the cold and stuff, but I was not ever ill with anything else besides this one thing which troubled me. So it interesting to watch people get sinus infections and things, but not me. Also, people commented on my skin all the time so I think it’s helped with anti-aging. That’s a benefit!

I just want to say that the SKY breathing, for me, makes whatever circumstances going on in my life that are not so great seem really unimportant.

I would say let’s focus on the good; let’s quiet the mind. Let’s save our souls and our bodies. And let’s breathe.


Editor’s Note: Thanks for joining us. If you’d like to learn more about approaches to happiness and try out some techniques and guided meditations online, get the Happiness Program Starter Kit Series.

the starter kit


Patricia is a retired English as a Second Language teacher who resides in Winston-Salem.


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


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TAGS: art of living , breathwork , experience , happiness , pranayama

Thanksgiving – How to Stay Calm During the Storm

By Alexandra Epple
November 23, 2015

Recently I have had numerous conversations with clients who have Thanksgiving-phobia…. Well, maybe not phobia but apprehension. Things around the holiday are always really busy. The family wants to be taken care of, kids and grand-kids want to be fed, the house needs to be cleaned, etc., and the whole family thing in itself can be stressful.

What I also hear from my clients is a desire to stay calm and centered, even when they are the ones organizing the event, hosting people and taking responsibility for a great Thanksgiving meal.

Here is my #1 tip to stay centered, peaceful and calm in the light of the storm.
Here it goes. You ready?




I know, I know. Not world shattering advice, but you know what?
IT WORKS. And it’s FREE.

Of course we breathe all the time BUT when we get busy our breathing gets faster and moves up into the chest. When things get cranking, take a deep and full belly breath to calm your nerves and center your mind.

The crux of the issue is: you HAVE TO REMEMBER to do it. In times of intensity we often RESIST breathing deeper. As if being stressed out is more acceptable than being relaxed. I don’t know about you, but that is how I grew up. I had to retrain my mind to believe that being relaxed in a stressful situation is totally okay, that it in fact is the better way. You can choose how you feel.


Sooo….If you want to be relaxed during the holidays…take deep belly BREATHS intermittently.


You can do it anywhere:

  • cooking in the kitchen
  • setting the table
  • talking to your kids
  • cleaning up
  • washing dishes
  • hanging out

…you get the message?


Taking a breath is easy. Free. Helpful. Relaxing. Rejuvenating. Unobtrusive. Centering. Calming.

And it contributes to a harmonious family gathering.


Thanks for this special guest post by Alexandra Epple, of nirvanawellness.org, a teacher based in Nevada City, CA. 


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: breathwork , holidays

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