Anatomy of diabetes and yoga

One of my best friends passed away 10 days ago from the complication of diabetes. He was drinking a lot since his early 20s, and even after he was diagnosed as type 2 diabetes almost 10 years ago, he didn’t stop drinking. His family and friends often said he was killing himself and it was his fault, however, I sometimes still think there must have been something people around him could have done.
He had been through tough time since he was a little boy because of his unique character. He was the 4th child of the family and since he often bullied in school, his mother spoiled him, which was obvious to his brothers and sister. In his 20s, he looked like an actor, extremely handsome, tall, and was very popular among girls. Got married in his early 20s but it was a bad marriage. He started drinking a lot around this time. He was diagnosed as type II Diabetes when he was 40, then passed away at the age of 50. He looked like 90 years old when I saw his picture last year.
As everyone knows, there are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. 10% of diabetes patients belong to type 1. The body does not produce insulin and they need to get insulin injections rest of their life. 90% of patients are type 2 diabetes. The body does not produce enough insulin or the cells in the body do not react to insulin. If it is in the early stage, having healthy diet and lot of exercise actually helps to control the type 2 diabetes symptoms, however since it is a progressive disease, it will get worse if it is not treated right. The problem is, as it is called as “silent killer”, it is very difficult to find out if you have diabetes or not unless you go to medical check regularly. Then scary part of the diabetes is the complications linked to this disease – eye, foot, skin, heart, gum, nerve system, etc. Basically all the functions of the body stop working.
So what can we do to control the diabetes before it become too late? Through Internet, we can get amazing amount of information about how to live with diabetes. So I am not going to write about type of exercise and diet but would like to explore the effect of yoga to our body.
Pancreas is one of the key organs for diabetes. As I mentioned above, diabetes is the result of deficiency of insulin which is produced by pancreas. Pancreas is about 18 to 20cm long locating behind the stomach and is connected to the small intestine by a tube called pancreatic duct. 90% of the pancreas job is for digestive system and the rest of 10% is to maintain the sugar and salt levels in the body. It is such a small organ but working so hard everyday having two jobs in the body. The insulin produced by this pancreas maintaining a normal amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. When there is a high level of glucose in the blood, pancreas produces insulin and asks many cells to absorb and use the glucose to decrease the blood sugar level. So if pancreas is not able to produce insulin, the glucose level in the blood remain high which leads to diabetes, then if too much insulin is produced, you will have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
So how to keep our pancreas healthy? Is pressing and stimulating the pancreas OK? No, it won’t do much after all but why yoga poses are good for pancreas?
What yoga can do is not only stimulating the organs. It works for your mind. It relaxes your mind, encourage deeper breathing and gives you satisfied feeling after practicing yoga. At the result, it also relaxes pancreas and more oxygenated blood will flow into the pancreas. Especially when the yoga pose squeeze the pancreas and then released, these oxygenated blood would flood in to the pancreas and help it toward the healthy state.
There are many poses that stimulate the pancreas and these are one of the samples:
– Padangushthasana
– Paschimottanasana
– Mayurasana
– Bhujangasana
– Urdhva Dhanurasana
– Halasana
– Udiyana Banda
Many study shows that people who has diabetes has much higher risk of having serious depression. It definitely makes sense as diabetes patients have to pay attention to everything – what you eat, what you do, how you live constantly. However, even after adjusting your life dramatically, there is the possibility that diabetes wouldn’t go away. We have to be very aware of the link to depression when we conduct yoga lessons to diabetes people. Not only about the asana (of course it is very important to customize the sequence according to the level of diabetes), we also need pay attention to our facial expression, tone of the voice, and overall atmosphere. Even just a little thing for us could be a big issue within their mind.
The National Diabetes Statistics Report (2014/USA) says:
-29 million people in the United States (9.3 percent) have diabetes.
-1.7 million people aged 20 years or older were newly diagnosed with diabetes in 2012.
-Non-Hispanic black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native adults are about twice as likely to have diagnosed diabetes as non-Hispanic white adults.
-208,000 people younger than 20 years have been diagnosed with diabetes (type 1 or type 2).
-86 million adults aged 20 years and older have prediabetes.
-The percentage of U.S. adults with prediabetes is similar for non-Hispanic whites (35 percent), non-Hispanic blacks (39 percent), and Hispanics (38 percent).
The Straits Times dated 7 May 2015 says:
By 2050, Singapore may have as many as one million diabetics. Every one in two people, by age 70, will be diabetic – up from one in three today. Of the adult population, 15 per cent will suffer from the disease, compared with 11.3 per cent now.
Number of diabetes patients are keep increasing in all over the world and at the same time, the technology of artificial pancreas has been amazingly progressed. This is the artcle I read about a week ago. It’s about a British woman who became the world’s first woman to complete a natural birth using an artificial pancreas (
Remember, 90% of diabetes patients are type 2. I am not going to promote yoga as a cure of diabetes but as a future yoga therapist, I feel there might be something I can do and be helpful to many people who have diabetes. I don’t want to see people eaten up by this disese anymore. If you are reading this blog and you know someone who is suffering from diabetes, please start from chatting and laughing. Then move to walking and do gentle exersize. Doing something together will encourage people who has diabetes and you can be part of his/her happiness, too. Then if they are interested in yoga, try taking some yoga therapy sessions. It might help him/her more than you think.
Sanae Inada
200H YTTC Weekend
Jan 2015 to May 2015

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