Pranayama for Diabetes: 5 Breathing Techniques & How Does It Help

diabetes check
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Diabetes is a growing problem throughout the globe, especially In India where figures are expected to double (134 million) by 2025.

According to WHO 1,

  • 1.6 million people died due to diabetes in 2016
  • The estimation has stated with over 425 million people are currently living with diabetes

In Diabetes, it’s important to keep an eye on your blood pressure and obesity level. One can simply prevent the symptoms of diabetes and manage blood sugar levels with the help of simple breathing exercises of yoga, called Pranayama.

Pranayama has tons of benefits, it increases metabolism, regulates insulin secretion, and even avoid other complications of diabetes.

Table of Content

  1. What Causes Diabetes
  2. How Does Pranayama Help in Diabetes?
  3. Pranayama for Diabetes: Steps & Benefits
  4. Bhastrika Pranayama: Bellows Breath
  5. Bhramari Pranayama: Bee Breath
  6. Kapalbhati Pranayama: Skull Shining Breath
  7. Sitali and Sitkari: The Cooling Breath
  8. Anulom Vilom: Alternate Nostril Breathing
  9. The Bottom Line

What Causes Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which blood glucose level is abnormally high. Insufficiency of insulin and the inability of the body to use it properly causes diabetes. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas helps in the storage of extra blood glucose in liver cells.

There are some factors that support diabetes:

1. Being overweight or obese

Consumption of food with high calories gains us a lot of unnecessary weight. This weight accumulation promotes the factors that resist insulin from functioning, which raises blood glucose levels.

2. Hypertension

According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) 2 with over the data of 4 million adults. It’s stated that high blood pressure individuals are more prone to type 2 diabetes.

3. Genetic History

One of the NCBI’S research 3 has stated that the interaction between environmental factors and strong heredity components (risk genes) are responsible for type 2 diabetes.

4. Sedentary Lifestyle

Staying at one place for long hours is considered as a sedentary lifestyle. It has been found 4 that due to lack of physical activity or sedentary lifestyle increases the possibility of type 2 diabetes, if a close blood relative has a history, respectively.

How Does Pranayama Help in Diabetes?

Source: Shutterstock

In yoga, Pranayama is the science of regulating breathing. By manipulating our Prana flow (through Pranayama), we can stimulate certain areas or glands in the body to regulate their respective working.

Some breathing techniques of Pranayama are fast & vigorous, like Bhastrika & Kapalbhati. These pranayamas massages various regions of the brain: the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and cerebral cortex. In this way, Pranayama stimulates the master gland of the body (hypothalamus) to affect the endocrine part of the pancreas (to secret insulin).

Hence, in Diabetes, Pranayama regulates metabolic control of insulin.

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 glucagon hormone to work upon the stored blood glucose.

Pranayama for Diabetes: Steps & Benefits

Pranayama Breathing PracticesTime/ DurationEffects and Benefits
Diabetic Person
Bhastrika PranayamaMorning
3 minutes
Massage brain centers, metabolic control of insulin action.
Bhramari PranayamaMorning & Evening
10 minutes each time
Control high blood pressure, relieves stress & anxiety.
Kapalbhati PranayamaMorning
5 rounds, 120 strokes
Improve pancreas efficiency in insulin production, control glucose levels in the blood.
Sitali and Sitakari PranayamaEvening
5-6 minutes
Lowers blood pressure, cooling effect.
Anulom Vilom PranayamaMorning & Evening
5-10 minutes
Increase flow of oxygenated blood to brain, saves blood vessels from inactivity.
Source: KoreMed. (2018). Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes

1. Bhastrika Pranayama

bhastrika pranayama
© Fitsri

This fast breathing technique involves rapid inhale & exhale. Rapid breath movements stimulate certain brain centers responsible for the governance of insulin activity.

This breathing technique also called ‘bellows breath‘, bellows 5 in a way that used to fan the fire in ancient times.

To do Bhastrika Pranayama:

  1. Sit in a relaxing seated yoga pose: easy pose or lotus pose.
  2. Straighten and elevate your back by placing a folded blanket below the buttocks. However, Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) is recommended for this action.
  3. Make fist with your hands, bend your elbow, and brings your hands next shoulder level.
  4. Now inhale, with inhale raise your hands straightly up and open the fist.
  5. On exhale, bring your hand back to the shoulder level and again close the fist.
  6. Do it rapidly with moderate breathing length.
  7. 20 breaths of bhastrika pranayama enough in one session.

Doing this pranayama regularly enhances the metabolism of the body and massages the whole brain.

How Bhastrika Helps in Diabetes?

  • Rapid inhale and exhale have a massaging effect over the regions of the brain. This stimulates the hypothalamus to affect the endocrine part of the pancreas.
  • It improves blood circulation, which further enhances the metabolism of the cell.
  • This breathing produces warmness and helps in burning those factors (triglycerides, fatty acids) that make insulin inactive.

Read More: Benefits of Bhastrika Pranayama

2. Bhramari pranayama

basic bhramari
© Fitsri

This breathing technique calms the mind and relieves stress & anxiety. It’s helpful in maintaining BMI 6 by producing thyroxine hormone. An increase in BMI makes you overweight which increases the chance of developing the common type of diabetes 7.

To do Bhramari Pranayama:

  1. Begin by sitting in seated yoga asana such as Padmasana or Sukhasana.
  2. Close your ears and eyes with your thumbs and forefingers.
  3. Now, inhale through your nostrils, let your lungs expand fully.
  4. Exhale with a ‘hmmm’ sound (like humming bee) producing through your throat.
  5. Feel the vibrations of humming sound reach throughout your body.
  6. Repeat breathing in this manner for 20 rounds in the morning and evening.

This has a relaxing and soothing effect on the nervous system.

How Bhramari Helps in Diabetes?

  • Vibration produce during this breathing stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroxine. Thyroxine hormone maintains a healthy BMI (18.5 and 24.9), hence, reduces the chance of diabetes.
  • Rapid expulsion of air pushes the stomach in, which massages the pancreas and helps in the secretion of insulin.
  • By giving a relaxing effect it decreases stress, which is responsible for the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, sympathetic nervous system, and thus interferes with insulin secretion.

Read More: Benefits of Bhramari Pranayama

3. Kapalbhati Pranayama

kapalbhati weight loss
Image Source: Shutterstock

This breathing exercise is great for those diabetic patients who are suffering from obesity. This pranayama burns fat by its rapid breathing mechanism and stimulates internal abdominal organs & glands to regulate blood sugar levels.

To do Kapalbhati:

  1. Sit in a comfortable posture (sukhasana, padmasana, siddhasana).
  2. Place hands over knee cap, simply in relaxing posture or in Gyan mudra.
  3. Now take a deep breath in through nostrils and feel the belly-filling up with it.
  4. Place your right hand over the belly and with little force, exhale by pushing the abdominal wall in toward spine producing a ‘hiss’ sound. Then inhale will come automatically.
  5. Experience the blow of air through your upper body.
  6. Repeat step 4, rapid exhale → automatic inhale for 10 rounds.

Gradually return back to the normal breathing pattern and relax your body.

How kapalbhati help in diabetes?

  • In kapalbhati, rapid movement of the abdomen pushes the internal organ in and out including the pancreas. Such movements act as a massager which further helps in the secretion of insulin.
  • Kapalbhati increases the blood flow to the cellular communities, which further increase the metabolism.
  • Due to its vigorous physical activity, it burns the extra fat in the form of calories and helps in reducing the overweight BMI range. In this way kapalbhati makes a practitioner perspire to eliminate factors responsible for insulin inactivity in the form of toxins.

4. Sitali and Sitkari Pranayama

Sitali and sitakari are 2 traditional pranayamas techniques of hatha yoga. The cooling mechanism of these pranayamas lowers the blood pressure, thus helpful in managing diabetes.

To do Sitali:

sitali pranayama
© Fitsri
  1. Sit with straight spine either in a cross-legged posture like Padmasana or on a chair with feet resting on the ground.
  2. Roll your tongue, open your mouth, and place the rolled tongue in between your lips.
  3. Take a deep breath in through rolled tongue. Feel the moisten air entering through the mouth into the throat.
  4. After complete inhale, flat your tongue to the normal and exhale out through nostrils.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for 20 rounds.

Sitali pranayama has a soothing effect when you are suffering from stress & anxiety. Doing in summer lowers body temperature by 3-4%.

Read more: Benefits of Sitali Pranayama 

To do Sitakari:

sitkari pranayama
© Fitsri
  1. Sit comfortably in the same posture as in sitali pranayama.
  2. Gently press your upper and lower teeth together and open up your lips.
  3. In the mouth, curly your tongue up in such a manner that the lower part of the tongue touches the upper palate.
  4. Now inhale with your open lips, air entering through space in between your teeth.
  5. On the exhalation, close your lips and breath out completely through nostrils.
  6. Repeat inhale & exhale in this manner for 20 rounds.

Sitakari pranayama is helpful if your diabetes symptoms are because of obesity. Doing this breathing exercise a few times in day reduces hunger pangs & quenches thirst.

Read more: Benefits of Sitkari

5. Anulom Vilom Pranayama

anulom vilom pranayama aka alternate nostril breathing for headache
Image Source: Shutterstock

In a diabetes patient, because of inactivity in blood vessels damaging nerves is very easy 8. In order to improve neuronal activities, deep breathing techniques of pranayama is very effective.

Anulom vilom, also known as alternate nostril breathing is a deep breathing technique to increase the circulation of oxygenated blood to the head in diabetic patients.

To do Anulom Vilom:

  1. Find a peaceful space and sit in a simple meditative posture like Sukhasana.
  2. Make nasika mudra with your right hand: fold index & middle finger and keep the thumb, ring & little finger extended.
  3. Now bring your right hand close to the nostrils and shut your right nostril with the thumb (while left nostril open).
  4. Take a deep breath in through the left nostril and at the end inhalation, close left nostril with the ring and little finger.
  5.  Open the right nostril and exhale out complete air.
  6. This time with left nostril closed, inhale through the right nostril and in next cycle, breath out through left nostril.
  7. Breath alternatively in this manner for 10 rounds.

Read more: Benefits of Anulom Vilom Pranayama

The Bottom Line

Diabetes evolves from TYPE 1 to TYPE 2 if the responsible factors not eliminated on time. Being a diabetic cultivate many other life-threatening diseases such as coronary heart diseases, angina pectoris, Diabetic neuropathy, etc.

Pranayama, an ancient Indian breathing technique has the answer to the call of every diabetic patient. Breathing in a controlled way has various beneficial aspects regarding diabetic conditions.

So, for the cure of diabetes without any side effects, one can include pranayama as a major daily practice to become non-diabetic. Regular practice can heal any stage of diabetes as long as breathing properly.

References

  1. Diabetes – Statistics & Facts https://www.statista.com/topics/1723/diabetes/
  2. Usual Blood Pressure and Risk of New-Onset Diabetes: Evidence From 4.1 Million Adults and a Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109715046951
  3. Genetics of type 2 diabetes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746083/
  4. Sedentary behavior as a mediator of type 2 diabetes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4364419/
  5. Bellows https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bellows
  6. Immediate Effects of Bhramari Pranayama on Resting Cardiovascular Parameters in Healthy Adolescents https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4948385/
  7. Why Does Obesity Cause Diabetes? https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=39840
  8. Nervous System https://www.diabetes.co.uk/body/nervous-system.html

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