I have a prospective Yoga student who was recently informed that he has Type 2 diabetes. His doctor suggested Yoga classes. How can I explain how Yoga will help him?

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I have a prospective Yoga student who was recently informed that he has Type 2 diabetes. His doctor suggested Yoga classes. How can I explain how Yoga will help him?

Please bear in mind that I have no medical degree and am not a medical professional. The advice given is that of a Yoga Teacher. Always consult with your physician for a professional opinion.

His doctor has already explained the benefits of Yoga to him, but it seems he needs a bit more coaxing. So, let me go a bit further and draw a “bigger picture” of the many benefits that Yoga has for Diabetics.

There are two basic Types of Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 Diabetes is insulin dependent. The pancreas no longer make insulin thus patients with Type 1 Diabetes need to take insulin shots or use insulin pumps.

Type 2 Diabetes is not “insulin dependent” and is the most common form of Diabetes. This type of Diabetes can be developed by anyone of any age.

In Type 2 Diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, and the fat, muscle, or liver cells do not use it properly. Yoga students and people who are overweight have a higher risk in developing Type 2 Diabetes, since both body fat and fat circulating in the bloodstream seem to interfere with the ability of cells to use insulin.

Most of the time, it is easy to ignore Diabetes in its early stage, especially when you see or feel few, if any symptoms. This is can be dangerous. Diabetes affects almost all your major organs such as the heart, nerves, eyes, and kidneys and can lead to both long and short term complications.

Exercise is very important: Regular Yoga practice and physical activities, such as exercise can have beneficial effects for diabetics.

In the case of those with Type 2, often over weight, exercise favors weight loss, increases the absorption of one’s own insulin and diminishes the need for oral hypoglycemiants.

For people with Type 1, exercise seems to bring little improvement to the metabolic control of Diabetes, but reduces certain risk factors for heart disease. Diabetics should know the possible problems which may occur during or after Yoga exercise and know what to do about them.

Below are some basic guidelines for Diabetics who want to practice in order to cope with their condition. This should all be cleared with your physician before starting a class.

Suggestions for Diabetic students who are beginning Yoga classes

  • Before starting a Yogic exercise program, measure your exercise tolerance. Start with simple movements and postures before progressing slowly to complicated asanas.
  • Avoid over-exertion during classes. Perform the flows (vinyasa) and postures slowly and smoothly, stretching the limbs and joints, and gently compressing the abdomen, without straining. Maintain asanas for a comfortable length of time. The amount of time holding Yoga postures should be increased gradually from 5 seconds to one minute, or even longer depending upon the posture and ability of the Yoga student.
  • Yoga students should learn to live in a holistic manner, at all levels of your being: physical, mental, and spiritual by recognizing the results of stress, emotional imbalance, diet, and living habits in relation to Diabetes.
  • While taking Yoga classes glucose levels should be monitored under the supervision of a doctor and appropriate medicinal dosages should be taken when required. After several weeks of regular classes, Diabetic students might be able to reduce such dosages.
  • Diet should be monitored throughout the Yoga training program. Avoid simple sugars such as white sugar, honey, glucose and sweets. Eat complex carbohydrates such as multi-grain, oatmeal, wheat, oat bran, buckwheat, beans, and brown rice. Avoid foods like white bread, white pasta, and white rice. Avoid all processed foods and eat foods with lots of fiber.
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