Managing Diabetes with Yoga by Yashodhara Pawar

Diabetes is one of the most common metabolic disorders today, with nearly 20 million diagnosed cases reported in the United States alone.  It is estimated that it is also the most rapidly growing lifestyle-related metabolic conditions in the South-east Asia and the peninsular region, as more and more children and young adults continue to be diagnosed every- year.

There are mainly three types of Diabetes: A). Type-1: Diabetes mellitus or Insulin-dependant diabetes; Juvenile diabetes; genetic condition; no insulin produced in body. B). Type-2: Non-insulin dependant or Adult-onset diabetes, insufficient production of insulin or loss of cell’s ability to efficiently utilize Insulin. C). Gestational diabetes: common during pregnancy due to elevated levels of glucose developed during pregnancy; affects both foetus and mother.

Diabetes is characterized by high levels of Glucose the body (Hyperglycemia), caused due to insufficient production, and/or the inability of the  cells to utilize insulin, the principal glucose regulating hormone in the body.  Insulin is produced and secreted in the Pancreas, and transported through the blood into the cells in response to elevated levels of glucose in the blood. Inside the cells, glucose eventually breaks down to release energy and other essential molecular by-products. Thus, insulin is essential for energy metabolism, to balance glucose levels in the blood, and transport of glucose into the fat and muscle cells.

Diabetes can be a highly debilitating condition with various systemic complications. It is characterized by the presence of Glucose in the urine (Glycosuria), elevated levels of Urea in urine (Polyuria), ketoacidosis (ketone bodies and increased acidity of blood) leading to Ketone breath, blurring of vision that could lead to diabetic retinopathy, Glaucoma, Cataract; Polyphagia (excessive hunger), frequent urination, Chronic fatigue and lethargy. It reduces immunity, delays the wound healing capacity. It can lead to an initial extreme weight loss, progressing into obesity, increases the risk of ischemic heart disease, hypertension, kidney disease, neuropathy etc. The patients often have to rely on insulin injections, supplemented with medication and controlled diet to manage the condition.

However, contrary to popular myth, diabetes does not necessarily have to affect the quality of life. It can be effectively managed with the right combination of diet, exercise and proper medication. Diabetics often find intense aerobic activities difficult to sustain over time. Incorporating a regular yoga practice into the routine has shown to be highly effective in managing Diabetes, and has shown to be effective not only in regulating optimal blood glucose levels, but also maintaining a healthy body weight, improving musculature, building immunity, is beneficial in heart related conditions, hypertension and helps invigorate the mind, body and spirit.  The various twists help to massage and stimulate the internal organs, mainly the pancreas, liver, stimulating the secretion of insulin and the digestive juices, thus aiding in digestion and metabolism. The muscles stretch, improving the cellular oxygen intake. It also helps keep the spine supple, regulates the nervous system and in-turn helps to calm the brain and invigorates the mind and the body.

diabetes symptoms


Given below are a few asanas that can be practiced daily:

Paschimottan asana (Forward bend)

paschimotthan asana

Technique – Sit with feet stretched out in front. Inhale, stretch up and slowly exhale and bend forward, leading with the crown of the head, keeping the back straight, lengthening the spine. Hold the feet/ankles/heels, chest going down towards the thighs. Hold the pose for 30 to 40 seconds, going deeper into the pose with every exhalation.

Benefits – This asana is one of the best postures for stimulating the digestive system. It helps in detox and aids metabolism by invigorating the pancreas, liver, abdomen and the intestines.  This asana is one the most effective stretches for the whole of the back of the body, from the heels to the spine, opens up the muscles of the thighs, hips, hamstrings and back of the knees.

Parivrit Parasvakon Namaskar asana (twisted Prayer pose in Ashwasanchala asana)

twisted namaskar in ashwasanchalan

Technique – Start with ashwasanchalan asana (Horse-warrior), with the left foot in front. With an exhale, twist to the left, joining your palms in a Namaste, with the right shoulder tucked over the left knee, chest opening to side. Stay in the posture for up-to a minute, and then repeat with the right leg in-front.

Alternatively, you can place the right palm on the outside of the left foot, with the left arm stretching out to the front along the line of the ear (Parivit paraswakon asana)

Benefits – Helps to twist the entire spine, from the lower back to the neck and shoulders, squeezes and stimulates the pancreas, liver and the abdomen; helps improve absorption of nutrients and in the better exchange of oxygen in the cells. It also stretches all the muscles of the lower body and back, opening the hips.

 Dhanurasana (Bow pose)


Technique – Lie flat on the stomach, with a little distance between the knees, bend the knees and hold the ankles/foot.  Inhale and lift the upper body, knees and thighs off the mat, squeezing the glut-muscles tight, coming up to the belly button, balance on the abdomen.

Benefits – This asana is one of the best back strengthening postures. It massages and stimulates the stomach, pancreas and intestines, stretches the pelvic muscles, and helps tone the gluts and thighs. The backward of the spine helps improve the posture by strengthening the back, and in turn stimulates the spinal nerves.  It aids in digestion by stimulating pancreatic secretion, improves liver function, stimulates digestive juices and helps relieve constipation and aids in nutrient absorption.

 Ardha Matsyendraasana (Lord of the Fish pose/ Half spinal twist)

matsendra asana

Technique – Sit with the legs stretched out in-front of you. Bend the left knee bringing the thigh down on the mat.  Cross the right foot over the left thigh towards the left buttock, twist the torso to the right, bringing the arm-pit over the right knee, holding the right ankle/foot with the left hand. Place the right hand on the floor behind you, closer to the hip, making sure that both the buttocks are on the floor, back is straight and chest is open to the side. Hold posture for up-to a minute, and repeat on the other side.

Benefits – This spinal twist is one of the best stimulatory asanas for the digestive system; it helps massage the abdominal organs to relieve digestive ailments like acidity, constipation. It regulates the secretions of the liver, pancreas, adrenal glands thus, regulating insulin secretion. It also helps stretch the muscles of the back, sides, hips, neck; the spinal twist helps invigorate the nervous system by stimulating the spinal nerves.

 Halasana (Plough pose)


Technique- Lie flat on the back with the legs together, palms flat besides the hips. Press palms down, fold the knees towards the chest and push the hip up, rolling back away from the floor, taking the feet over the head towards the floor at the back, bringing the toes towards the floor. Do not force. Beginners should go as far into the inversion as is comfortable. Close the eyes, breathing normally and hold the posture for as long as comfortable.

Benefits- This is a very effective asana for diabetes as it massages all the internal organs, stimulates metabolism, relieves constipation and promotes secretion of insulin by the pancreas. It also helps stretch the back muscle, hamstrings, strengthens the arms, and improves flow of blood to the head, and stimulates the thyroid gland.

However, this posture should not be practiced by people suffering from hernia, slipped disc/lower back compression, sciatica, high blood pressure or extreme claustrophobia.

Shava Udarakarashansana (Universal spinal twist)

spinal twist

Technique- Lie flat on the back with the arms out, parallel to the shoulders, palms facing down. Place the right foot on the left knee, twist to the left bringing the knee down towards the floor to the left. Make sure the right shoulder does not lift off the floor, look towards the right, close the eyes and hold the twist for up to a minute. Come back to the centre and change sides.

Benefits- The full spinal twist helps alleviate stiffness in the spine and hip-joints, relieves stress and pain in the pelvic area and lower and middle back, works on the fat deposits in the waist and abdomen, and massages the abdominal organs. It squeezes the pancreas thus promoting secretion of insulin and pancreatic juices.

Anuloma-viloma pranayama (Alternate nostril breathing)

Technique- Close the right nostril and breathe in through the left nostril for 3 counts, hold the breath and exhale through the right nostril, and again breathe in through the right, hold and then exhale through the left (1 cycle). Practice 7-11 such cycles to begin with.

Develop the practice over time, gradually increasing the retention and exhalation times so that the Inhalation:Retention:Exhalation is in the ratio of 1:2:2 counts. The aim is to retain the breath for a longer time followed by a long, controlled exhalation.

Benefits- This practice helps invigorate the mind and the body, calming the brain improving blood oxygen levels, and in turn helps regulate all body systems. It is also a great preparative practice for meditation.

For more details please visit www.total-yoga.org



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Slavica Gokul

Slavica Gokul is a certified Vinyasa, Hatha and Power yoga teacher through Total Yoga in Bangalore, India. She has been an aspiring yogi for more than 20 years. She dedicated herself to consistent practice 9 years ago and while residing in India from 2012-14 underwent teacher training.



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