Breathe, relax, stretch. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, and many tout its ability to strengthen the body, mind and spirit. Mounting evidence suggests that yoga may also help us cope with various health conditions that affect us as we age, including cancer (1) and asthma (2).
In fact, yoga has gained tremendous popularity in recent years (3), but what is it exactly?
Yoga is a sequence of strengthening and stretching poses linked with deep breathing, meditation, or relaxation (4). Although there are many different types of yoga to choose from (4), all revolve around the core principles of balancing and improving a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Closely linked to meditation, yoga is known for being a stress-reduction technique (5).
Diabetes is a growing epidemic that affects millions of Canadians (6) and yields serious side effects, such as blindness, nerve damage, and stroke (7). Can embracing your inner yogi help you manage your diabetes?
What the research tells us
A recent systematic review found that people with type 2 diabetes who practiced yoga – for an average of 50 sessions, lasting one hour, over 12 weeks – experienced better control of their blood sugar, compared to people with type 2 diabetes who did not practice yoga. Small to medium improvements were also seen in cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass index, but no effect on weight loss was observed (8).
Similarly, another review found that yoga may be beneficial when used as a complementary therapy. That means when yoga was combined with other diabetes management techniques (e.g., standard diabetes care, education, lifestyle modification, diet control, or medication), people with type 2 diabetes were better able to control their blood sugar levels (9).
When looking at yoga as a leisure-time activity, best results may be achieved when people engage in it more than 3 times per week, for eight or more weeks, according to the findings of a third review (10). More research is needed to determine the long-term effects of yoga on diabetes management (8;9).
If you have type 2 diabetes, consider embracing your inner yogi. This doesn’t mean that you have to bend yourself into a pretzel, but making yoga part of your life may help you manage the disease.