Yoga for Diabetes

Diabetes is a medical condition characterized by either insufficient production of, or resistance to insulin. Typically, diabetes is treated by a modified diet and prescription medication.

In addition, there are certain yoga postures designed to stimulate the glands of the endocrine system and help treat some symptoms of diabetes, including weight gain.

Some studies show that regular yoga practice helps reduce weight and can even lower blood sugar levels, important factors in managing diabetes. However, remember that diabetes is a medical condition which still requires medical treatment. Holistic therapies such as yoga for diabetes should be used in conjunction with, and not in place of, conventional care.

Yoga for Diabetes

Surya Namaskar, also known as “sun salutation” is actually a series of 12 asanas, or yoga postures. These poses are executed, one right after another, moving with the breath. One ’round” of surya namaskar takes about a minute and a half. Practicing up to 20 rounds consecutively creates an excellent aerobic workout that also stretches all the muscles of the body.

Saluting the Sun

There are several styles of surya namaskar, but each is a variation of this basic formula:

Begin standing upright in mountain pose, with your legs together, hands at your sides and shoulders relaxed. Inhale and reach overhead, opening the arms wide and bringing the palms together.

Exhale and press the palms together over the heart in prayer position. This begins your meditation and has the added benefit of stretching the muscles of the wrists and forearms. Inhale again, reaching for the ceiling.

Next, exhale and bend forward, reaching for the floor, feet or ankles, however far you can go. Take a couple deep breaths here in this standing forward bend. Allow your neck and shoulders to relax. You should also feel a stretch in the hamstrings and into the low back.

On your next inhalation, step the right foot all the way back behind you and come into a wide lunge for the left leg. Make sure your knee does not extend past your toes. Keep your hands on the mat to support your upper body, and look upward slightly.

Exhale and step both feet back behind you, coming into a plank position. Use the muscles of the torso to keep the body straight. Inhale and hold the breath for several seconds.

Still holding the breath, bend the knees, bend the elbows and exhale as you glide forward onto your stomach like a snake. Inhale and press into the hands, lifting the upper body up off the mat into cobra pose. Look upward slightly. Keep the arms strong, and be careful not to sink in the shoulders.

As you exhale, bend at the waist, lifting your hips up to the ceiling while at the same time straightening the arms into downward-facing dog pose.

Your body should come into an inverted “V” position. If you need to, use this as a resting position, taking several deep breaths. Make sure your legs are straight, feet are together, and the tailbone is pointing toward the ceiling.

On your next inhalation, step the right foot all the forward between the hands, lunging now on the right leg. Again, look forward slightly.

Exhale and step both feet together between the hands, coming back into a standing forward bend. Pause here to take several deep breaths. Let go of any tension in the neck, shoulders or upper back.

Finally, inhale and reach up overhead with both hands, palms facing each other. Exhale and open the arms wide, replacing them back down to your sides. This is one round of surya namaskar.

It may take several practice runs to master all 12 positions, but ultimately you want to memorize the pattern so that you can practice the routine several times in a row. After you feel comfortable with this version of “saluting the sun”, try adding a few additional asanas in the routine for variety.

Variations

Begin surya namaskar as normal, beginning in mountain pose, inhaling and reaching overhead, opening the pose with prayer position, and then coming into standing forward bend.

When you come into your lunge, try adding this twist. Keep your right hand on the floor next to the left foot. Twist toward your left leg and extend the left arm up in the air. Turn and look up at your left hand. Hold this pose for several deep breaths, then gently unwind, placing both hands back on the floor. Remember to add the same twist into the opposite side when lunging on the right leg.

Triangle is another pose you can add into your sun salutation. Begin surya namaskar as normal, beginning in mountain pose, inhaling and reaching overhead, opening the pose with prayer position, and then coming into standing forward bend.

When you come into your first lunge on the left leg, straighten the leg while keeping both hands on the mat. Rest your head down in a deep, wide-legged forward bend. You should feel a deep stretch in the large muscles of the legs. Hold this position for several deep breaths, then come back into a lunge on the left leg and move onto plank pose as usual. Remember to repeat triangle pose on the opposite leg when lunging on the right.

After a full 20 to 30 minute session of practicing surya namaskar, spend a few minutes in final relaxation. Lie flat on the mat in corpse pose, hands at your sides, legs open about hip width apart. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, allowing all the muscles in your body to completely relax.

REFERENCES

  1. Yoga Journal: Dealing with Diabetes – http://www.yogajournal.com/health/563
  2. Yoga Journal: How to Salute the Sun – http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/1040