How to get bikini ready!

By Charlotte Dodson

It’s time to get your body out of those warm, tightly-wrapped clothes and out into the summer sun’s embrace! So let’s do it.. let’s lose any extra pounds that are just ‘hanging around’, and get toned up and strengthened, too,in order to feel lighter and build excitement in anticipation of summer’s arrival. Practicing any type of yoga will build strength and tighten the body’s shape, but some forms of the practice may not raise your heart rate enough to make them the only form of exercise you need to include in your weight loss regime. It depends on what type of yoga you choose to participate in, and how frequently you practice it. In order to lose weight, you must eat healthily, and burn calories by doing exercises that raises your heart rate on a regular basis (ie., 3 to 4 times per week).

Maintaining a routine, and employing a flowing dynamic practice, are two good places to start. Even 20 minutes of a ‘powerful’ practice, performed daily, will soon add up to hours and weeks of physique-enhancing workouts that will make you look and feel fabulous. So try not to brush a short practice aside – with just a little bit of effort, done with regularity, you will keep building strength, massaging your organs and toning your whole being.

Yoga is a well-being investment that your body will be truly thankful to experience – but how can yoga help you lose weight and tone up? Yoga can help reduce weight because it has no ‘break-down’ side effects on your body. It ensures that you will become proportionate to your own body weight in accordance to your height and lifestyle. Yoga acts on the metabolic systems of your body as well as on your fat cells. As you breathe deeply while assuming every pose and movement, it increases the oxygen intake to the cells of your body, including the fat cells – which are ‘consumed’ in the presence of so much oxygen. Also, the practice of yoga can de-stress your mind-body connections, and help you to overcome anxiety – a major cause of overeating. Some of the yoga poses can help control your weight through stimulating your lethargic thyroid glands, thus increasing their hormonal secretions, which leads to weight reduction.

Remember, also, that yoga is a practice that encompasses your whole being, not just the physical side. It’ll feed positivity into all areas of your mental, emotional and spiritual life, and you’ll reap the rewards of a toned and sculpted body shape as an added bonus. Now it’s all in place – there’s no time better time to do it than RIGHT NOW!

Go go go!

You’ve just got to decide and commit to the next few weeks (which will naturally lead into months!) of a regular yoga practice. There’s a fine line with ‘working your edge’ and it’s important to put your full awareness, effort and heart into everything you do, including your yoga practice. The key element to yoga (and your every day living) is your BREATH. It’s your anchor to the present moment. Start in a cross legged position, hands folded into prayer. Keep your chin tucked into your throat and take a few (deeper than normal) breaths. Your lips are closed as you breathe through both nostrils, tongue resting on the top palate of your mouth. As you breathe, there’s a slight rasping sound, this is called the ‘ocean’ breath. This subtle sound is something you can hear throughout your whole practice. It keeps you focused and mentally aware of every movement and pose you make, taking you deeper within. Take a round of approx. 20 long deep breaths with this ‘ocean’ sound and to release, come back to your normal breathing rhythm.

Be lighter

Bounce through summer by being a few kilos lighter! As we twist and turn, it empties and releases your belly, creating lightness and allowing you to get deeper into your practice. Stand at the top of your mat. Bend your knees if your back is tender. Bring one hand to the opposite foot, and turn from your belly, chest and shoulder. Keep your chin tucked in as you look up to your top raised arm. If your neck’s tender, please look down to your base foot. Hold and breathe deeply for 10 breaths before repeating to the other side. To really empty you can repeat both sides again. To add a greater strength dimension to the pose, twist a little more on every exhalation to squeeze, and massage your digestive organs and activate your belly muscles.

Tone up

Ready for a slender and trim body shape? Yoga is a muscular practice, and we use our muscles to ‘lift’ out of our joints. The best way to tone your muscles is to lengthen and strengthen them at the same time. But how do we know if we’re ‘sitting’ in our joints? Usually, if you’re locking your joints, you’ll find that your knees are locked back; or, seeing your elbows jarred further inward than your arm is a good indication. Best way out of this situation is to bend them all. Begin in ‘downward facing dog’ with your arms and legs bent. This way you can’t ‘sit’ in your joints, you have to use your muscular strength. As you bend your elbows, keep them in towards your side waist and as you bend your knees, keep your hips lifting up and back. Press firmly into your palms and the balls of your feet. Keep your chin tucked into your throat and breathe deeply. Hold this for 5-20 breaths before resting into child pose. Repeat another 2-3 times as you feel appropriate. If your body starts to shake, it’s an indication that your body is catching up with your nervous system – breathe through it for a few breaths and rest, before continuing as you feel comfortable.

Remember to be kind, and not to over stay in any pose or throw yourself into any movement – use your true inner strength, which builds in power the more you practice the poses.

Dynamic movement

Shift and move! Now we’re going to incorporate the power of your breathing and ‘downward facing dog’ into this next sequence. As we work to move constantly, it’ll get your heart rate up and will build stamina and endurance. Follow this next mini sequence with determination (no force) and you’ll be amazed with your results. This powerful movement will increase your heart rate and allow you to start shedding pounds.
*From ‘downard facing dog’ (as above)
*Inhale forward to the ‘high plank’ and hold for 5 breaths. Make sure you don’t dip your hips or your lower back; keep your chin into your throat and lift up slightly inbetween your shoulder blades. Keep your wrists and shoulders aligned and heels working towards the back of your mat. *Exhale to lower down to ‘chatturanga’ (option, drop to your knees) and squeeze your elbows by your sides – hold and take 5 breaths
*Inhale back up to the ‘high plank’ – hold for 5 breaths
*Exhale back into into downward facing dog – hold and breathe for 5 breaths.
Repeat this 5 times or more and move powerfully with your breath. Breathe fully and deeply into every part of this sequence to get your blood flowing and muscles activating.

Flat belly

Want to look trim in your summer swimwear? Something that we all strive for: a flat, toned belly. As you follow the essential good health food rules, a taut, muscular abdominal wall will become visible. ‘Boat Pose’ – come onto your sit bones and hold onto your legs out in front of you. Slowly draw your toes away from the floor, hovering onto your sit bones and with your legs up, straight if you can; otherwise keep your knees bent if your lower back is sore. Release your arms from your legs and bring them parallel to the floor, keeping your biceps strong and legs together. Take your gaze to your pointed toes. Belly, legs and upper body active and fully alert. Hold and breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths, release your toes to the floor to rest for a few breaths before repeating another 2-3 times. For a additional variation, drop your finger tips down to one side, twisting from your belly in your boat pose. Hold and breathe for 5-10 breaths and repeat to the other side.

Relax

Ensure that, after any short practice, you lay in ‘savasana’. It lets your body absorb everything you have done, and digest all the wisdom of the practice into the wholeness of your being. As you feel energised and glowing from your yoga practice, not only will you look and feel bikini ready, you’ll notice that your food decisions and daily emotional choices start to improve, and this (in turn) feeds positively into the rest of your daily life. So the next time you go to your supermarket, choose wisely, and you’ll bounce through your practice being lighter and meet the challenges of your everyday life with added confidence – in no time at all!

Photography | atdusk.com.au | louisasetonphotography.com.au