Yoga is the philosophy of physical and mental schooling which aims to achieve harmony by controlling the body through the mind. By applying thought to bodily postures practitioners are able to attain different levels of perfection. It is therefore a philosophy that manifests itself in action.
The practice can have various beneficial effects. Mentally it can lead to equanimity and calmness. The time spent in meditation will have a marked effect on the personality. On a more practical level it can have health benefits. In this article some of the ways in which Yoga can benefit people who suffer from diabetes will be discussed.
There is a pandemic of diabetes throughout the world. The pancreas is affected and the endocrine gland malfunctions. The disease may be linked to obesity and lack of exercise but stress can also play a large part in type two late onset diabetes. When diabetes develops late in life it is difficult to combat without the use of drugs. The same drugs that fight diabetes can have side effects such as leg cramps and weakness. Possibly a change in lifestyle will help an individual combat diabetes without resorting to drugs.
Taking up a new philosophy does involve a change in lifestyle. It is not the same sort of change that a doctor might describe because it will go beyond controlling diet and taking regular exercise. The new lifestyle will entail ‘yama’ which refers to the attitude to the world around one. This might be a great deal more than the average doctor has in mind when he prescribes a ‘change in life style’. It might also make some people uneasy because it of the ideological implications. Nevertheless, ideals of non-violence, self control truthfulness and abstinence cannot be seriously at variance with any of the world’s major religions.
On a more practical level lifestyle changes can also be achieved through physical poses, known as ‘Asanas’. Holding certain physical poses can bring mind and body into harmony with each other. There are a number of simple poses that can be practised. They are said to be especially useful for diabetes and obesity because they are performed slowly, with metal relaxation that will help to relieve stress. At the most elementary level the contemplative pose sitting with a straight spine and legs crosses before the body can bring the mind into a state of repose and prepare for meditation. Because stress and diabetes are connected these fundamental exercises, regularly done, can help relieve stress.
Breathing exercises can also be helpful in relieving the sort of stress that typically raises blood sugar levels. Known as ‘Pranayama’ breathing exercises regulate the inhalation, retention and exhalation of breath in different ways with the aim of cleansing the body. For example, ‘Kapalabhati’ is a specific technique that can be used to clear mucus that might block the upper airways. It involves quick breathing and is quite different to the slow breathing that one might normally associate with breathing exercises. This illustrates the intricate techniques that Yoga brings to problems associated with conditions like sleep apnoea that come as side effects of diabetes.
Another useful aspect of yoga is known as Prathayara, or withdrawal of the senses. Here mental concentration on a posture or breathing exercise might make a person seem to transcend the senses. This will obviously reduce the sort of insidious stress that resides in the body and causes blood sugar levels to rise.
Yoga is a deep and complex philosophy. It can absorb a person’s whole life. Even when it does not do that parts of the holistic philosophy may be beneficial to people who suffer from diabetes, obesity or other medical problems. People who are diagnosed with diabetes are told that radical alterations in lifestyle are essential anyway, and this may be an opportunity.