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Yoga and Diabetes

28 May 2015

The practice of yoga asana and pranayama is effective both as a preventive measure and also a treatment for Type 2 diabetes, where the causes are generally attributed to unhealthy lifestyle choices and stress.

Unlike any most other forms of exercise, yoga involves a unique set of poses (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation techniques that can help you deal with diabetes.

Here are just a few of yoga’s many benefits:

  • • Decreases stress, which may help make blood glucose levels more manageable in people with Type 1 diabetes or Type 2 diabetes
  • • Decreases the risk of injury from daily activities
  • • Helps promote relaxation and a feeling of wellness
  • • Improves balance, strength, and coordination
  • • Increases range of motion
  • • Keeps joints flexible and healthy

Yoga practice will also teach you how to cope with your condition because it gives you the necessary tools to put you in greater control of your diabetes. Breathing and meditation techniques can be especially powerful, enabling you maintain a positive attitude.

Yoga Asana Practice Speeds Nerve Impulses

One of the major problems for long term diabetes sufferers is nerve damage due to constant high sugar levels in the body. This nerve damage leads to the slowing of nerve impulses, decreased sensation, numbness of the feet (neuropathy), and poor bowel function.

How does yoga help? Scientists at Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, in Delhi, India, studied a group of 20 Type 2 diabetic subjects between the ages of 30-60 years. Their goal was to see whether certain Yoga asanas had any effect on nerve conduction. The Yoga asanas included Suryanamskar Tadasan, Konasan, Padmasan Pranayam, Shavasan, Pavanmukthasan, Sarpasan and Shavasan. These asanas were performed for 40 minutes every day in succession for 40 days in the above sequence. The subjects continued their normally prescribed medicines and diet. Blood sugar and nerve conduction velocity of the median nerve (in the hand) were measured and then repeated after 40 days of the Yogic regime. Another group of 20 type 2 diabetes subjects of comparable age and severity (called the control group), were kept on prescribed medication and diet but only engaged in light physical exercises like walking. Their initial and post 40 day’s parameters were also recorded for comparison.

At the end of the 40 days, those who practiced the yoga asanas had improved the nerve impulse in their hands. The measurements showed hand nerve conduction velocity increased from 52.8 meters per second to 53.8 m/sec. The control group’s nerve function actually deteriorated over the 40 day period of study, indicating that diabetes is a slowly progressive disease involving the nerves. The authors conclude that yoga asanas have a beneficial effect on blood sugar control and improve nerve function in type 2 diabetics who have mild nerve damage. This study conclusively shows that yoga asana practice not only slows the progression of the disease but also increases nerve conductivity.

Yoga Asana Practice Lowers Blood Sugar in Diabetics

Certain yoga asanas, when practiced regularly, are now known to have a host of beneficial effects on human body including diabetes. Researchers at the University College of Medical Sciences, in Shahdara, New Delhi studied 24 patients aged 30-60 years old who had non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (aka, Type 2 diabetes). Type 1 diabetics require insulin, while Type II diabetics are commonly treated with diet, exercise, and oral medications that lower blood sugar. These researchers then evaluated the baseline fasting blood sugar levels of the patients in the study, and they also performed pulmonary function studies that measure lung capacity including the amount of air that can be exhaled within the first second of a rapid exhale.

After these basic tests were completed, yoga experts gave these patients training in specific yoga asanas. The yoga asana practice, which included breathing exercises (pranayama), was done for 40 minutes a day and continued for 40 consecutive days. These asanas consisted of 13 well known and common postures, always done in the same sequence. After 40 days of this yoga asana regimen, the testing was repeated. The results indicated that there was significant decrease in fasting blood sugar levels (from about 190 initially to 140) after the 40 day period of yoga asana practice. Fasting blood sugar in people without diabetes is normally 120 or below.

The pulmonary function studies showed an average improvement of about 10% in total lung capacity. These findings have shown that better blood sugar control and overall pulmonary function can be achieved in diabetics when they stick to a regular daily schedule of yoga asana practice combined with pranayama.

The precise mechanism as to how these asanas and controlled breathing interact with physio-neuro-endocrine systems affecting blood sugar and pulmonary functions remain elusive thus far.

10 Yoga Poses for Defeating Diabetes – a few poses to get you started from Rodale News, click on: http://www.rodalenews.com/yoga-diabetes 

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

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