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How Yoga Can Help You Manage Your Diabetes

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Tom Lang

Yoga is an activity that can invigorate your body and improve your overall health. Yoga helps your posture and is a form of meditation that reduces stress and anxiety, which can help you manage your glucose levels and reduce diabetes-related stress.

If you have diabetes, yoga can help improve your overall health. Yoga postures, or positions, are a great way to exercise, meditate, and reduce stress and anxiety.

Physical Benefits of Yoga for People with Diabetes

The physical benefits of yoga include improved digestion, blood circulation, flexibility, posture, weight management, and more. For people with diabetes, many of these factors have a direct relationship to preventing long-term complications, managing glucose levels, and meeting recommendations for physical exercise.

Digestion

Yoga can aid digestive health because many of the poses help to promote movement of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, reduce stress, and increase blood circulation.

Blood circulation

Any kind of exercise or movement, including yoga, increases blood flow, bringing more oxygen to cells, which then function better. Many yoga poses also help relax your heart and blood vessels, potentially lowering blood pressure and improving circulation.

The twisting motion brings fresh oxygenated blood to your organs. Certain yoga poses place your lower body above your upper body (an inverted position), which reverses and boosts blood flow from your legs and lower body to your brain and heart.

Flexibility and posture

Yoga poses emphasize correct alignment, or positioning, of your body parts, like your hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, hips and especially, your spine. This feeling of proper structural alignment is great for improving your posture.

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The more you practice yoga, the stronger and more flexible you can become. Most standing and sitting yoga poses help you develop greater core strength, because you need your core muscles to support and maintain each pose.

Can Yoga help with better nutrition?

Yoga can help you have a more positive outlook on life and feel better about yourself. After a good session of yoga, you become more in touch with your body, feel more in the moment, and often feel less stressed. Yoga, with its focus on linking positive mental and physical health can help you to be more aware of the quality of food you eat, not just the quantity or calories. Better quality, more nutritious foods can then easily be incorporated into your daily meals and snacks.

Yoga and mental health

Addressing mental health and diabetes distress are critical aspects of preserving your health every day. Doing yoga not only promotes physical movement, but can reduce the amount of stress hormones your body produces and may help reduce inflammation throughout the body. These factors can help to ease stress and improve your sense of physical and mental well being, while improving the management of your diabetes.

“Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness, increases body awareness, relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, centers attention, and sharpens concentration,” said Dr. Natalie Nevins, an osteopathic family physician and a certified yoga instructor in Vallejo, California.

The idea is that as you become more aware of what is happening inside your body by practicing yoga, you are more likely to notice when you feel stressed, in pain, or tired, and you can use yoga to reduce these unwanted feelings.

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Body and self-awareness are particularly beneficial, Nevins added, “because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive medical action.”

How to start practicing yoga

You’ll probably have a better yoga experience if you start with a beginner’s class. Entry-level classes start with poses that don’t require as much flexibility, balance or strength. Over time, you will get stronger and more flexible if you decide to stick with it.  Even at the end of a beginners class, you may discover you used muscles you’ve never used before.

There are many different kinds of yoga and some may fit your style more than others. When searching for a place near you, asking questions or doing a little research on what type of beginner classes are available is a great start. With all the choices, there is a really good chance you’ll find a class that works for you whether it’s an in-person class or a live streamed class online.

One warning: you probably don’t want to start off in an intermediate or advanced yoga class.  While there are modifications for every yoga pose to make them easier for beginners, more advanced classes move along faster and are more intensive. Give yourself a chance to learn and enjoy yourself with others who are closer to your abilities.

For more on finding the right exercises for your diabetes management, read these articles:

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