Everywhere you look these days, the signs say “YOGA.” The business of yoga has become crowded with studios on every street in every town. To me, that’s not a bad thing, but it’s hard for prospective students to know what studio fits their need and intention.
Studio owners are beginning to look for niche markets to help bolster their numbers; such as prenatal yoga classes, mommy and me classes, yoga for runners and yoga for specific health conditions. Even hospitals are offering yoga as stress reduction for cardiac patients.
Recently, I saw a Mindfulness Based Diabetes Management class, with a focus on “diabetes yoga.” Ugh. I felt suckered! Is there such a thing as “diabetes yoga?” I have lived with type 1 diabetes for 42 years and yoga has always been a physical workout, but more importantly, a relaxing way for me to tune into my body and enjoy the moment without it being focused on diabetes.
This begs the question, “Does yoga change for someone with diabetes?” The real answer is no. Classical hatha yoga is about the body, mind and spirit and a yoga practice will struggle if the 3 elements are not flowing together unconsciously. A great pose isn’t accomplished through sheer strength, it is accomplished by quieting the mind, using the breath to help focus and move the body into a pose. Just using one of those elements will cause the body to fail to reach it’s full capacity, or edge.
Teaching hatha yoga, students learn the eight limbs of yoga: yamas (restraint), Niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawl of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation) and Samadhi (absorption). The details to the eight limbs are these: yamas, or restraint is about social values of non-violence, truth, appropriate behavior and non-possessiveness. Niyamas, or observances, bring focus to personal ethics, contentment, self -study and surrendering to a higher power. Pratyahara is referring to turning your attention inward and allowing no distraction of the mind to pull your attention away from the effort to be in the pose.
Someone with diabetes, or any chronic condition like diabetes, should not require a condition-specific yoga class. Instead, they should look for a class suited to their experience with yoga. When I started back to a regular yoga practice, 8 years ago, I took a fundamentals class. Even though I was a seasoned yogi, it had been a while and I knew that I needed to reacquaint myself with the principles of yoga. While I found some of it boring, I also found that I had forgotten some of the principles of yoga and by slowing myself down and revisiting the basics, I found a much more rewarding experience.
As for my diabetes and yoga, I found that I lost weight more easily and needed less insulin and personally, I felt more content. It didn’t take a class dedicated to diabetes, it just took the effort to find the right class.