Benefits of Pranayama for Diabetes

If you can breathe your way to better health, would you do it? This post will discuss how we can use pranayama breathing techniques to manage our blood sugar.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes Mellitus is a disease related to the impaired glucose tolerance of the body, insulin functioning is affected. Symptoms of diabetes can be excessive thirst, excessive hunger or excessive / frequent urination. Diabetes Mellitus can be of Type 1 or Type 2 or pancreatic diabetes or gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by No production of insulin and this is very difficult to treat with Yoga.

Type 2 diabetes which is caused by life style, stress related diseases can be effectively treated with Yoga.

How Does Pranayama Help in Diabetes?

Source: Shutterstock


Controls insulin action

Some breathing techniques of pranayama are fast & vigorous, like Bhastrika & Kapalabhati. These pranayama massages various regions of the brain: the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and cerebral cortex. In this way, pranayama regulates metabolic control of insulin.

Lowers blood pressure

Other breathing techniques of Pranayama are deep & relaxing, like Dirgha Pranayama and Anulom Vilom. Deep breathing techniques are especially helpful in oxygenating the blood & removing impurities from it. Further, oxygenated blood supply stimulates the endocrine part of the pancreas to secrete insulin hormone, which further regulates the blood glucose level.

Physically, pranayama also increases the metabolic activities of the cellular apparatus and promotes the glucagon hormone to work upon the stored blood glucose.

5 Pranayama Practices for Lowering Blood Sugar

  1. Bhastrika

Bhastrika Pranayama | FindMyHealth

When to do it? Morning

How long to do it for? 3 rounds of 10

Benefits: Massage brain centers, metabolic control of insulin action

How to do it? 

  1. Take in a deep breath and breathe out forcefully through the nose, without any strain.
  2. Immediately, breathe in with the same force.
  3. Inhale and exhale repeatedly, deeply and thoroughly, using the diaphragmatic muscles with vigour. The abdomen moves out during inhalation, while the diaphragm descends. The converse happens while exhaling.
  4. The above movements should be slightly exaggerated. A strong nasal sound will accompany such breathing. The process should be rhythmic and controlled, maintaining the speed as per capacity.
  5. Do ten cycles to complete 1 round of Bhastrika Pranayama.

Recommended practice: Practice 3 rounds/session, with pause in-between rounds. Bhastrika Pranayama should be practised on an empty stomach.

Limitations / Contraindications: Heart ailments, hypertension, high BP, fever, vertigo, pregnancy, intestinal disorders, spinal abnormalities and eye ailments, e.g. like a detached retina, glaucoma.


2. Bhramari

Bhramari Pranayama (Humming Bee Breath): Benefits, Steps & Side Effects

When to do it? Morning/Evening

Benefits:Control high blood pressure, relieves stress & anxiety

How to do it? 

  1. Sit up straight in a quiet, well ventilated corner with your eyes closed. Keep a gentle smile on your face
  2. Keep your eyes closed for some time. Observe the sensations in the body and the quietness within
  3. Place your index fingers on your ears. There is a cartilage between your cheek and ear. Place your index fingers on the cartilage
  4. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, gently press the cartilage. You can keep the cartilage pressed or press it in and out with your fingers, while making a loud humming sound like a bee
  5. You can also make a low-pitched sound but it is a good idea to make a high-pitched one for better results

Recommended practice: Practice 3-4 rounds/session, with pause in-between rounds. Bhramari Pranayama should be practised on an empty stomach.

Limitations / Contraindications: Once this pranayama is learnt correctly from a yoga teacher, anyone from a child to an elderly person can practice this pranayama. 


3. Kapalabhathi

Banyan friend Alicia practices kapalabhati pranayama

When to do it? Morning

Benefits: Improve pancreas efficiency in insulin production, control glucose levels in the blood.

How to do it? 

  1. Start by inhaling fully, taking your time and filling up your lungs.

  2. Then, begin by exhaling shortly and sharply through the nose for anywhere from 50 to 120 strokes (exhales). Your focus should mostly be on the exhales, letting your inhales happen naturally. Passively inhale, actively exhale.

  3. When finished the strokes, exhale deeply, then inhale again, completely and hold your breath for a few counts.

  4. Finally, exhale completely and return to the normal rhythm of breath. 

Recommended practice: Kapalabathi Pranayama should be practised on an empty stomach.

Limitations / Contraindications: Kapalabhati should not be practiced by pregnant or menstruating women. It is also contraindicated for individuals with high or low blood pressure, heart disease, hernia, gastric ulcer, epilepsy, vertigo, migraine headaches, significant nosebleeds, detached retina, glaucoma, history of stroke, and for anyone who has undergone recent abdominal surgery. If you experience vertigo during or after this practice, please discontinue until you can consult with a qualified yoga teacher.


4. Shitali

Sitkari Pranayama (Hissing Breath) - Steps, Benefits, and Contraindications

When to do it? Evening

Benefits: Lowers blood pressure, cooling effect.

How to do it? 

  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Close your eyes and relax the whole body.
  2. Take two or three deep inhales and exhales through the nose to prepare.
  3. Extend the tongue outside the mouth as far as possible without strain. Roll the tongue, curling the sides in towards the centre to form a tube. Stick the end of the tongue out between your pursed lips. If you can’t roll your tongue, just purse the lips making a small ‘o’ shape with the mouth.
  4. Practise a long, smooth and controlled inhalation through the rolled tongue, allowing the air to pass over your tongue thus creating a cooling sensation.
  5. After you inhale, draw the tongue in, close the mouth and exhale through the nose. Then again stick the curled tongue out and repeat. The breath should produce a sucking sound. A feeling of icy coldness will be experienced on the tongue and the roof of the mouth. This is one round

Recommended practice: With practice, the duration of the inhalation should gradually become longer to increase the cooling effect. Gradually increase the number of rounds from 9 to 15. For general purposes 15 rounds is sufficient (and up to 60 in hot weather).

Limitations / Contraindications: Low blood pressure, respiratory disorders (such as asthma, bronchitis, or excessive mucus), and anyone with chronic constipation. 


5. Anulom Vilom

What to Know About Anulom Vilom Pranayama Yoga - Latest News & Information

When to do it? Morning & evening

Benefits: Increase flow of oxygenated blood to brain, saves blood vessels from inactivity.

How to do it? 

  1. Choose a meditation sitting pose. Keep your spine and neck straight and close your eyes.
  2. Clear your mind off everything outside of this moment.
  3. Start with your outer wrists resting on your knees.
  4. Using your right hand, fold your middle and index fingers toward your palm.
  5. Place your thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left nostril.
  6. Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril, slowly and deeply, until your lungs are full. Focus on your breathing.
  7. Next, release your thumb and close your left nostril with your ring finger.
  8. Exhale slowly through the right nostril.
  9. Now practice it in reverse, this time inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left.

Recommended practice: Try this for 1 to 2 minutes to start. It may feel a little strange the first time you attempt it, so only do it as long as you’re comfortable. It can be done in the morning or in the evening. Ensure that you practice anulom vilom pranayama 4-5 hours after having your food.

Limitations / Contraindications: Cardiac or Blood pressure patients should not hold their breath while doing this pranayama just keep inhaling and exhaling.


Source: KoreMed. (2018). Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes & Fitsri