Three Simple Ways You Can Bring Yoga Into Your Daily Diabetes Management Plan by Rachel Zinman


Yoga! You’ve most likely heard about it, maybe you’ve even tried it but is it for you? Can it help you manage your diabetes on a daily basis?  When I was first diagnosed with diabetes 7 years ago I was shocked. How could someone who has devoted their life to practicing and teaching yoga for over 30 years get Type 1 diabetes? Isn’t yoga supposed to fix everything?

Rather than throwing my daily yoga practice out the window I deconstructed it. Wondering… why didn’t I ever go into DKA? Why wasn’t I symptomatic? Why was I full of energy and enthusiasm regardless of my condition?

My doctor was baffled too. My blood tests showed a person riddled with autoimmune conditions, chronic fatigue and systemic candida but there I was sitting opposite him, bright as a button, showing no signs of exhaustion or depletion. My only complaint? Bad digestion.

Yoga is not some mystical esoteric practice. As a physical exercise system, it stretches and strengthens muscles and develops, through specific breathing practices, focus and concentration. In essence, combining breath and movement increases circulation, respiration and naturally releases stress.

But there is more to yoga and its benefits especially when you have diabetes. I’ve found yoga to be an excellent tool in increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering blood glucose levels. Mainly because of the engagement of the musculoskeletal system. Hugging muscles to bones, moving isometrically and being consistent in the practice send messages to the body that you mean business. The body knows it’s going to be put through its paces and as a result it shows up. Levels might not lower right after practice but over time they will. It takes patience and a willingness to at least try and see if it makes a difference.

I’ve noticed major changes over months and years but even just bringing in a simple 20 minute practice three times a week will make a difference. You just have to put yourself in the science lab and check the results.

So what are three ways you can take action right now to bring Yoga into your diabetes management plan?

1. If you’re new to Yoga I would suggest checking out a local beginners class. Try out a few teachers and styles until something clicks. There’s plenty of online yoga programs, but to be honest nothing beats a hands on experience with a real person.  And its healthier! In a live class you get to connect and be with other people interested in Yoga and healthy living. I find being around people who think like I do really supports me in making a commitment to my own health and wellbeing.

2. Learn what your breath is doing and how changing your breath can change the way you respond to stress. One of the big parts of yoga practice is bringing the breath and the movement together this is called Vinyasa. When the breath is calm, the mind is also calm. It’s a no brainer. But you don’t need to be in a yoga class to observe your breath. You can stop right now and notice;

  • Are you breathing in and out through your nose? Your mouth?
  • Where is your tongue resting in your palate?
  • Are you holding your breath?
  • Is your breath heavy? Fast? Slow? Irregular?

Don’t try and change the breath yet. Instead keep your mind on your breath. This is the first stage of any Yoga practice. Taking a few moments to notice where you are. Then any step you take forward is in the right direction.

3. Bring your breath and movement together. This is a simple exercise you can do anywhere anytime. Even at your desk.

  • Sit comfortably on a chair with both feet flat on the floor, or sit in a comfortable position on the floor.
  • Have your arms by your sides.
  • On your next inhalation raise the arms out to the side and up over head, bringing the palms to touch.
  • On your next exhalation lower the arms back down by your sides.
  • The most important thing is to coordinate your movement with your breath. So the palms meet at the top of your inhalation and the arms drop back down at the bottom of your exhalation.
  • The slower you move your arms the slower the breath.
  • Start simply. If your inhalation and exhalation are short just move your arms a little faster.

Do this exercise 5-10 times and then move into your day.

I’ve included a link to a short video of the practice here if you’d like to try it

I hope you enjoy the benefits from these three simple tips and will join me in the next instalment.

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With great respect



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