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Obesity is caused by a multitude of etiological factors, all of which may be classified under the derangement of Pancha-koshas -- ‘five sheaths’ -- of every being. Triggered by factors inclusive of stress, the derangement of the koshas vitiates metabolism leading to obesity. That is, obesity is caused by and, in turn, causes imbalances even at a cellular level, thus forming a cascading effect.  Thus, obesity is a common place cause of several medical problems and is a risk factor for illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, degenerative arthritis and myocardial infarct. It is hence a major cause of morbidity and mortality and is attended by grave social implications and financial burden.

The established Ayurvedic therapeutic recipe for management of obesity constitutes Virechana and Basthi of the Panchakarma procedure, and rejuvenation schemes such as Udvartana. Since stress is one of the major, immediate or eventual, triggering factors of obesity, stress management, or more comprehensively, mind management, occupies a prime and strategic position in preventing and/or treating obesity. In the present age characterized by hectic living styles and erosion of balanced social values, the havoc played by stress, predominantly in the developed countries, can never be over-emphasized. Yoga as an established mind management manual is well known.

SVYASA University, Bengaluru, studied the ‘Effect of Integrated approach of yoga therapy (IAYT)’ through an intensive residential two-week program involving obese subjects. Sixty eight obese/overweight subjects, 18 to 70 years of age, underwent this IAYT consisting of yogasana, pranayama, meditation, yogic diet, counseling on stress management, discourses on mind management through bhakti yoga, karma yoga and jnana yoga. Parameters measured were, inter alia, (i) body weight, (ii) body mass index (BMI) (iii) mid-arm circumference (MAC), (iv) waist circumference (WC), (v) hip circumference (HC), (vi) Waist-to-hip circumference ratio (W/HC), (vii) blood pressure, (viii) pulse rate and (ix) respiratory rate. Some of the interesting observations were (a) body weight reduction (0.1 to 7.4 kg), (b) BMI reduction (0.04 to 3.04 kg/m2), (c) significant reduction in MAC, WC, HC, diastolic blood pressure, pulse rate and respiratory rate and (d) appreciable increase of slow vital lung capacity. This bears evidence to the hypothesis that yoga therapy, with pranayama as its pivotal component, is efficacious in addressing obesity.

A two-pronged attack involving ayurvedic and yogic therapies stands out in prevention and cure of obesity. The two therapies operate on the five koshas of the individual, thus contributing to overall well-being and enhancing the quality of life.