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Effect of Pranayama & Yogasana on Diabetes -1

By: Acharya Balkrishna, Avnish Upadhyay , Ruchita Upadhyay

Diabetes poses a major health problem globally and is one of the top five leading causes of death in most developed countries. A substantial body of evidence suggests that it could reach epidemic proportions particularly in developing and newly industrialized countries. (1)

Indeed, by the year 2025, three-quarters of the world's 300 million adults with diabetes will be in developing countries and almost a third in India and China alone. (2)

The prevalence of diabetes in India is showing a sharp upswing as is evident from secular trends from different parts of the subcontinent and studies of migrant Indians. (3)

The World Health Organization has estimated that in 1995,19.4 million individuals were affected by diabetes in India and these numbers are expected to increase to 57.2 million by the year 2025 i.e. one- sixth of the world total.1 The revised figures are 80.9 million by the year 2030. (4)

Diabetes is a complex condition with a multitude of metabolic imbalances involving the regulation and utilization of insulin and glucose (sugar) in the body. Diabetes is currently considered an epidemic disease that is largely preventable and treatable through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes. Yoga's effectiveness at preventing and treating diabetes is due to its emphasis of a healthy diet and lifestyle as well as its ability to balance the endocrine system, massage and tone the abdominal organs, stimulate the nervous and circulatory systems, and reduce stress.

Yogasana [Yoga Postures] and Pranayama [Voluntary regulated Yoga Breathing] is a highly effective part of diabetes treatment because it increases insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar level.  Many studies have reported the beneficial effect of the practice of yoga on diabetes, confirming that the practice of Yogasana [Yoga Postures] can stimulate the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. The seven types of Pranayama [Voluntary regulated Yoga Breathing], popularized, reintroduced and reinvented by Pujya Swami Ramdev evolved to exercise and affect various parts of body like lungs, muscles, nerves, glands, circulatory system etc. Stress has been shown to play an important role in diabetes by elevating blood glucose levels and increasing the odds of developing certain complications, such as heart disease, stroke and infections. And having a chronic disease that requires major lifestyle changes and constant monitoring can be very stressful in itself. Research now shows that chronically elevated levels of cortisol (hormone produced by the stress response) can lead to blood sugar problems, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Yogasana [Yoga Postures] and Pranayama [Voluntary regulated Yoga Breathing] are the two best practices to reduce stress and yoga has been shown to dramatically lower cortisol levels in the body. (5,6,7)

Stress has long been suspected as having major effects on metabolic activity. The effects of stress on glucose metabolism are mediated by a variety of "counter-regulatory" hormones that are released in response to stress and that result in elevated blood glucose levels and decreased insulin action. This energy mobilizing effect is of adaptive importance in a healthy organism. However, in diabetes, because of a relative or absolute lack of insulin, stress-induced increases in blood glucose cannot be adequately metabolized. Thus, stress is a potential contributor to chronic hyper-glycemia in diabetes, although its exact role is unclear. (8)

Some findings suggest that better glycaemic control and stable autonomic functions can be obtained in Type 2 DM cases with Yogasana [Yoga Postures] and Pranayama [Voluntary regulated Yoga Breathing]. The exact mechanism as to how these postures and controlled breathing interact with somato-neuro-endocrine mechanism affecting metabolic and autonomic functions remains to be worked out.(9)
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