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Diabetic Students and Yoga - What to Expect

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
Feb 11, 2008
The effects of Yoga, on persons with diabetes, are extremely healthful, and sometimes, cause the unexpected. Be conscious of potential effects of yoga on diabetic students.

Diabetes has become a more prevalent disorder, over the last decade, than ever before. While many struggle to control their diabetes, sometimes, simply following the doctor's orders, are frustrating and not enough.

Many studies show that yoga postures impact fasting blood glucose levels, reducing them in some studies by as much as 50 milligrams per deciliter (or 50 points) in type II research subjects. In addition to this drop in blood sugar, there is an increase in nerve function.

Certain postures and movements stimulate the glands of the body and have the most profound impact. Asanas, the Yogic postures that induce relaxation, and certain breathing exercises, stimulate the pancreas. This is theorized to occur because of alternating contraction and release of the abdominal muscles; thus, the pancreas is stimulated. An increase in blood flow and oxygen to the organ increases efficiency.

The rotation of the body, as well as holding the position and stretching the body, in these positions, increases circulation. Poor circulation is a major side effect of diabetes and leads to long term complications. Increased circulation and oxygen to the body helps everything function better; and several glands within the endocrine system are vitalized. Yoga helps retain the elasticity of blood vessels and reduces high blood pressure, in some cases. Additionally, lethargy and depression are relieved by these effects on the body.

Practicing yoga, on a regular basis, helps diabetics increase nerve function and relieve the symptoms of sub-clinical neuropathy, as well as prevent some at the onset.

Meditation is an imperative part of yoga practice. Attaining a relaxed and concentrated mental state relieves stress and brings about a calming effect on the nervous system. High stress levels cause drastic changes in blood glucose levels in some diabetics, so learning to meditate effectively is a useful management method.

It's difficult for yoga to have much impact on type I diabetes, due to the fact that the body does not produce any insulin at all; therefore, stimulation of the endocrine system is not as effective. That does not mean there is no effect, but the impact of Yoga on type II diabetes is much more dramatic.

However, in studies, a decreased dosage was needed by many participants who were insulin- dependent. A study, comparing aerobic activity, found that direct stimulation of the pancreas, by yoga positions, were more effective in stimulating the endocrine system than more exertive activity.

These positive impacts are very encouraging; however, diabetic students must regularly monitor their glucose levels and take proper medication. It is likely that, after practicing yoga on a regular basis, the amount of the required medicine will decline.

Many diabetic students may not be aware of the potential decrease in their blood glucose levels. Educate them of this possibility and devote extra attention to their progress. Additionally, it is recommended that glucose tablets be kept on hand in case of a sudden drop in blood sugar.

Copyright 2008 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
About the Author
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. He is an author of many books on the subject of Yoga and has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995.

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