Role of yoga in diabetes mellitus

Yoga is ideally suited for types of Diabetes Mellitus. For some patients, in insulin dependent DM, asanas could help prevent an increase in insulin requirement over the years. In non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), asanas help normalize blood sugar due to high intensity yogic workout (not for all patients). Yogic exercises can either be high or low intensity, depending on the clinical condition.

A young active diabetic can be made to practice very intense asanas in a dynamic manner, which will increase the cellular activity of the muscle, which needs more sugar. The advanced asanas require a lot of energy and this helps normalize blood sugar. But, if the person is obese, asana practice is difficult and it is easier to reduce weight by other means and then take up yoga.

Yoga increases the practitioner’s sensitivity to body movements and cellular changes. There is no pounding, flogging or forcible action in asana practice. The action on the cells is gentle and soothing and relieves the modified pathology by better blood perfusion, thus healing the area. Depending on the need the asanas can be modified. In yoga, it is possible to create a selective uptake of sugar depending on the group of muscles worked. Other exercises increase the general sugar uptake by the cells. Yoga selects the cells to absorb sugar. This is due to a wide variety of geometric shapes of the asanas. The intensity of workout is total or regional.

The single advantage of the asana system is that the geometric shape of the asana itself directly affects the internal organs; in other exercises the results are indirect. Hpoglycemia with yoga practice is not so much as in other exercises because of the conscious control over the cellular systems. The advantage in the asana system is that even an elderly diabetic can practice it without any danger. Other systems might aggravate autonomic neuropathy and sudden death is possible. The emphasis in yoga is on controlling the autonomic dysfunction by means of pranayama.

A prolonged observational follow-up of practitioners of yoga has shown that the incidence of DM is very low, if at all. This is so only if yoga has been practiced from a very young age or very regularly. In fact, the incidence of most health disorders is very low in practitioners of yoga.

Excerpted with permission from A Matter of Health, Integration of yoga and Western Medicine for Prevention and Cure by Dr Krishna Raman. The author has studied modern medicine and has had training in yoga under the renowned yoga guru, BKS Iyengar.