Welcome back to our series about the heart of Yoga and how this 4,000-year-old practice can help you manage your diabetes without stress.
Yoga is not like any other type of exercise. All too often, it is mistaken for just a physical practice. However, Yoga is mental, physical and spiritual.
It provides powerful benefits for your health and fitness, while also offering harmony, balance, and peace for your mind and soul.
First, a few known facts, based, of course, on controlled research.
➡ In adults with Type 2 Diabetes, yoga was shown to decrease fasting blood glucose and postprandial (after giving birth) blood glucose, HbA1c, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol (fat, cholesterol, and triglycerides).
The study researchers analyzed data from 12 randomized controlled trials conducted between 1992 and 2014 involving 864 patients with Type 2 Diabetes.
➡ The patients were assigned to yoga therapy with or without other treatments.
➡ All studies included a usual-care control group using the standard insulin and medications prescribed to Type 2 diabetics.
➡ 11 trials were conducted in four countries and the follow-up periods ranged from 15 days to 9 months.
The effects of yoga first were noticed by a drop in fasting blood sugar measurements.
Further researched showed the secondary outcomes of:
- Lower HbA1c levels
- Lowered blood sugar levels in pregnancy after delivery
- Total cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol (the bad type) and
- Decreased levels of triglycerides.
“Based on the evidence, yoga significantly reduces [fasting blood glucose] levels and alters other significant clinical outcomes in patients with [type 2 diabetes. These results support the idea that yoga-based training is a possible alternative exercise for Type 2 Diabetes management.”
There are many great reasons to add yoga to your exercise routine.
- Yoga improves muscle tone, flexibility, and balance, and it helps you relax and reduce stress
- A number of studies have even found that yoga can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain better than traditional therapy alone.
Ready to give it a try? Here are eight beginner poses — called “asanas”
1. Easy Cross Leg Sitting Pose (easy or resting pose) for Stress Relief
➡ Sit cross-legged on a yoga mat with your hand on your knees, palms up. Keep your spine as straight as you can. ➡
➡ Push the bones you’re sitting on down into the floor — your “sit bones” in yoga-speak.
➡ Close your eyes and inhale.
This is a great pose for beginners to use as an assessment tool. Just sitting on the floor gives you a perfect way to see and feel the external rotation of the legs.
This pose also boosts back flexibility and can help relieve stress.
➡ Get on your mat on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.
➡ Distribute your weight equally between your hands and spread your fingers wide.
➡ Inhale and round your back, arching it up as you lower your chin to your chest; feel the stretch from your neck to your tailbone, like a cat.
➡ As you exhale, lower your back down all the way to a scoop shape as you lift your head, and tilt it back.
Repeat a few times to loosen your spine and open your chest.
3. Tree Pose for Balance
➡ Start by standing straight for this pose.
➡ Bring your hands together in the prayer position and lift them over your head.
➡ Balance on your right leg. Bend your left knee out to the left side and press your left foot to the inner thigh of your right leg.
➡ Hold for 30 seconds.
➡ Switch legs and repeat.
** If you have trouble with balance, you can stand against a wall and do this exercise.
This pose helps to stretch the body long, from the heels to the tips of your fingers. It will also help you gain improved balance and flexibility.
4. Downward-Facing Dog for Flexibility
In the downward-facing dog asana, your body forms an inverted V-shape.
➡ Start by placing both hands on the mat in front of you, palms down. Your hands should be slightly in front of your shoulders. ➡
➡ Place your knees on the ground directly under your hips.
➡ Exhale as you lift your knees off the ground and lift your buttocks and hips toward the ceiling.
➡ Push the top of your thighs back and stretch your heels down toward the floor.
➡ Keep your head down between your upper arms and in line with them, not hanging down.
➡ Look at your belly.
The important thing is to create a long straight spine.
➡ Hold the position for 5 to 10 breaths, and try to deepen your stretch with each exhalation.
5. Child’s Pose for Relaxation
Anytime you feel overwhelmed or tired, relax into child’s pose.
➡ From downward-facing dog, simply bend your knees and lower your bottom to your heels as you bring your chest toward the floor over your knees.
➡ Lower your shoulders and head to the floor. Place your arms along your sides, palms up, or you can support your head by folding your arms under your forehead.
➡ Breathe and relax for as long as you need to. This pose is also good for stretching out your back.
6. Baby Pigeon Pose for Hip Flexibility
➡ Starting on all fours, move your right knee forward between your hands.
➡ As though you were doing a lunge, slowly straighten your left leg behind you, keeping the knee and top of the foot on the floor. ➡
➡ Now rotate the right knee toward the right wrist and bring it down to the floor with your right calf flat on the floor and your right foot resting under your left groin.
➡ Lower your upper body over the bent leg, either all the way to the floor or resting on your elbows.
➡ Slowly inhale and exhale five times.
➡ Before you change sides, push back on your left leg to stretch the calf muscles. Repeat with your left leg bent and right leg extended.
This pose is a favorite for runners and walkers because it boosts hip flexibility and also releases the muscles in your lower back.
This stretch, in particular, will help keep you strong, balanced and flexible.
It may be challenging at first, but with practice, you’ll appreciate it more and more.
This pose is pure simplicity.
Stand still, in front of a mirror, with your chest open and broad and your hands at your side, and feel your feet on the floor and the sensations in your legs and back.
Then, analyze your posture.
This pose will show if you have any imbalances in your shoulders and gives you clues about what you need to work on.
8. Legs Up the Wall, for relaxation and restoration
This is a great ending pose for beginners and experienced yoga practitioners alike.
➡ Lie on the floor with your bottom right up against a wall.
➡ “Walk” your legs straight up the wall so that your body is in an L shape with your torso flat on the floor and perpendicular to the wall. ➡
**You may want to place a rolled-up blanket under your lower back for support.
➡ Keep your elbows out to the sides on the floor for additional support.
➡ Flex your toes towards your nose to feel a stretch in the backs of your legs.
➡ Breathe deeply and hold the position for as long as you like.
➡ To release, bring your knees to your chest and roll over to your side. Do not jerk yourself out of this or any other pose. It’s all about gentle movements.
This pose revitalizes tired legs and puts a renewed pep in your step…this I know for a fact, after working 10-14 hour shifts!
Very few people walk out of any exercise class and feel like it was easy…that’s a fact.
Yes, you will feel the stretch, maybe the next day too, but practice is what will also make you feel better, stronger and calmer day by day.
Start practicing these 3 times a week,
Perform all 8 poses each time. Do not force your body or joints if you feel pain, but learn to tell the difference between “pain” and discomfort due to not using those muscles regularly.
As your flexibility improves and you start feeling longer, leaner, more flexible and more relaxed overall, increase the frequency to your own comfort level or preference by one day more each week.
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