Yoga for diabetes

Research describing just how the ancient Indian practice of yoga eases behavior change continues to grow. That’s great news for the millions of people with type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases who want to practice lifestyle medicine: to be physically active, to rest in constructive ways, to eat a healthier diet and to be socially connected. In practice, however, many people struggle to maintain (or shall I say juggle) healthful lifestyles in today’s toxic and obesogenic food environment where opportunities for movement seem limited.
It turns out that yoga really does change you from the inside out. Clinical evidence is mounting.
Yoga, a system of practice originating in ancient India, provides the modern practitioner accessible tools to ease behavior change for those who desire to follow healthy lifestyles yet struggle to sustain change within today’s toxic and obesogenic food environment. New understanding of the neuroscience of lifestyle and the emotional nervous system, and advances in genomics provide insight into likely mechanisms underlying observed benefits of yoga for nutrition-related chronic disease (including type-2 diabetes).
I’ve been thinking about just how and why this works for decades. In 2007, when my first book, Every Bite Is Divine came out, I had been teaching yoga for nearly ten years, and had experienced the tremendous internal shift that so many practitioners describe. I just felt very different – better. At that time, I was a Registered Dietitian with over a decade of experience working with individuals whose very lives depended upon making lifestyle change yet who just couldn’t do it. At the same time, I myself struggled with weight and eating.
Back then there really weren’t a lot of studies exploring what I was describing. We were all aware of Herb Benson’s work at Harvard, and Jon Kabit Zin’s work at U MA, and there were some interesting studies out of India. Now, nearly ten years later, yoga for weight is seemingly everywhere, and there are even calls for an integrated research initiative on yoga for diabetes.  It turns out that while I was teaching yoga and talking about how great it was (and my clinical friends nodded lovingly as they backed away as you might with a potentially crazy sister), neurobiologists and geneticists were hard at work figuring out just what I was experiencing. That yoga changes you.
Over the next months, in preparation for my second book (written with my colleague Dr. Lisa Nelson), Yoga and Diabetes: Your Guide to a Safe and Effective Practice, published by the American Diabetes Association this summer, I’ll be describing the data on just how yoga does what it does. I’ll be talking about how to find a qualified yoga teacher who can help you, and how to go about developing a practice that works. Join me for this hot discussion!
In the meantime, here’s some help with beginning a yoga practice.
And here’s a guide for getting started with healthy eating.