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How Yoga Helps Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that cannot be reversed by changing one’s lifestyle. No amount of diet and exercise will restore the beta cells in the pancreas. That said, there are ways that you can ease symptoms and improve management of Type 1 diabetes. Yoga is one such way. Here’s how it helps:

Improving Insulin Administration and Digestion

All of the different forms of yoga are known to increase the blood supply to parts of the body. Increased blood flow allows the body to better absorb insulin at the injection site.
Yoga also improves digestion through poses that incorporate twisting. When you twist and contort your body, you are wringing out your organs. This also opens up your heart center, which allows you to feel love.

Reducing Stress

Stress worsens the body’s normal functions. In the case of Type 1 diabetes, the rising levels of epinephrine, cortisol, and glucagon (caused by stress) can raise blood sugar levels and reduce insulin activity. If you have Type 1 diabetes, you can’t produce insulin every time you feel stress. And high blood sugars, in turn, can further increase stress, creating a vicious cycle. Yoga reduces the effects of stress by decreasing high levels of cortisol. Poses relax the sympathetic nervous system, helping the endocrine glands to function properly.

Creating Healthy Intention

When you do yoga, you are gaining the fundamentals of self-care and self-love. Yoga helps you to become more disciplined, and you naturally start to become more mindful about everything around you. Why? Well, it helps you to feel good. At first, there may be moments of discomfort, but it’s likely you’ll find one pose that brings you peace of mind. A yoga teacher can prompt you to breathe through challenging poses and to focus your intention for the practice. Yoga teaches you to focus and breathe through pain and discomfort.

Working Toward Mindfulness

Living with a chronic illness such as Type 1 diabetes is difficult. But you can learn to let go. This means accepting that you will not always be in control and that perfect control of blood glucose is illusory.

Applying Mindfulness in Other Aspects of Life

While exercise is great for diabetes, yoga goes one-step forward, since it teaches the skills of mindfulness. You are guided into going within yourself and being present. As you learn this, you can use it in all parts of your life. For instance, when you want to eat a certain dessert even though your blood glucose is already elevated, you can remind yourself of your health goals. Mindfulness allows you to focus on the positive (achieving balance), rather than drawing on feelings of guilt or shame.

Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of SiddhiYoga, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), and Indonesia (Bali).

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