Yoga is a holistic practice that relaxes the mind and body, balances hormones, helps regular blood pressure and blood sugar levels, improves blood circulation and oxygen supply, and much more. Yoga plays an integral role in managing stress, the root cause of almost every problem today, including diabetes. Yoga even contributes towards reducing the risk of complications of diabetes such as heart diseases. Diabetes can develop due to a number of reasons (from unhealthy lifestyles and diet, to stress, poor sleep quality and more) that affect insulin resistance. Practicing yoga encourages a healthy and balanced lifestyle, contributing to better diabetes management.
Top 8 Yoga Poses for Diabetes
Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana)
As the name suggests, this is a forward bending posture that puts pressure on the abdominal organs. It massages and stimulates blood circulation to organs such as the stomach, pancreas, liver, etc. It lowers blood pressure, relieves back pain, headaches and fatigue. It is also very therapeutic in relieving stress and anxiety.
How to do the seated forward bend pose:
- Sit up with the legs stretched out straight in front of you (Dandasana). Keep the spine straight and toes pointing upwards.
- Inhale, raise both arms above your head and stretch up. As you exhale, bend forward from the hip, chin moving toward the toes. Keep the spine erect. Focus on moving forwards towards the toes, rather than down towards the knees.
- Place your hands on your legs, wherever they reach. Do not try to force yourself closer to the thighs if it is difficult. If you can, grab hold of your toes and pull on them to help you inch forward a little. You can also grab your calves if that’s where you’re comfortable.
- Breathe in, keep your head straight and lengthen the spine. As you exhale, gently try to take your naval closer to the knees. Engage your core and try to use your breath to go deeper into the posture.
- Release the grip; inhale, raise both the arms up and lift the chin and chest as well
- Breathe out, lower your arms and come back to Dandasana.
Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)
An inversion, shoulder stand encourages blood circulation to the upper part of the part, and has a strong stimulating effect on the thyroid gland. It helps calm the mind and relieves stress. The posture also works on strengthening the rectus abdominis muscle (main abdominal muscle), which stimulates the organs in the region.
How to the shoulder stand pose:
- Lie down on your back with your arms by the side of the body. Now bend your knees and start raising your legs towards your chest. Take the support of your hands to raise the bent legs over your head.
- Now move the hands to the lower back where the rib cage ends. Using this as support, slowly move your hips towards your head and straighten your legs in a controlled manner.
- Keep your palms firmly on the back. The weight of the body should be on the shoulders and not the neck.
- Stay here for a few breaths. To come out of the asana, first bend the legs and lower them towards the head and then bring them back down.
Plow Pose (Halasana)
An inverted forward bend, the plow pose has a similar impact as Paschimottanasana. It massages the abdominal organs, improves blood circulation, reduces stress, relieves headaches, back pain and insomnia.
How to do plow pose:
- Same as the shoulder stand, first lie flat on the mat with the arms alongside your body and palms facing down. Now inhale, and push your legs up. As you do this, take the hands and support the lower back. This is the exact point where the rib cage ends but on the back. The fingers should remain pointing up toward your hips. Raise the legs up to 90 degrees.
- Now slowly exhale and bring your legs over and behind the head. Rest the toes on the floor behind their head if you can reach. You may also keep a chair or blocks behind the head if you can’t reach the floor.
- Keep their lower back supported with their hands or place the hands on the mat if you are comfortable.
- Stay here and take slow, deep breaths.
- To come out of the posture, slowly bring the legs above the head and roll the spine down one vertebrae at a time.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
A backbend, the bow pose opens up the chest region effectively. It puts pressure on the abdominal muscles and organs, strengthening, stimulating and stretching the entire region. This helps lower blood sugar levels, relieves constipation, indigestion and other digestive issues. It also helps balance the hormones and remove excess toxins from the system.
How to do bow pose:
- Lie flat on the stomach with the legs and feet together, and the arms and hands beside the body.
- Bend the knees and bring the heels close to the buttocks. Grip the ankles with the hands.
- Keep the knees and thighs firmly on the floor and the arms straight throughout the practice.
- Place the chin on the floor.
- Tense the legs and lift the feet backward while raising the head and chest as high as possible from the floor without straining.
- Use the backward movement of the legs to assist the raising of the body, allowing the back muscles to remain passive. In the final position, the gaze is upwards without compressing the neck.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
A prone posture, the cobra pose improves overall body strength, stretches and stimulates the back and abdominal muscles and organs. It improves blood circulation, helps manage blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It is also effective in improving posture and relieving back pain.
How to do cobra pose:
- Lie flat on the stomach with the legs straight, feet together and the soles of the feet facing upwards.
- Place the palms of the hands flat on the floor, below and slightly to the side of the shoulders, with the fingers together and pointing forward.
- Position the arms so that the elbows point backward and are close to the sides of the body.
- Rest the forehead on the floor and close the eyes.
- Relax the whole body, especially the lower back. Now slowly raise the head.
- Straighten the elbows, using the back muscles first, then the arm muscles to raise the trunk further and arch the back.
- In the final position, the pubic bone remains in contact with the floor and the navel is raised a maximum of 3 mm.
- The arms may or may not be straight; this will depend on the flexibility of the back.
Half-Lord of The Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Twists are some of the best yoga asanas for diabetes. An intermediate level twist, Ardha Matsyendrasana stimulates all the abdominal organs, reduces fat from the stomach and sides of the waist, lowers blood sugar levels and improves digestion. Additionally, it boosts energy levels and improves blood circulation by reducing blockages.
How to do half-lord of the fishes pose:
- Sit in Dandasana with your feet together and spine straight.
- Now bend the left leg and place the left foot flat beside the right hip.
- Take the right leg over the left knee and place the left hand on the right knee and the right hand behind you.
- Now slowly twist the waist, shoulders and neck to the right and look over the right shoulder.
- Ensure your spine is straight.
- Now look over the right shoulder while taking slow deep breaths.
- Release and repeat this on the other side.
Supine Spinal Twist (Supta udarakarshana)
A relaxing and restorative twist, especially for the back, the supine spinal twist stimulates the abdominal organs, improves blood circulation and lowers blood sugar levels. It strengthens the rectus abdominis muscles and helps alleviate pain and stiffness from the back and hips.
How to do supine spinal twist:
- Lie down on your back. Bend your knees and put the soles of your feet on the floor with your knees pointing up toward the ceiling.
- Press into your feet to lift your hips slightly off the floor and shift them about an inch to your right. Exhale and draw your right knee into your chest and extend your left leg flat on the floor.
- Exhale and cross your right knee over your midline to the floor on the left side of your body. Your right hip is now stacked on top of your left hip. You can hook your right foot behind your left knee if you like.
- Open your right arm to the right, keeping it in line with your shoulders. Rest your left hand on your right knee or extend it to make a T shape with the arms. Turn your palms toward the ceiling.
- Turn your head to the right, bringing your gaze over your shoulder to your right fingertips. As you exhale, release your left knee and your right shoulder toward the floor. After staying here for a few breaths, release the posture and repeat on the other side.
Legs-Up-On-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
How to do legs-up-on-the-wall pose:
- Lie down with your buttocks close to a wall and legs falling to one side. Now slowly lift the legs up along the wall. Adjust your position to make sure you are as close to the wall as possible. Make sure you are comfortable.
- Now relax the throat and head. Keep the arms on the side of the body or above your head - whichever is comfortable for you.
- Stay here for a couple of minutes. Try to take slow, deep breaths.
- To come out of the posture, slowly drop the legs to one side and push yourself away from the wall.
Other postures such as the child’s pose and reclined bound angle pose are also very relaxing and help reduce stress. They restore balance in the body, reducing imbalances and blockages. These yoga poses effectively manage blood sugar levels, often contribute towards reducing the levels and regular practice shows an improvement in metabolic markers. Overall lifestyle and mindfulness improves, which helps manage conditions that cause diabetes.
It is essential to learn to practice with a qualified yoga teacher. Only with regular practice will you start seeing results. The best way to stay regular is to join a yoga class, even if it is an online yoga class, so that you stay motivated and notice significant results in managing diabetes.