28 February 2017Yoga for Preventing and Managing Diabetes

Last month, I wrote about the benefits of adding strength training to cardio exercise for preventing or managing type 2 diabetes. Yes, it is best to keep cardio and strength training at the core of your exercise routine. However, now let’s venture beyond cardio-centric guidelines for diabetes and explore the benefits of adding yoga to your exercise plan for improved flexibility, balance and stress reduction.

Why are flexibility, balance, and stress reduction important for diabetes?

Flexibility is the ability to move a joint through a complete range of motions. Limited joint flexibility is often observed in diabetes. It is thought that with diabetes, there is an accelerated degree of accumulated deposits in body tissue that can lead to mechanical joint stiffness. Studies show that flexibility exercises may reduce the risk of falling and decrease body pain for those with diabetes. Personally, having had a developing yoga practice for 16 years, I am absolutely convinced of its benefits for flexibility, body strength and relaxation. Common sense says that yoga is good for us, and now, evidence-based medicine is starting to confirm it. At this point, there are limited studies that explore the benefits of yoga for managing diabetes. Studies, primarily from India, are showing positive outcomes for those with diabetes, including improved glucose control, lower lipids, improved nerve function and lowered blood pressure. Managing stress is important for diabetes because elevated stress hormones can elevate glucoses and can trigger a cascade of negative health outcomes, like heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga can help center the mind and teaches deep and restorative breathing. It’s funny, before I began practicing yoga, my shoulders were practically attached to my ears and my breathing was shallow. Take a deep breath.

Yoga Basics and Ideas for Starting a Practice

Yoga has been around for centuries, having originated in India. It’s a holistic approach to physical activity that includes body, mind and spirit. There are many different styles of yoga (hatha, kundalini, vinyasa flow). Do some research, and find a style that appeals to you. Explore yoga videos on YouTube or go to Yoga Alliance. Ask around for recommendations for local classes. Some studios offer free or discounted intro sessions.

Develop your own personal yoga practice. It’s not a competitive sport. Keeping focused on your own practice is an important yoga theme so that you modify poses for maximum benefit without injury. Comparing your poses to your neighbor may actually cause injury if you are trying to keep up and aren’t focusing on how your body feels. When you enter a yoga class, it’s customary to leave your shoes at the door. Yoga is usually practiced barefoot on a mat while wearing loose clothing. Many yoga classes have mats, stretch belts and blocks for use. Most yoga classrooms have mirrors so you can observe your poses. A good yoga instructor provides clear instruction. If a class sounds like too much for you, start with a 10 minute yoga DVD at home. That’s how I started my practice, in the morning when my children were young and still nestled in bed. I moved on to add a PM session and have evolved from there. A live class, however, is helpful in getting expert guidance on poses from the instructor.

Keep it Safe

If you have diabetes or other medical issues, consult with your healthcare team before starting a new exercise plan, including yoga. Muscle or skeletal issues might prevent you from twisting or bending over, while eye complications from diabetes may mean no bending over at all. Some yoga forms are more restorative and gentle whereas others are more athletic and strengthening. The beauty of yoga is that you can modify all poses and movements to make it your unique practice. And always remember to give yourself well-deserved credit by recording your exercise minutes on MyNetDiary.

Namaste (nah-mah-stay)*

*Namaste is a traditional yoga gesture that means “I bow to you.” It is typically used at the end of a yoga class by the instructor and students as a sign of mutual respect.

Brenda Braslow, MS, RD, CDE

Brenda is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Denver,

Colorado who specializes in diabetes prevention and health enhancement.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Diabetes/Health Exercise/Pilates / Yoga / Core

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