Treating diabetes with Yoga

Yoga is an effective exercise routine for diabetics

What’s the best exercise for someone with diabetes? According to new studies, Yoga has proved to be the most effective form of exercise for diabetics. Research carried out in India on non-insulin-dependent diabetics resulted in nearly 70% of participants benefiting from Yoga therapy. Another study highlighted increased insulin release from the pancreas when adopting specific Yoga postures. A further study found Yoga to alter insulin levels positively and decrease fasting glucose levels. The evidence, it would seem, backs up what many Yoga practitioners have concluded some time ago – Yoga can help with the treatment of diabetes.

How does Yoga help people with diabetes?

Before we discover how Yoga benefits diabetics, let’s first look at the causes of diabetes and the symptoms to look out for. Diabetes is grouped into two types – Type 1 which is insulin dependent, and Type 2 which is non-dependent and the most common form. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin (the hormone that controls blood sugar levels, or glucose, in the blood). Insulin moves glucose from the blood and into cells where it produces energy. Type 2 diabetes occurs when too little insulin is produced or when cells become resistant to it.

What are the symptoms of diabetes? Diabetes is typically characterised by a persistent urge to urinate, increased thirst and hunger, weight loss, tiredness or fatigue, mood swings and vision that can become blurred. If you have Type 1 diabetes, your condition is managed by insulin shots, exercise and controls on blood pressure and cholesterol. Type 2 diabetics require dietary changes, blood pressure checks, cholesterol management, exercise and potentially, if the condition progresses, insulin shots.

As we see, for both types of diabetes, exercise is a common factor for treatment. From the evidence presented, Yoga can provide the right form of exercise to help control the condition. Exercise in itself lowers blood sugar levels and helps to control weight. Diabetics are at an increased risk of heart disease and exercise is a natural treatment against heart problems. Yoga postures that aid relaxation (known as ‘asanas’) are able to rejuvenate pancreatic cells (the cells involved in insulin production). Asanas also exercise muscles, which in turn, helps to reduce blood sugar levels and improve circulation (bad circulation is one of the main complications of diabetes). However, there’s something else that makes Yoga that much more effective than other forms of exercise when treating diabetes.

Yoga reduces stress in diabetics

One factor that has a profound effect on treating diabetes is stress management. Controlling the amount of mental stress you are placed under is one of the keys to controlling diabetes. When we’re stressed, our blood sugar levels increase and elevated blood sugar levels increase the chances of heart disease, infections and strokes. Yoga has been found to lower the stress hormone known as ‘cortisol’ and the postures and breathing exercises, coupled with meditation, also have a big impact on stress reduction. As an exercise regime, it is more beneficial in reducing stress than regular exercise and also helps to focus the mind and change attitudes. Diabetes is a life-altering condition and having the right mental approach to dealing with it will relax and restore mental balance.

If you are already a diabetic, or have just been diagnosed with the condition, consider Yoga as your choice of regular exercise.

Article submitted by
Daniel Alexander, GoToSee Journalist

Date published
05/11/08

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