Type 2 diabetes is quickly becoming one of the most common, and debilitating, diseases in the United States. As more and more people develop diabetes, they’ve started turning to complementary and alternative therapies, such as yoga, to treat the disorder, but not all of those therapies work. A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine last year analyzed all the available research looking at yoga’s influence on diabetes and complications of diabetes (for instance, kidney problems and high blood pressure) and found that, although not enough evidence exists to support the idea that yoga leads to long-term improvements, regular yoga practice did lead to short-term improvements in fasting glucose and cholesterol levels.
That’s not surprising, says Patricia M. Hansen, a certified Ayurvedic practitioner and lifestyle consultant in Denver who sits on the advisory board of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. “Yoga stimulates the organs, and that improves metabolic activities,” she says. “That’s going to make a person’s metabolism function more efficiently.”
If you’ve developed type 2 diabetes, yoga is definitely worth a shot, says Hansen. “While there is no one magical asana [yoga pose], there are many that would stabilize the digestion, absorption, and proper elimination in the body,” she says. But it’s best to find a certified yoga instructor in your area (you can find one online at yogaalliance.org) and tell them about your condition, as some poses can be harmful for people with diabetes; for instance, poses that involve crossing the legs may constrict blood flow to the legs and feet. “Any protocol for someone with diabetes must be personalized,” she says. “Each person is a unique book that must be read and responded to on an individual basis.”
Want to try it? To help you get started, we asked registered yoga teacher Susan Lewis, who leads classes at Rodale’s company gym, to demonstrate a few poses that may be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. (For most poses, you can click on the title for more a detailed description.)