Most of us have at some point been in pursuit of an ideal body shape that makes us feel comfortable in and happy to show off in clothes that fit well. For many, this can prove an elusive dream, with an estimated 95% of diets doomed to failure. Ancient healing practices like Ayurveda take a more holistic view: To be able to lose weight and create the body shape we desire, we must first understand how and why we gain weight. It might be because of poor lifestyle and eating habits; genetic factors; medications; pregnancy; hormone imbalances and more. Often, it’s a combination of many of these.
There are a number of natural, noninvasive ways to achieve a toned body using a gentler, more integrated approach. Taking a holistic attitude to body contouring—as outlined in healing modalities like Ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy—has many benefits. Not only is the body shape gently modified, but overall health and well-being is preserved and often enhanced.
From a supportive diet to herbal powders, yoga asanas to TDA thermal repair, noninvasive methods may take longer but remain the most enduring and life-enhancing. Many have been practiced within traditional cultures for millennia and work together to create a system reset. Here, I will outline some of the most effective and powerful body contouring methods.
Udwarthanam is an ancient Ayurvedic sudation (sweating) massage therapy that uses a combination of herbal powders to induce dilatation of superficial microchannels and pores in the body. This eases blockages by reducing excess skin moisture and enhancing nutrient transportation. Other benefits include: the removal of dead cells and metabolic byproducts from the deeper layers of skin; the reduction of serum lipid levels in the body, which is beneficial for the reduction of cellulite; and cell rejuvenation for greater skin elasticity. The hot potency of the herbs also helps mobilize and liquify fat cells, moving them to the lymphatic system to flow out of the body.
According to an individual’s fat constitution, udwarthanam can be performed as “dry” (ruksha) or “unctuous” (snigdha). Ruksha involves dry herbal powders that are massaged into the skin, an intense procedure indicated for obesity, loose and wrinkled skin, diabetic neuropathy, paralytic conditions and more. In cases where there are only moderate fat deposits in the body, snigdha is used, where herbal powders are mixed with oil and other decoctions for the massage therapy.
Based on each individual’s body constitution and dosha imbalances, different Ayurvedic blends are selected.
Kolakulathadi powder: The herbs in this powder are horse gram, cedarwood, gooseberry, mustard, dill seed and black gram. They have hot, dry and light qualities, helpful for reducing subcutaneous fat, toning up the skin and easing various neurological conditions. Massaging the herbs in the direction of blood flow enhances the absorption of ingredients.
Triphala choornam: Also used for reducing adipose fat and firming the skin, the ingredients in this herbal concoction are Indian gooseberry, ink nut and bahera. This particular blend can also be taken as an internal supplement for weight loss, thanks to its gently laxative and detoxifying properties.
Naturopathic Mud Therapy
Mud baths have long been used for joint and muscle pain; they have recently gained even more popularity as a detox therapy. Their ability to improve superficial microcirculation and, importantly, lymphatic drainage make them ideal for body contouring. The mud’s natural binding action and temperature elevation encourage subcutaneous vascular changes; when the vessels dilate, circulation improves and allows for the possibility of higher subcutaneous fat metabolism.
When used regularly on targeted areas, mud therapy can also induce collagen formation, while mud’s natural minerals—such as silica, iron and calcium—help promote cell renewal to delay signs of aging. Mineral content varies depending on the physical and chemical properties of the mud. Those recommended for body contouring include black mud, Dead Sea mud, moor mud, silt sulphide mud, sapropelic mud, peat mud and hill mud.
We see the best results from mud baths when they are used on targeted areas in combination with nutritional therapy and yoga practices.
Sculpting Exercises and Dynamic Yoga
Weight training, resistance training and strength training exercises use external or body weight to work the muscles, meaning minimal equipment or tools are required. Such accessible body sculpting exercises deliver many benefits, including improved bone and joint strength, lean muscle mass and an enhanced metabolism.
Meanwhile, combining dynamic yoga with yogic breathing helps further tone the body. The following postures are great body contouring practices:
Sun salutation with breathing synchronization, eight to twelve rounds
Paschimottanasana: posterior stretch pose
Ardha-matsyendrasana: half lord of fishes pose
Vakrasana: twisted pose
Bhastrika pranayama: bellow’s breath
Paschimottanasana, ardha-matsyendrasana and vakrasana all target the health of the pancreas and liver, which is necessary for effective fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Bellow’s breath is good for stimulating metabolism and mobilizing abdominal fat, due to the nature of abdominal movements during the practice.
Stem Cell Remodeling
Although it sounds high-tech, stem cell remodeling is entirely natural and uses only organic products and ingredients. Practiced in many spa and wellness spaces in various forms, it consists of exfoliation, anti-cellulite massage, and gel and cream application before wrapping targeted areas in stretchable cotton bandages.
This procedure produces firmer, healthier skin. The key ingredients are the bougainvillea stem cells, which increase the synthesis of collagen, elastin fibers and proteoglycans—aka the support network of the skin. The best results are achieved through multiple sessions and in combination with other treatment modalities.
TDA Thermo Repair
Until relatively recently, penetration to the deeper skin layer was only possible using invasive methods. TDA technology uses pure oxygen and an LP3 complex to gently and painlessly open the lamellar structure of the epidermis by up to 65%, enabling active ingredients to reach the deeper skin layers for smoother, healthier skin overall.
Proven to stimulate lymphatic flow and blood circulation, TDA thermo repair technology reduces the appearance of cellulite and supports the process of fat metabolism. It also intensively moisturizes and, when used in conjunction with a ginger-infused serum, helps strengthen weak connective tissues. TDA is recommended in tandem with other physical treatments.
Laser body contouring targets areas of stubborn fat and painlessly emulsifies fat cells under the skin. Once the fatty lipids are released, fat cells naturally collapse and the lipids enter the lymphatic system to be broken into free fatty acids and used as energy in the cardiovascular system.
Such laser treatments help treat stiff fat, or hypertrophic adipocytes, which usually accumulates in the lower abdomen or thighs. This modality also increases collagen formation and stabilizes the fibrotic septae collagen, a thin band that helps prevent skin sagging. The overall result? Skin that looks more firm, toned and youthful.
At AyurMa, we prefer the Verju Laser, which uses an FDA-approved green laser to stimulate the body’s own natural processes and achieve results. The number of sessions varies depending on body type, but the overall recommendation is at least six sittings targeting the area of concern, followed by lymphatic drainage massage.
All of the above-mentioned treatments must be supported with diet and exercise, which can include yoga. Exact dietary recommendations change depending upon individual health conditions and body constitutions, which is why the individual approach of Ayurveda makes this a very powerful area of transformation.
The aim of dietary body contouring recommendations is to reduce fat and enhance lean muscle mass. The first step is to reduce portion sizes while increasing the frequency of meals. Snacks like almonds help lower cholesterol levels and block the absorption of certain fats. It’s encouraged to ingest healthy fats, such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, ghee, omega 3 fatty acid, etc. Complex carbohydrates found in brown rice, sprouted grain breads, millet and quinoa are important to fuel the brain and muscles, and swapping refined grains for whole grains can also help trim the waistline.
Foods rich in essential vitamins and minerals are required to nourish connective tissue and stimulate cellular regeneration. Citrus fruits, carrots, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, soybeans, lentils, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate are some of the key components of a body contouring diet.
Taking an integrated approach to body contouring creates a long-term solution to a common problem. Unless the individual slips back into a very sedentary lifestyle, they have made changes that will keep them healthy and strong for life. In addition to a better diet and more exercise, being free of extra fat, wrinkles or loose skin creates a deeper sense of well-being. This improves not only our physical and mental health, but boosts us on an emotional level, supporting our overall capacity to enjoy life to the fullest.
Dr. Arun K. Tomson is a naturopathic physician and director of AyurMa at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, where he heads an expert team in creating bespoke therapeutic programs that unite Ayurveda, yoga, planetary well-being and wellness. Dr. Tomson helps individuals discover their body’s ability to heal itself through diet, exercise and natural methods of treatment.