What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the glucose level in the blood is much higher than the normal level. The problem with diabetes is that either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or it provides sufficient insulin but the cells of the body are unable to use the insulin effectively.
Diabetes is plausibly one of the earliest diseases known to mankind and a large number of the population is diagnosed with diabetes at the current time. A study showed that 537 million adults (20-79 years) are living with diabetes and The total number of people living with diabetes is projected to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045.
The factors responsible for diabetes could be genetics, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, unhealthy dietary habits, lack of exercise, and stress.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes
It is the type of diabetes that is mostly diagnosed in children and teenagers and is also called insulin-dependent diabetes. In this type of diabetes, your immune system attacks the cells of the pancreas that are responsible for making insulin. Genetics can be one of the reasons to cause Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes
In Type 2 diabetes, either the body cells dont respond normally to insulin or the body doesn't produce enough insulin.
It is the most common form of diabetes and almost 95% of people diagnosed with diabetes are type 2. This type of diabetes is mostly caused because of stress, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Gestational diabetes is the type of diabetes that develops in some women when they are pregnant. It refers to higher than normal levels of blood glucose. During pregnancy, the body produces a large number of hormones like human placental lactogen.
And other hormones that increase insulin resistance. More than 10% of woman in the US are diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
How does Yoga help with Diabetes?
Practicing yoga has shown results in diabetic patients by reducing blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and sensitivity to insulin. It also has a positive effect on lipid profile, blood pressure, and weight management. Certain yoga poses involve stretching and twisting of internal muscles which stimulate the pancreas and endocrine system and also help in managing stress levels which is a major contributing factor to the development of diabetes. Yoga also helps regulate hormones, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps in rest & digestion functions in the human body. Incorporating yoga into your lifestyle just 3–4 hrs a week will definitely start showing results.
Yoga poses for diabetes
Practicing yoga poses has shown great results amongst diabetes patients and consistent yoga practice has multiple benefits like relaxation, strengthening and balancing of muscles, promotion of homeostasis in the digestive system, cardiovascular, endocrine and other systems, improvement of breathing, improvement of posture, and calming of the nervous system.
Here are a few easy yoga poses that you can practice to control or manage diabetes.
Triangle Pose or Trikonasana
The triangle pose is a wonderful standing posture that helps in strengthening and lengthening the hamstrings and the groin region. This posture also improves digestion and reduces stress and anxiety.
How to practice Triangle Pose or Trikonasana
- (Exhale)Take the Right leg in between the palms, turn the left toes out to 90 degrees
- Keeping the right palm on the ground or coming on the fingertips - slightly behind the right heel
- (Inhale) Extend the left arm up towards the sky, rotating the hip, abdomen, and chest to the left side;
- Straighten the front knee, and pushing the hips back, maintaining a lateral stretch on the left side of the body.
- Find your balance looking down, and then look up towards the left fingertips.
Seated forward Bend or Paschimottasana
This posture is known to improve the function of the pancreas and renal system. It Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus. Practicing the seated forward bend also helps in keeping the blood sugar levels in check
How to practice Seated forward Bend or Paschimottasana
1. From Dandasana, inhale, move forward, and hold your feet from the outside
2. Inhale, straighten the back, and push the chest forward
3. Exhale, fold forward, bringing the chest closer to the thighs
4. Inhale and exhale, stretch the lower back, and go down further with the exhale, engaging the core.
5. Look up towards the toes.
6. Release the grip; inhale, raise both the arms up and lift the chin & chest as well
7. Come back to Dandasana.
Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana
Practicing the Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana massages the abdominal region, improving circulation and the functioning of the digestive system. It also stimulates the appetite, alleviates constipation, and is beneficial for all the abdominal organs, especially the liver and kidneys.
How to practice Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana
- Lie flat on the stomach with the legs straight, feet together and the soles of the feet uppermost.
- 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.
- 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 em. If the navel is raised too high, the bend tends to be in the knees and not in the back.
- The arms may or may not be straight; this will depend on the flexibility of the back.
Half lord of fishes pose or Ardha Matsyendrasana
Half lord of fishes pose or Ardha Matsyendrasana is one of the most effective postures to manage diabetes as it helps in improving the functions of organs like the liver, spleen, and pancreas. Practicing this posture also helps in removing toxins from the body and aids digestion.
How to practice the Half lord of fishes pose or Ardha matsyendrasana
- 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.
- As you breathe out, first slowly release the right hand (the hand that is behind you), release and turn the waist, chest, and neck.
- Sit up straight and relaxed.
- Now repeat this on the other side.
Bow Pose or Dhanurasana
Dhanurasana or the Bow pose massages the liver, kidney, abdominal organs, and muscles. It also tones and balances the secretions in the pancreas and adrenal glands.
How to practice Bow Pose or Dhanurasana
- 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 your 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.
- Slowly lower the chest and head to the ground by releasing the legs.
- Relax in the prone position until the respiration returns to normal.
Lotus Pose or Padmasana
The Lotus Pose stretches the ankle and opens the hips. Muscular tension in the legs is reduced. The increased blood flow relaxes the entire mind and body, inducing a deep meditative experience.
How to practice Lotus Pose or Padmasana
- Sit on the mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Make sure your spine is erect and not curved.
- Now bend the right knee and place the foot at the top of the left thigh. Make sure that the sole of the foot points upward and the heel is close to the pubic bone.
- Now, bend the other leg and place it on top of the opposite thigh.
- Now both the legs are crossed and the feet are placed on opposite thighs. Now place your hands on the knees. You can place the palms in a mudra as well.
- Keep the back straight and head up. Take slow, deep breaths. You can also close your eyes.
- As you exhale, release the top leg and straighten it out. Now release the other leg and straighten.
- Gently shake your legs a little to release stiffness
Sun Salutation or Surya namaskar
The Sun salutation practice is extremely beneficial for managing diabetes. The sequence works on the entire body and promotes blood flow to the pancreas which facilitates the production of insulin in the body.
How to practice Sun Salutation or Surya namaskar
- Feet comfortably apart, and put your palms to the heart center in Pranamasana.
- Extend your arms upwards, now bend the head, arms, and upper trunk slightly backward.
- Now fold forward from the hip, and touch the floor with your palms or fingers on either side of the feet. Try to bring the forehead as close to the knees till it's comfortable.
- Take your right leg back, bend the left knee and lift up your head. Keep your palms straight.
- Now, take the left leg back. Make sure that the bodyweight is on the palms and toes. The foot, waist, and head should be on one line. Now look ahead.
- Bend your elbows and put your knees, chest, and chin on the floor.
- Lift your body above the waist, bend it slightly backward and look forward.
- Now tuck your toes in, lift your waist towards the ceiling and stretch your hands completely.
- Put your right foot in front, bend your left knee and lift your head up, same at step 4.
- Put the left foot in front, fold forward from the hip, and touch the floor with your palms or fingers on either side of the feet. (Same as step 3)
- Extend your arms upwards, and bend the head, arms, and upper trunk slightly backward. (same as step 2)
- Put your palms to the heart center, ending the first half of the practice with Pranamasana.
Breathwork for Diabetes
Bellows Breath or Bhastrika Pranayama
The Bellows Breath or Bhastrika Pranayama balances and strengthens the nervous system, inducing peace, tranquillity, and one pointedness of mind in preparation for meditation.
How to do Bellows Breath or Bhastrika Pranayama
Sit in the Lotus pose. Inhale through the nostrils and exhale hard, focusing on the diaphragm. Inhale and exhale about 10 times. Now, inhale and hold your breath. Exhale slowly. Since it leads to blood gushing through the digestive organs, it affects the stomach, liver, and pancreas. During the process, the intra-abdominal pressure is heightened, and menstruating and pregnant women should avoid this.
Shinning skull breath or kapalbhati
Shinning skull breath or kapalbhati balances and strengthens the nervous system and tones the digestive organs. It also has a cleansing effect on the lungs and is a good practice for respiratory disorders.
How to practice Shinning skull breath or kapalbhati
Sit in a comfortable meditation asana. The head and spine should be straight with the hands resting on the knees in either chin or jnana mudra. Close the eyes and relax the whole body. Exhale through both nostrils with a forceful contraction of the abdominal muscles. The following inhalation should take place passively by allowing the abdominal muscles to relax. After completing 10 rapid breaths in succession, inhale and exhale deeply. Allow the breath to return to normal. This is one round. Practice up to 5 rounds.
Humming bee breath or Bhramhari
Humming bee breath or Bhramhari lowers blood pressure, induces deep sleep, and releases cerebral tension.
How To Practice Humming bee breath or Bhramhari
Sit in a comfortable position, and close your ears and eyes with your fingers and thumbs. Inhale and then exhale while humming like a bee.
Alternate nostril breathing or Anulom vilom
Alternate Nostril Breathing helps relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. It also improves lung capacity and oxygenation throughout the body.
How to practice Alternate nostril breathing or Anulom vilom
Both nostrils affect various parts of the nervous system; this exercise helps tap that aspect. Sit cross-legged. Exhale and cover your right nostril with your right hand. Inhale with your left nostril and close it with your fingers. Now, exhale with your right nostril. Inhale through your right nostril. Repeat.
Causes of diabetes
One of the main causes of diabetes is long-term devitalization of the digestive process due to obesity, overeating, dietary abuse, and lack of exercise. Another factor behind diabetes is stress-related. The stresses and frustrations of modern sedentary humans largely manifest in the emotional and mental planes. The adrenal glands are in a constant state of activation, spilling the stress hormone adrenalin into the bloodstream. Constant worry and anxiety impose a constant demand for insulin secretion which can ultimately cause diabetes.
Yoga cannot cure Diabetes. The role it has in managing the condition can be extremely beneficial. In Shvasa’s online live classes, our teachers help you manage your conditions in a holistic and sustained manner. You can also speak to our Ayurveda experts to know more about your body type and get advice on an improved lifestyle and diet routine.