power yoga instructorBy Jenny Park

Have you ever met someone who doubted that yoga is beneficial for health? You might be asked, “where’s the proof” when you mention the good that yoga can do for practitioners. As yoga teachers, the following information should be made available to our students who have diabetes.

Exercise is an important part of disease management for people who have diabetes. If you have diabetes, should yoga be on your list of physical activities? Absolutely! Yoga is an excellent exercise for diabetics and not only for any direct physical benefits. That’s because yoga practice is holistic and engages the body, mind and spirit. Involvement of all three is important for diabetics because the disease is affected by physical stressors as well as by emotional and social ones, and practicing yoga can help reduce those stressors.

Dozens of published research studies can back up claims that yoga benefits people with diabetes. Below are a representative few that demonstrate what diabetes patients can enjoy when practicing yoga.

The author of a 2007 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the Association of Physicians of India and conducted at Osmania Medical College reported on the results of “well designed studies” that explored the role of yoga in diabetics and compared the results obtained from people without the disease. Overall, the findings confirmed the claim that yoga is useful in controlling diabetes because patients who practiced it experienced a significant decline in blood glucose levels and maintained a healthy glycemic status for prolonged periods. Patients also showed a decline in percentage of body fat, a reduction in acute complications and an improvement in insulin sensitivity.

In another meta-analysis, a team at University of Virginia Health Systems reported their findings in the Journal of the American Board of Family Practice in 2005. The mix consisted of 70 studies of which all but one was controlled or uncontrolled clinical trial. The reviewers found that yoga practice was associated with improvements in glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, lipid profiles, blood pressure, oxidative stress (which contributes to disease advancement and complications) and other factors.

At the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a research team conducted a prospective randomized controlled trial to see what impact yogic breathing had on glycemic control and quality of life. The participants were assigned to receive standard diabetes treatment or to be taught yogic breathing along with routine care. The results (Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2012) revealed that the individuals who practiced yogic breathing reported a significant improvement in quality of life and a trend toward better glycemic control.

If new students have diabetes, there should be no question that yoga should be a part of their lives. It’s up to us, as teachers, to let them know the facts and that they are welcome.

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