Practise yoga for insulin secretion and diabetes reversal

Yoga improves the body’s prana, or energy, by regulating the energy flow. Photo: New Africa/iStock

In India, a huge population is at a high risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. For most patients, medications alone are not sufficient to achieve glycemic control; a proper diet, regular physical activity, and stress management should also be taken into consideration. A plethora of exercises, such as running, swimming, and aerobics, are recommended for diabetic patients. However, studies reveal that yoga therapy can work wonders for such patients and prove to be of great help in maintaining an ideal and healthy blood sugar level in the body. Studies have proven that increased oxidative stress can cause diabetes mellitus in people.

Some warm-up yoga asanas:

Yoga: Yoga improves the body’s prana, or energy, by regulating the energy flow. Yoga asanas are the ones that connect the body’s movement and the changes of the mind to the rhythm of our breath. "Sthiram sukham asanam," which means asanas are postures that give steadiness, bliss, and happiness.

Oxidative stress and diabetes

After the metabolism of glucose, the beta cells contain free radicals which increase oxidative stress. We can reverse diabetes glucose, by reducing oxidative stress. Studies have found that Hatha yoga exercise has a therapeutic, preventive, and protective effect by decreasing oxidative stress.

Yoga offers great benefits for people with diabetes. The nerve impulses to the pancreas get immensely stimulated when a person performs yoga asanas and postures, which help normalise the blood sugar level in the body and prevent abnormal fluctuations.

Asanas for diabetes

Kati Chakrasana. Photo: mathompl/iStock

Kati Chakrasana: Stand with the feet about shoulder-width apart and the arms by the sides. Raise the arms to shoulder level, then twist the body to the right. Bring the left hand to the right shoulder and wrap the right arm around the back, bringing the right hand around the left side of the waist. Look over the right shoulder as far as is comfortable.

Tadasana. Photo: Nila Newsom/iStock

Tadasana: Stand with the feet together, or about 10 cm apart, and the arms by the sides. Steady the body and distribute the weight equally on both feet. Raise the arms over the head. Interlock the fingers and turn the palms upward. Place the hands on top of the head. Fix the eyes at a point on the wall slightly above the level of the head.

The eyes should remain fixed on this point throughout the practice. Inhale and stretch the arms, shoulders, and chest upward. Raise the heels, coming up onto the toes. Stretch the whole body from top to bottom without losing balance or moving the feet. Hold the breath and the position for a few seconds. At first, it may be difficult to maintain balance, but with practice, it becomes easier. Lower the heels while breathing out, and bring the hands to the top of the head. This is one round. Relax for a few seconds before performing the next round.

Trikonasana: Stand straight and keep the legs apart. Extend both arms in a way that is parallel to the ground. Inhale and raise the right hand upward. Exhale and bend the torso at the waist towards the left side.

Trikonasana. Photo: SergeyCo/iStock

While bending, bring your left arm to the left foot. Slowly and gradually, hold the ankle. Meanwhile, keep your right hand upward, above the shoulder.

Keeping the shoulders aligned, turn the head up and look towards the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds. Return to the standing position and repeat on the other side. It activates the body's core, which further stimulates the digestive organs. Hence, it helps improve body metabolism.

Paschimotasana. Photo: BearFotos/iStock

Paschimotasana: Sit with the legs stretched out in front of the body, hands on the knees. Inhale while raising the hands above the head and keeping the back straight. Exhale while bending forward from the hips and keeping the head between the shoulders so that the spinal column is stretched. Clasp the big toes or ankles with the hands and bring the head down to rest on the knees. If this is not possible, hold the calf muscles. The back should not curve or hunch. In the final position, you can hold your breath or breathe normally, concentrating on the navel. When releasing the position, inhale and raise the arms above the head while sitting up. Exhale while bringing the hands down to the knees. The visceral organs are massaged, in particular the pancreas, spleen, kidney, liver, reproductive organs, adrenal glands, and abdominal muscles. Therefore, it is very useful in the yogic management of digestive disorders, especially diabetes.

Pavanamuktasana. Photo: Max kegfire/iStock

Pavanamuktasana: Lie down flat on your back. Keep your legs and feet close together. Breathe evenly. Exhale. Raise your legs off the floor. Bend your raised legs at the knees. Ensure that your legs are still close together. With your hands, grasp the parts of your legs right below the knees. Pull your knees back towards your head. Now, lift your head off the floor and move it forward until your forehead touches your knees. Breathe evenly and maintain the posture for a few seconds. To unwind, straighten your legs out slowly and let your head rest back on the floor. Pavanamuktasana is a simple yoga exercise recommended for all diabetic patients. One of the major benefits of this asana is that it helps to strengthen the liver, spleen, pancreas, and abdomen, along with the abdominal muscles.

Shavasana: Yoga practices begin with Savasana and end with Savasana. The aim of this corpse posture is to obtain maximum rest for the mind and body, and that too within a limited time. Savasana is good for your health. Lie down flat on your back.

Stretch your arms and legs out and away from your body.

Keep your eyes gently closed. Breathe evenly and attempt to relax. Ensure that your body is completely relaxed, and focus on your mind. Practise regularly until you learn to focus and can still your thoughts.

Shavasana. Photo:

The asana is meant to rest the body for a limited time. Practise the posture till you attain a sense of calm. It calms your body and mind. Practise this posture before and after every yoga session.

Research studies show that by practising these asanas for 40 days for 30–40 minutes, there was a significant reduction in fasting blood sugar (FBS), postprandial blood sugar (PPBS), HbA1c, and serum malondialdehyde (MDA).

Asanas, which increase insulin secretion

Vakrasana. Photo: fizkes/iStock

Vakrasana: Sit on the floor or the mat. Your legs should be extended forward. Hands must be on the sides of the body. You can start with the left side and continue with the right side afterward. Fold the left leg from the knee. Then, place your left foot near your right knee on the ground. Place your left hand on the back of your left hip, away from the spine. Place your right hand on the opposite side of your left knee. Now turn your back, look behind you, and look up. Maintain the pose while breathing normally. Then, return to the original position by straightening the neck and head and releasing the hands and legs. Try with the other leg.

A study by Gowri in 2022 showed a significant decrease in fasting blood glucose levels among those with type-2 diabetes who practised yoga regularly. In addition, vakrasana might stimulate the pancreas to increase insulin secretion and improve insulin sensitivity. This might help lower blood glucose levels to manage diabetes.

Ardhamatsyendrasana. Photo: Lila Koan/iStock

Ardhamatsyendrasana: Keep the right foot by the side of the left buttock, the left leg on top, with the foot in front of the right knee and the left knee raised upward. (Or the left foot can be placed on the outside of the right knee or right thigh.) Inhale while raising the arms shoulder-high, keeping the elbows straight. Exhaling, twist to the left, place the right arm by the outer side of the left knee and hold the left ankle with the right hand. Take the left arm behind the back and rest the back of the left hand against the right side of the waist. Hold the position. Practise on both sides, changing the leg and arm positions. The important physiological aspects of this asana are that it stimulates the pancreas, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, and ascending and descending colons. It is useful in the treatment of diabetes, constipation, dyspepsia, and urinary problems.

Dhanurasana: Lie flat on the stomach with the forehead resting on the floor. Bend the knees and hold both ankles. 

Dhanurasana. Photo: New Africa/iStock

Separate the knees. Inhale while slightly raising the knees, head, and chest; at the same time, pull the feet away from the hands and upwards. The whole body should move simultaneously into the posture. Exhale while lowering the body and relaxing on the floor. Dhanurasana is very important for stimulating the solar plexus. It regulates the digestive, eliminatory, and reproductive organs. It massages the liver and pancreas and is thus very useful for yoga's management of diabetes.

Halasana. Photo: Alexey Tsibin/iStock

Halasana: Lie on your back with your arms beside you, palms downward. As you inhale, use your abdominal muscles to lift your feet off the floor, raising your legs vertically at a 90-degree angle. Continue to breathe normally, supporting your hips and back with your hands as you lift them off the ground. Allow your legs to sweep at a 180-degree angle over your head until your toes touch the floor. Your back should be perpendicular to the floor. This may be difficult initially, but make an attempt for a few seconds. Hold this pose and let your body relax more and more with each steady breath. After about a minute (a few seconds for beginners) of resting in this pose, you may gently bring your legs down on exhalation.

Do this asana slowly and gently. Ensure that you do not strain your neck or push it into the ground. Halasana boosts circulation, improves blood pressure, and lowers blood sugar levels, which is helpful for diabetes management.

All these asanas stretch your abdominal muscles, which in turn stimulate the pancreas for the production of insulin. Yoga is not only for the physical body; it has a great impact on the physiological, mental, and emotional bodies. In view of the holistic wellness aspects of Yoga the International Day of Yoga is celebrated across the world on June 21 since 2015, after its inception in the United Nations General Assembly in 2014.

(Disclaimer: Always practise under the supervision of trained, registered practitioners.)

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