Yoga is enjoying a moment. Although yoga is not new to the Western world, it is enjoying a significant increase in popularity, and is a wellness practice employed by people of virtually all ages and backgrounds. Why the spike in interest? Yoga boasts wellness principles that can benefit the healthiest of individuals, as well as those with life-long and even debilitating illnesses—including diabetes.
Exercise is vital to the health and wellbeing of men and women diagnosed with diabetes and related syndromes. The manner in which you exercise, however, can have a significant impact on the effectiveness not only of weight management, but also stress management and blood sugar control. Although most healthcare professionals agree that walking provides an excellent introduction into exercise, and works well to maintain a healthy weight and healthy habits, many men and women find themselves growing bored with simply walking. Yoga is an excellent way to combat this boredom.
Yoga is often plagued by misconceptions, ranging from being a physical activity relegated to the already limber, to functioning as a religious practice. Fortunately, neither of these is entirely true; while the already-limber might have an easier time entering into and holding some poses, all fitness levels can enjoy a robust yoga practice, and every religious background can practice without abandoning their beliefs.
What exactly makes yoga so unique as an exercise? In part, its focus on breathing: rather than merely engaging in physical poses, yoga encourages students to pay close attention to breathing habits and patterns, and use breath in conjunction with movement. Careful regulation of breath, as well as intentional, methodical movement helps control stress levels, resulting in less stress-related weight gain, lower blood pressure, and a better-regulated nervous system. Over time, high stress levels may cause severe weight gain, a heightened “fight or flight” response, and elevated blood pressure. Engaging in a regular yoga practice (at least 30 minutes, 1-3 times per week) significantly reduces stress and its subsequent physical manifestations, allowing better-regulated blood sugar, weight loss, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
While yoga can seem incredibly intimidating, don’t feel as though you have to rush out to buy the latest in yoga gear, exercise clothing, or a monthly pass to the most popular yoga studio. Instead, start with the basics: comfortable clothing, and a mat. Most studios will provide students with any additional props needed, such as yoga straps and blocks, and many gyms have yoga teachers on their rosters. Community centers, too, often provide yoga classes that will not break the bank and provide thorough instruction for beginners. In the age of the internet, there are many online sources of instruction, as well, to help newcomers design a safe, strong home practice.
As with any new form of exercise, first discuss your intent with your doctor. After receiving your doctor’s go-ahead, however, roll out your mat, focus on your breath, and enjoy the powerful results of a centuries-old practice.
International Journal of Preventive Medicine. URL Link. Accessed March 5, 2017.