Whether you’re diabetic, prediabetic, or otherwise healthy, looking after your blood sugar levels becomes increasingly important as we get older. Keeping your blood sugar under control can help you keep your weight down and also ward off other serious health conditions. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do on your own to help keep your sugar in check. Besides changing your diet, exercise is often recommended for diabetes and blood-sugar management, and there’s one in particular that’s shown to be especially beneficial — yoga.
But how can yoga possibly help with blood sugar? Well, it does this in a few ways. Firstly, yoga helps to reduce stress. Chronically elevated cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body can lead to insulin resistance, a key marker of blood sugar problems. Yoga has shown in studies to reduce stress and cortisol levels, and could, therefore, improve insulin sensitivity in those with diabetes. Yoga can also lower blood pressure, reducing your risk of diabetes-related conditions like heart disease. What’s more, yoga improves circulation throughout the whole body, improving the function of organs like the pancreas and kidneys (two key players in blood sugar management), and also reducing your risk of nerve damage — another common side effect of diabetes.
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian health science where yoga comes from, asserts that yoga is an integral practice in managing blood sugar, and modern research has begun to explore this. One 2016 review of studies found that a yoga practice improved blood sugar levels, lipid levels, and overall body composition in those with type 2 diabetes. Another study published in the journal Diabetes Care showed that a three-month yoga program helped to lower oxidative stress in subjects with type 2 diabetes, lessening the risk of related complications like stroke, nerve damage, retinopathy (vision loss), and nephropathy (damage to the kidneys).
The best part is, you don’t have to spend hours sweating on your mat to reap all the benefits of yoga for blood sugar. A simple practice with just a few poses can make a world of difference, and it can all be done in as little as fifteen minutes a day!
Check out some of the best yoga postures for diabetes and blood sugar management below.