Yoga- a dynamic science that enables the alignment of our body, mind and soul with universal flow of energy!
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Be it for ultimate devotion of a chosen deity or for awakening the powerful Kundalini; for the realization of the ultimate truth or for controlling and harnessing the power of our mind; the applications of Yoga are myriad. Relieving stress, boosting health and alleviating diseases are perhaps the most desired benefits of Yoga in today’s world.
A lot has been said, written and claimed about the benefits of Yoga practice in individuals with Type II diabetes (T2D). Yoga- one of the most superior among holistic healing practices, is no doubt beneficial in improving health and quality of life in a number of lifestyle disorders, including T2D. Yoga not only helps in amending the metabolic imbalances of T2D, it also helps in enhancing the physical, mental and spiritual balance of an individual.
Is Yoga really beneficial in Type 2 Diabetes? Where is the proof?
The benefits of Yoga in Type 2 diabetes have been scientifically evaluated by many research scholars. Their studies have provided us with valuable information regarding the nature, extent of benefits and also the limitations of Yoga practice in diabetics. Studies which compared Yoga practice with conventional exercise routines have concluded that Yoga practice has a definite edge over regular exercising, in improving the physical and clinical outcomes of Type 2 Diabetes.1
Research studies show that: 2,3,4,5
- Yoga reduces oxidative stress i.e. damage caused by damaging free radicals to our tissues
- Improves glycemic control
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Reduces BMI (Body Mass Index)
- Improves blood pressure
- Improves serum Lipid profile, lowers LDL and increases the beneficial HDL cholesterol
- Reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Improves wellbeing
- Reduces anxiety and improves psychological health
- Reduces mental stress
Yoga also improves blood circulation, stimulates all the vital organs, promotes healthy breathing, soothes the mind, balances our emotions and boosts positive energies.
Which Yoga Asanas/poses are beneficial for Type 2 Diabetes?
Yoga or Hatha Yoga includes a large number of Asanas or poses. Before we begin our Yoga practice, it is best to know the about Asanas which particularly help in Type 2 diabetes.
Our body is governed by 7 Chakras or energy centers which help us absorb andchannelize the universal flow of energies. Manipura chakra, also known as ‘the solar plexus’ or ‘the sun center’ is located behind the navel region. It is the prime energy center governing our digestion and metabolism. Being powered by the Fire element (Teja Mahabhuta), it influences our digestion and sense of sight. Also, psychological elements like clarity of thoughts, happiness, peace, balance, strength, dynamism, achievement and stability are dependent on a well- functioning Manipura chakra. Imbalance or lack of energies in this particular chakra, along with a poorly functioning digestive system leads to various metabolic, digestive and psychological disorders, including Type 2 diabetes! Hence, Yoga practice for Type 2 diabetes must be focused around balancing the energies of Manipura chakra.
Each Yoga pose has its unique effect on augmenting, controlling or balancing our energies. The following poses are beneficial for stimulating and reenergizing the Manipura Chakra-
- Surya Namaskara- The Sun Salutations
- Trikonasana- The Triangle Pose
- Adomukha Svanasana- Downward Facing Dog Pose
- Paschimottanasana- Seated forward bend or Intense Dorsal Stretch
- Ardhamatsyendrasana- The Half Spinal Twist
- Shashankasana- The Moon Pose
- Ushtrasana –The Camel Pose
- Pavanamuktasana- The Wind Liberating Pose
- Naukasana- The Boat Pose
- Halasana- The Plough Pose
- Matsyasana- The fish Pose
- Bhujangasana- The Cobra Pose
- Shalabhasana- The Locust Pose
- Shavasana- The Corpse Pose
Regular practice of these Yoga poses reenergizes the Manipura Chakra and removes any imbalances associated with it. As an added effect, these poses also help in strengthening Swadhisthana chakra (governs the sense of taste and reproduction) and Muladhara chakra (governs the sense of smell and process of excretion) which are located below the Manipura. They tone up our abdominal muscles, improve blood circulation of all the abdominal organs, boost digestion and provide a deep massage to all the organs including pancreas. They also strengthen our body’s intrinsic detoxifying pathways and promote cleansing.
Breathing Exercises or Pranayama beneficial for Type 2 Diabetes are:
- Anuloma Viloma- The Alternate nostril breathing
- Bhramari- Humming Bee Breath or the Bee breathing technique
- Ujjayi Pranayama- The Ocean Breath
- Bhastrika Pranayama- The Bellows Breath
Practice of Pranayama helps in improving and maintaining higher brain functions like memory and concentration in diabetics.6 Also, Pranyama boosts vitality and helps in boosting our metabolism.
Kapalbhati -known as the ‘Breath of Fire’, is yet another popular Yogic breathing technique, especially among weight management enthusiasts. It involves passive inhalation followed by rapid bursts of exhalations. Unlike the popular belief, Kapalbhati is not pranayama, but a purificatory breathing technique (Shuddhi Kriya). It is extremely beneficial for Diabetes and for weight loss due to its profound effects on our digestion and metabolism. However, it is contraindicated for those who suffer from heart diseases, high blood pressure, hernia, vertigo, stroke, epilepsy, colitis, gastric ulcers and in those who have undergone recent surgery . Also, Kapalbhati must be performed under professional consultation and guidance from a Yoga expert in order to avoid complications.
Points to Remember While Considering Yoga Practice:
There is indeed no dearth of information when it comes to yoga practice for T2D. However, there are some key points that must be known to everyone considering practice of yoga for managing this metabolic disorder. They are-
- Yoga practice must be done regularly and systematically in order to reap its benefits.
- Asanas/poses and pranayama (breathing exercises) need to be customized to individual body type. Certain poses and pranayama are contraindicated in certain body types and diseases.
- Yoga is not an alternative to insulin supplement or your routine medicines for the control of diabetes, blood pressure or cardiovascular illnesses. No medicine should be discontinued during Yoga practice without consulting your physician.
- Yoga practice alone is not sufficient for glycemic control and/or weight loss. Managing other lifestyle factors like diet and activity together with Yoga makes the routine most effective.
- Learning Yoga from a trained professional is a must for understanding the correct techniques of practice.
- Certain poses like the Fish pose, Plough pose etc. as well as other poses which involve inversion of body causing the blood rush or pool into head and upper body should be avoided by those who have diabetic retinopathy, high blood pressure, glaucoma and history of cerebral hemorrhages. Also, these poses should be avoided by individuals with Pitta body type.
- People with back and neck injuries should practice Yoga strictly under the guidance of a trained Yoga professional in order to avoid further damage to the spine.
- Rigorous Yoga practice, fats paced Yoga, Hot Yoga etc. should be strictly avoided by people who have Vata or Pitta body type and those with cardiovascular diseases. Relaxation is the first and foremost aim of Yoga, as opposed to excitation and over-stimulation that is often caused by the fast paced Yoga practices.
The benefits of Yoga practice in individuals with Type 2 Diabetes are more than just the physical realm. Including Yogic Meditation along with the practice Asana and Pranayama, can make your practice complete and truly holistic. It is ideal to have a Yoga routine which has been tailor-made to compliment your body type (Prakriti) and your unique health needs, for optimal results.
- Alyson Ross and Sue Thomas. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. January 2010, 16(1): 3-12.
- Hegde SV, Adhikari P, Kotian S, Pinto VJ, D’Souza S, D’Souza V., Effect of 3-month yoga on oxidative stress in type 2 diabetes with or without complications: a controlled clinical trial.Diabetes Care. 2011 Oct;34(10):2208-10.
- Kim E. Innes, and Heather K. Vincent, The Influence of Yoga-Based Programs on Risk Profiles in Adults with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 4 (2007), Issue 4;469-486
- Madhu Kosuri Ph.D.Gumpeny R. Sridhar M.D., D.D., F.A.C.E.. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders. December 2009, 7(6): 515-518.
- Ramesh L. Bijlani, Rama P. Vempati, Raj K. Yadav, Rooma Basu Ray, Vani Gupta, Ratna Sharma, Nalin Mehta, and Sushil C. Mahapatra. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. April 2005, 11(2): 267-274.
- Kyizom Tenzin, Singh Savita, Singh K P, Tandon O P, Kumar Rahul. Effect of pranayama & yoga-asana on cognitive brain functions in type 2 diabetes-P3 event related evoked potential (ERP). Indian Journal of Medical Research. 2010 May; 131(5): 636-640.