Belly fat is the most challenging problem in India’s productive population. The most frequent problems faced by people with belly fat are metabolic problems like lipid disorders, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, coronary artery disease and sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnoea and obesity hypoventilation. This belly fat is difficult to lose despite dietary restrictions and brisk walking.
There is a 44-year-old obese executive who had excessive belly fat, neck fat deposition and complained of heavy snoring, choking during sleep with excessive sleepy behaviour during day time. A sleep test was done for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, a disease characterised by repeated choking and stoppage of respirations during sleep leading to low oxygenation with poor quality sleep. He was asked to lose fat and was put on Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device to control these life threatening problems. Repeated low oxygen state is risky; it affects your neuro-cognitive, cardiac and metabolic functions of the body.
Oxygen is a highly flammable substance that speeds up chemical reactions. In the body, oxygen dilates the vascular system. This increases your metabolism and burns more calories. The more oxygen in your bloodstream, the more energy you will have and the more calories you will burn.
Breathing exercises boosts metabolism also by stimulating your thyroid glands. The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating metabolic rate. Deep breathing releases hormones from thyroid gland that stimulate metabolism and thereby indirectly leads to weight loss.
Fire breathing or belly breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing is a simple deep breathing technique that teaches you how to use your diaphragm, a sheet of muscle at the bottom of our lungs and the most important muscle for breathing. It enhances your oxygenation state, augments respiration and increases your metabolism.
There are various steps for fire breathing exercise. Focus your mind on the middle of your forehead between your eyebrows and about an inch above. This energy centre is called the “Third Eye”. Exhale maximally all the air from your lungs and then some until there’s minimal air left. Inhale slowly through the nose for a four-count. When you feel that you have completely filled your lungs, inhale a couple more sips of air. Hold your breath for an eight-count. In this step, you’ll be “fire breathing” – exhaling and inhaling quickly for several minutes using your abdominal muscles.
Do not pause between your exhales or inhales. Make four, short; powerful exhalations followed by four, short, powerful inhalations. Inhalation must be through the nose and try to make exhalations through the pursed lips, for added abdominal strength. Each four-pulse inhale cycle should fill your lungs to capacity. Each four-pulse exhale cycle should completely empty your lungs. Deliberately expand your abdominal muscles to draw air in and contract them to force air out. Repeat this process for several minutes.
On your last inhale, breathe in just a little bit more and then hold your breath for as long as you can before exhaling.
Practice fire breathing once or twice a day. Unless you have been practicing breathing exercises for a few months, you will most likely only be able to handle one to two minutes of this exercise at a time. Over time, increase your sessions to last five to 10 minutes.
Warning: Always do under guidance by an instructor after medical clearance from your physician.
(The writer is founder, SAANS Foundation)