Anyone for yoga?

In a mini review, Dr Adriana Ventura examines the benefits of yoga for people with diabetes. 

by Dr Adriana Ventura

Yoga is recognised as an ancient practice derived from the Vedic tradition of India and the Himalayas, more than 2500 years ago. Yoga Australia explains that in yoga, the body, breath and mind are seen as a union of the multi-dimensional aspects of every human being. Yoga is designed to cultivate both health and wellbeing through regular practice of many different techniques, including postures, movement, breath awareness and breathing exercises, relaxation and concentration, self-inquiry and meditation.

So, what does this have to do with diabetes?

In recent years, there has been a growing number of studies that have found yoga to be an effective intervention for a wide range of conditions, including mental health problems, chronic pain, and inflammation. Less is known about how (or even if) yoga benefits people with diabetes. We wanted to find out more, so we conducted a mini review of the evidence. What we found was that while there have been some studies examining this issue, many have focused: a) solely on people with type 2 diabetes, b) on biomedical outcomes only (e.g. HbA1c), and c) on short-term outcomes. The good news is that the biomedical outcomes appear to improve among those who practice yoga. However, these studies also had several limitations, and we do not know whether there are any long-term benefits of yoga. While the available evidence is promising, it also excludes adults with type 1 diabetes.

We know from other health fields that yoga not only improves physical health, but that it also reduces stress, depression and anxiety, and improves quality of life. Therefore, yoga may also offer the same benefits for people with diabetes. However, a key limitation of the existing research is the lack of focus on behavioural or psychological health outcomes. So, our mini review highlights the need for high-quality and longer term studies to examine the impact of yoga, on both biomedical and psychological health, for people with all types of diabetes.

Ventura AD, Evans, S. What are the benefits of yoga for people with diabetes? Journal of Yoga and Physiotherapy. 2018; 4(3). DOI: 10.19080/JYP.2018.04.555639

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