Should You Try Yoga?

I recently started training for a half-marathon run (total distance: 13.1 miles). Unfortunately, the longer runs, required by my training program, resulted in a mild knee injury. While sharing my injury frustrations with a good friend, she suggested a few yoga stretches to help with my recovery. This friend is an experienced runner and previous yoga instructor, so I valued her recommendations.

I started off by doing one simple pose each morning, pigeon pose, and have been impressed with how much this stretch has helped. While, I am not completely “fixed”, the idea that yoga could help with my knee injury got me thinking, “What other health benefits can yoga offer?”

Health benefits of yoga

The practice of yoga has been around for thousands of years with its origins in India. Breathing exercises, meditation, and a collection of physical poses that target various parts of the body, all make up the art of yoga. Hatha yoga is the style of yoga more commonly practiced in the United States, incorporating the aforementioned characteristics.

Yoga is an excellent combination of 3 types of training: resistance, balance and flexibility. All of which are recommend by the American Diabetes Association. 1

According to the 2017 Standards of Care in Diabetes: “Flexibility training and balance training are recommended 2 to 3 times per week for older adults with diabetes. Yoga and tai chi may be included based on individual preferences to increase flexibility, muscular strength, and balance.” 2
 Yoga has been receiving positive recognition for its numerous health benefits, some of which include:

  • Improved glycemic control
    • A recent study reported: daily yoga improved both fasting blood glucose levels and post meal blood glucose levels.
  • Improved blood lipids (a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease)
  • Improved body composition (i.e. decreased percentage of body fat and increased percentage of muscle mass). Such changes in body composition can improve insulin sensitivity
  • Lower heart rate and blood pressure4
  • Help reduce stress and anxiety (stress reduction is an important part of healthy coping. Healthy coping is one of AADE7 Self-Care Behaviors.5)

Getting started with yoga:

  • First speak to your physician as he/she may want to you to take certain precautions (i.e. increased blood glucose monitoring)
  • Find a reputable yoga studio with well-trained yoga instructors.
    • Training programs for yoga instructors may range from a long weekend to more than 2 years.
    • The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) has developed educational standards for yoga therapist.4
    • Once you find a yoga studio, inquire about promotions.
      • Yoga studios often offer a free initial class or free week of unlimited yoga. Often times there is also a new member discount.

Who should take caution when practicing yoga?4

  • Women who are pregnant
  • Individuals with high blood pressure, glaucoma, and sciatica (nerve pain in lower back, buttocks, and/or, leg from an irritated sciatic nerve)

A few additional reminders:

  • As with any form of exercise, increased blood glucose monitoring may be necessary (to screen for low blood glucose levels), especially if your diabetes in managed with insulin. This should be discussed with your physician.
  • Remember to stay hydrated. Keep a filled water bottle next to your yoga mat.

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