Control Type 2 Diabetes with Yoga

“Yoga-asanas in combination with conventional medical treatment provides a better metabolic control giving a feeling of general well being, alertness and attentiveness without any side effects.” – Savita Singh


Type 2 diabetes is a common and increasingly prevalent illness that is largely preventable. Although this has been called adult-onset diabetes it is increasingly being diagnosed in children. It is estimated that 30 million people in the United States have diabetes and the numbers are growing. One of the reasons for the increasing incidence of Type 2 Diabetes is its association with overweight and obesity which is becoming epidemic in the industrialized world.


Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. In addition, diabetes is heavily associated with other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and circulatory problems leading to amputations. As a result, diabetes doubles the risk of death of any cause compared to individuals of the same age without diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes results from a resistance of tissues, especially fat tissues, to the ability of insulin to promote the uptake of glucose from the blood. As a result, blood sugar levels rise producing hyperglycemia.


A leading cause of this tissue resistance to insulin is overweight and obesity and a sedentary life style. Hence, treatment and prevention of Type 2 Diabetes focuses on diet, exercise, and weight control. Yoga would appear to be an excellent potential treatment for Type 2 Diabetes as it is both an exercise and a help in weight control (see Indeed, mindfulness practices in general have been shown to be helpful in managing diabetes (see and yoga has been shown to help control body weight in diabetes (see which has been shown to be critical for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.


In today’s Research News article “Yoga for Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review of Controlled Trials”

Innes and Selfe review the published literature on the application of yoga practice to the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes. They report that yoga practice decreases body weight and body fat levels, and lowers insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). Further they report that yoga improves blood fat profiles including reductions in levels of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides, and increases good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol). Yoga also resulted in improved cardiovascular function including decreased blood pressure and lung function. Yoga also improved quality of life, psychological well-being, symptoms of distress, and insomnia. All of this resulted in reduced use of diabetes drugs.


These results are remarkable. They indicate that yoga practice has a wide variety of physiological and psychological benefits for the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes. Yoga is also safe with few detrimental side effects and has a wide variety of other physical and psychological benefits (see There are a number of possible mechanism of how yoga could produce these positive effects including the fact that yoga practice involves physical exercise and exercise has been repeatedly found to be beneficial for Type 2 Diabetes patients. For the most part the effects of yoga are not significantly different from those seen with other exercise programs. Yoga may also act by reducing body weight and body fat, improving the management of stress, reducing physiological activation by the nervous system, or through encouraging a generally healthier lifestyle. It will be up to future research to begin to discern how exactly yoga practice acts to improve Type 2 Diabetes.


Regardless, it is very clear that yoga practice is a safe and effective program for the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.


“The good news is that diabetes patients have an alternative: They can practice yoga. Despite the fact researchers have been studying the health benefits of yoga in diabetes patients for decades, only now is yoga being proposed as an important part of a diabetes exercise program.”Jennifer Van Pelt
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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