Why Yoga for Diabetes?

When I was coming up with the name for my blog I came across a book about Yoga and Diabetes by Dr. Lisa Nelson and Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher Annie Kay. I subsequently ordered it.

I love it! A simple, down to earth manual to inspire both Types 1’s and 2’s to take up a yoga practice while learning about its profound benefits. I wrote to Lisa and Annie, told them my story and asked them to share why they wrote the book and include a simple practice.

The following piece is written by Lisa Nelson M.D

I have been teaching about the effectiveness of yoga as a tool for managing diabetes since 2012, when I first co-taught the Prevent and Reverse Diabetes program at the Kripalu School of Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, MA with the lovely Annie B. Kay (my co-author for Yoga and Diabetes).  This 6 day on-site immersion program is a blend of yoga, nutrition, mindful eating, meditation, group support, and diabetes management.  Though primarily geared toward people with Type 2 diabetes (hence the “prevent” in the title), the program is also useful for people with Type 1 DM who want to use lifestyle modifications to positively impact their health.

Rather than describe what I think guests got out of this program, I’d like to share an email I received from a graduate of our Spring 2014 program:

“My 4-month check-up with my endocrinologist was today. Both the nurse and my doctor separately told me how good I looked, which took me aback somewhat. They were not referring to my weight but my aspect – maybe a healthier glow? A more relaxed demeanor?  My A1C went from 7.1 in November to 5.8 today – this only 2 months post-Kripalu. My doctor and I are beyond pleased. I have fully ended my Victoza and cut my Metformin in half. My BP med is back down to a “whiff” and was 118/80 today. As far as other things beyond med reduction – I think I mentioned in class (to laughter) that I have the odd feeling of being taller. I guess that is really just a greater feeling of well being or a lightness of being – and this occurred before I lost weight. I think since Kripalu, I have lost approximately 20 pounds. Unlike the others in our group, I am 10+ years post diabetes diagnosis; so it shows that even a long-termer can get results. I can only imagine how the others’ numbers will look a month from now.”

yoga and diabetes

This story is not unique– we have heard from so many people over the years about how this yoga-based program helped numerous aspects of their lives, not just their “numbers.”  People come away feeling more resilient, more balanced, physically lighter, and better able to manage their diabetes.

Our experience with the transformative effect of yoga for people with chronic disease is what inspired Annie and I to work with the American Diabetes Association on our book, Yoga and Diabetes.  We believe that our program at Kripalu was successful because yoga is a powerful tool for life change.  So often, people know what they need to do to support their health, but they aren’t able to actually make the time or mental shift to allow it to happen.  The practice of yoga helps to create the space for healthy change to emerge.  It is transformative; it is a tool for self-healing.

It is our sincere hope that Yoga and Diabetes will help introduce this beautiful science and practice to a whole new audience, so they can reap the benefits of yoga’s healing power.

If you are new to yogic practices, here is one of the breathing practices that we discuss in our book. This practice is calming, balancing and relaxing.

Alternate nostril breathing (“Nadi Shodhana”)

This “sweet breath” is thought to calm and balance the nervous system.

Sit in a comfortable position. Notice the rhythm of your natural breath. Bend index and middle finger of your right hand toward your palm. Keep the other fingers and thumb straight. Press right thumb against your right nostril, blocking it off. Inhale thorough the left nostril.  B. Pause, then place the right ring finger over the left nostril, and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril. Pause, place the thumb back over the right nostril, and exhale through the left.

Begin with three cycles of this breath, and increase to 1 to 2 minutes, then work your way up to 10 minutes.

Yoga and Diabetes

Lisa Nelson MD is a practicing family physician and is the Director of Medical Education for the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA and Medical Director of The Nutrition Center, a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire a healthy relationship with food through counseling, nutrition, and culinary education for school aged children.  

Annie B. Kay MS RDN RYT is the author of the award-winning book Every Bite Is Divine, a licensed integrative Dietitian, master yoga teacher, and Lead Nutritionist at The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA. She has been writing and educating internationally on integrative lifestyle for over two decades. www.anniebkay.com

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