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Defeat diabetes with yoga

A calming yoga practice is a great way to manage diabetes.
A calming yoga practice is a great way to manage diabetes.
stock photo.

While April is the official “Defeat Diabetes Month,”it also shares a calendar with Easter, one of many annual “Sugarfests” that encourages the consumption of chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and marshmallow peeps – a tradition of celebrating holidays with sweets that starts at a young age. Perhaps one reason, according to the Defeat Diabetes Foundation, the current generation of children is on the fast track to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports one of every three children will get diabetes in their lifetime – mostly thanks to processed foods, not enough exercise, stress and holiday sugarfests.

And it’s not just the kids, it’s everyone. According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes.

So are you going to eat that peep, or not?

On a positive note, it’s a treatable disease not only with a proper diet, but also exercise – and yoga seems to fit the bill perfectly.

How yoga can help?

Twists, forward folds, side stretches, inversions, and even breath exercises help to massage the organs – specifically the pancreas, the center of chaos for diabetics.

Even the simplest of yoga movements can support diabetes management by gently massaging all internal organs and activate glandular-systems to help maintain a healthy blood-glucose level.

Regular practice of yoga can improve diabetic symptoms on many levels, including reduction of stress, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and weight.

Physiologically, here is how yoga can help:

- helps to massage and stretch the pancreas to improve pancreatic function;

- by soothing the parasympathetic nervous system and reducing stress, traces of adrenaline, noradrenalin and cortisol in blood are reduced;

- helps with weight loss; and

- reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

It’s not just about the sugar.

Control stress to control glucose, says a report from John’s Hopkins Medicine. Hormones released during stressful moments increase the glucose produced by the body. This means diabetics experiencing stress need to work double time to produce extra insulin to relieve the stress-induced glucose.

Yoga master Sandra Summerfield Kozak, a contributor to the book Yoga as Medicine, further explains the effects of hormones, stress and glucose in her chapter on Yoga for Diabetes stating, “… stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol raise blood sugar levels, and high cortisol levels also tend to promote both overeating and the accumulation of intra-abdominal fat, which contributes to insulin resistance, as well as to the risk of having a heart attack. Yoga’s impact on stress can ultimately do a lot to promote health and prevent, delay, or minimize the effects of the disease.”

Whatever the cause of stress, the experts believe that people with diabetes struggle with blood glucose control when they feel stressed or anxious.

However, like all exercise programs for those with a particular physical issue, check with your doctor before trying yoga if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, or a recent injury.

So put down the peep and go do a calming yoga practice instead. You'll be glad you did.