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You may find yourself quite bent in these classes, but mimicking a pretzel is a small price to pay for a healthy body, wouldn’t you say? Yoga, a 5,000-year-old Indian method of exercise, aims at regulating your endocrine and nervous systems. It uses techniques of breathing and movement, which if done right would make a ballerina blush at the elegant contortions.

If you get stressed out easily or need to improve your focus or you suffer from lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance, yoga could be the right type of exercise for you.

A new study published this month in the journal PLOS Medicine found that middle-aged and older women who did muscle-strengthening activities such as yoga lowered their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, BBC News reports. The study looked at more than 99,000 mostly Caucasian female nurses between the ages of 36 and 81 over eight years. During the study period 3,491 women developed type 2 diabetes.
The charity Diabetes UK says if you are overweight, every kilogram you lose could reduce your risk by up to 15 per cent. Dr Richard Elliott, spokesman for the charity Diabetes UK, told the BCC, “Despite limitations to which this research can be applied to women in general, it underlines the message that leading an active, healthy lifestyle can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

Sumit Manav of the Dubai-based consultancy Lifestyle Yoga explains how yoga can help. “Consistent practice of yoga asanas (body postures), pranayamas (breathing exercises) and a few minutes of daily meditation can help reduce stress. This, in turn, reduces glucagon levels and can also help improve insulin action,” he says. Lifestyle Yoga (lifestyleyoga.ae) tailors courses for people with specific health conditions including diabetes.

Insulin is produced by the pancreas and in diabetes either the organ doesn’t produce enough of the hormone or the cells do not respond to it properly. By contracting abdominal muscles and breathing deeply, certain asanas contract and relax specific areas, stimulating the pancreas and increasing blood and oxygen supply, he says, thus helping the organ’s ability to produce insulin.

“Yoga asanas, such as the Half-fish, Cow-face, Frog, Corpse, Bridge and Child help you to contract/compress [your muscles] which helps in secretion of hormones. It also helps increase your blood circulation,” says Manav. He also recommends NadiShodhan Pranayama as it helps release stress and flush out toxins.

One of the chief reasons for type 2 diabetes, is an unhealthy lifestyle and extra weight. The Sun Salutation and Kapal Bhati Kriya are recommended for weight loss. But it’s not just about weight — like many diseases, stress only compounds the problem and makes it hard to deal with.

In case of diabetes, this also takes a toll on the secretion of other hormones, making it worse for the body. It increases the secretion of glucagon hormones in the body, responsible for increasing blood glucose levels, explains Manav. “A few minutes of regular meditation practice also acts as an excellent stress-buster.”

Diabetes takes a severe toll on the body. It can lead to blindness, heart and blood vessel disease, strokes, kidney failure, amputations and nerve damage. In fact, the International Diabetes Federation estimated, in a recent report, that between $1.11 million (about Dh4.9 million) and $1.7 million will be spent on the deadly disease in the UAE by 2030. There are 745,940 diabetics in the UAE, according to figures published by the International Diabetes Federation to mark World Diabetes Day on November 14.
Touted as a miracle cure for everything from a slow metabolism to a lax brain, yoga is definitely a routine that calls for a try.