Improve Type 2 Diabetes with Yoga Practice

Improve Type 2 Diabetes with Yoga Practice


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Yoga can do more than just relax your body in mind — especially if you’re living with diabetes. Certain poses may help lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels while also improving circulation, leading many experts to recommend yoga for diabetes management.” – HealthLine


Diabetes is a major health issue. It is estimated that 30 million people in the United States and nearly 600 million people worldwide have diabetes and the numbers are growing. Type II 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. 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 is a common and increasingly prevalent illness that is largely preventable. 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. A leading cause of this is a sedentary life style. Unlike Type I Diabetes, Type II does not require insulin injections. Instead, the treatment and prevention of Type 2 Diabetes focuses on diet, exercise, and weight control. Recently, mindfulness practices have been shown to be helpful in managing diabetes. A mindfulness practice that combines mindfulness with exercise is yoga and it has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of Type II Diabetes.


In today’s Research News article “Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Raveendran and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies of the effectiveness of yoga practice for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. They report that the research suggests that yoga practice produces beneficial changes in the behavior, psychology, and physiology of patients with Type 2 diabetes.


People with Type 2 diabetes who practice yoga have been shown to improve their diets, engage in greater levels of exercise, and develop greater tolerance for exercise. This is important as improved diet and greater exercise have been shown to improve Type 2 diabetes. The practitioners also feel better psychologically, with improved mood, greater quality of life and reduced perceived stress levels.


On the physiological level people with Type 2 diabetes who practice yoga show reductions in body weight which is important for reducing insulin resistance. They have improved cardiovascular function, including reduced heart rate and blood pressure and improved blood fat profiles. Yoga practice with diabetes has also been shown to strengthen the immune system, reduce stress hormones, and reduce the inflammatory response. Practitioners also show autonomic nervous system changes including increased parasympathetic and reduce sympathetic activity, producing enhanced physiological relaxation. Finally, yoga practice has been shown to increase insulin secretion and reduce insulin resistance.


The studies, though, are often of weak research design either lacking in a control condition or not having an active control condition for appropriate comparison and with weak statistical analysis. The studies are often of short duration without follow-up measures to verify the longevity of the benefits. There are also present uncontrolled confounding factors such as selection bias, subject expectancy effects, and experimenter bias effects. Hence, the research is encouraging, but not definitive that yoga practice is greatly beneficial for the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes. More and better research is needed.


So, improve Type 2 Diabetes with yoga practice.


“I recommend yoga primarily for stress management. Stress elevates blood sugar, which can lead to more diabetes complications. Yoga helps us center ourselves, and centering calms us and can help keep blood sugar levels balanced.” – Janet Zappe


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary

Raveendran, A. V., Deshpandae, A., & Joshi, S. R. (2018). Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes. Endocrinology and metabolism (Seoul, Korea), 33(3), 307-317.



Yoga originated in India more than 5,000 years ago and is a means of balancing and harmonizing the body, mind, and emotions. Yoga practice is useful in the management of various lifestyle diseases, including type 2 diabetes. Psycho-neuro-endocrine and immune mechanisms are involved in the beneficial effects of yoga on diabetes. Incorporation of yoga practice in daily life helps to attain glycaemic control and reduces the risk of complications in people with diabetes. In this review, we briefly describe the role of various yoga practices in the management of diabetes based on evidence from various clinical studies.



Yoga therapy is relevant for wellness, as well as for illness. The latest scientific evidence suggests the potential role of yoga-based lifestyle modifications in the management of type 2 diabetes and its associated risk factors. It is suggested that psychoneuro-endocrine and immune mechanisms have holistic effects in diabetes control. Parasympathetic activation and the associated anti-stress mechanisms improve patients’ overall metabolic and psychological profiles, increase insulin sensitivity, and improve glucose tolerance and lipid metabolism. Yoga practices such as cleansing processes, asanas, pranayama, mudras, bandha, meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation are known to reduce blood glucose levels and to help in the management of comorbid disease conditions associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus, resulting in significant positive clinical outcomes.


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