Yoga Asana & Pranayama therapy for Type 2 Diabetes:
Diabetes, broadly separated into Type 1 (Insulin-dependent and mainly congenital) and Type 2 (Non-insulin dependent and mainly lifestyle based), is an organic lifestyle based disease that affects more than 380 million people world-wide. A sedentary lifestyle with lack of any physical exercise and a fast-food diet that is high in carbs and low on nutrition leads to an excess build-up of adipose tissue, especially around the waist. This results in the degeneration of Pancreas, specifically their insulin-producing cells called the Islets of Langerhans and thereby causing Diabetes.
Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Living with Type 2 Diabetes can be challenging as feeling fatigued and frequent urination are the two most common symptoms of the disease. Slow healing of skin wounds due to excess blood glucose is another symptom along with genital itching and numbness in the feet or legs. A higher Body Mass Index (BMI) increases the risk of developing Type II Diabetes and that is the reason why one should keep his/her weight in check .
Yoga Asana Therapy for Type II Diabetes
The seemingly simple Yoga Asanas and Pranayamas, if practiced regularly, can not only have a profound effect on the body-mind complex but also hold the promise of a partial or complete cure from Type 2 Diabetes. The twists and bends of these yogic poses stimulate certain muscle groups that are connected to specific organs, and practicing a Yoga Asana sequence regularly promotes arteriogenesis, which is the increase in diameter of arterial vessels. These vessels rejuvenate the supply of oxygen to the organ and thus restore its normal functionality.
Take the case of below asanas – Ardha-Matsyendrasana, Dhanurasana, Bhunagasana and Parivrtta Parsvakonasana stimulate the abdominal wall muscles which are connected to the Pancreas and Liver. When practices correctly, these asanas activate and massage the muscles and surrounding organs, reversing arterial stenosis. This intricate process stimulates the Pancreas to start producing Insulin & Glucagon and helps restore the function of Liver in fat metabolism. Active exercise of these Yoga asanas is essential for those either diagnosed with Diabetes or those who have a familial propensity for the disease. The practice of a different mindset, which is non-critical and actively compassionate, will lead to a reduction of the disease.
It is suggested that Diabetes patients undertake rigorous Chikitsa Yoga Asana training, specifically targeting diabetes. The practice must be for a period of 2 hours daily, split into two morning and evening classes. It is further suggested that they undertake meditational practice of Metta and Mahakaruna, which are taught in the Vajrayana tradition of classical Buddhism.
Pranayama Kriyas for Type II Diabetes
A healthy person takes, on an average, 16 breaths per minute. However, due to obesity and an incorrect posture, we tend to breathe shallow and the number of breaths per minute increases considerably. This puts additional pressure on the heart, which now has to work harder to supply oxygen to the various cells and organs of the body. On the other hand, deep, full-chest diaphragmatic breathing activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System and improves cardiac function by reducing the work-load of the heart. The ancient Sages and Seers intuited the subtle links between the breath, body and the mind, and developed various breathing techniques with specific intentions. It is beyond doubt that Ujjayi breathing and Kapalbhati reduce stress and burn excess fat by increasing cell metabolism.
Sitting comfortably, engage deep chest breathing by slightly constricting the throat muscles. Ideally, the exhalations are twice as long as the inhalations to expel excess CO2 from the body. This Kriya is aimed to activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System, reduce stress and stimulate digestion. It can be practiced any time of the day for 2-5 minutes.
Kapalbhati Pranayama or The Skull-cleansing breathing excercise
The forcefull diaphragmatic breathing of Kapalbhati infuses the body with fresh supply of Oxygen. It also strengthens the abdominal muscles that support correct breathing. This powerfull kriya should be learned from an experienced teacher and practiced in a conducive environment. One can start by practicing 20-25 breathing counts and slowly progress to 50-75 counts.
Samkhya Yoga View:
The psychological aspects of the imbalanced Fire and Water elements manifest in diabetes, are usually apathy, social isolation and withdrawal, and lack of motivation. Aggression and hostility may also be present, making life more difficult for those close to the patient. Sloth and lethargy of the body, due to over-operation of the brain, compounds the chances for the onset of diabetes. These emotional states of mind are caused and/ or compounded by hormonal imbalance, caused by faltering homeostasis, as the body moves towards the onset of actual diabetes.
Reference Research Papers
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