I was playing Division 1 soccer in college when I first started practicing yoga. I was simply looking for something to help both my mind and my muscles relax a bit from the mental and physical demands the sport required.
But, like many people new to yoga, I had no idea the impact it would have on my life beyond the stretch. I had no idea that it would help make me the healthiest, happiest version of myself. And, I absolutely had no idea how much it would help me manage life as a Type 1 Diabetic — a challenge I’d been facing since I was 7 years old.
While I didn’t start yoga to help me manage my diabetes better, every day my practice helps me do just that. Here are three ways yoga helps you conquer your diabetes, off the matt:
Yoga helps you practice discipline.
Former military leader Jocko Willink says that, “Discipline equals freedom.” When you are on your mat, you will encounter poses or moments that are uncomfortable, but your teacher will guide you to breathe through it, focus on your intention, and over time you will notice growth and strength in that particular pose. The same goes for your diabetes management. There will be times of frustration, distraction, anger, or fear, and while we might want to just throw our hands up in the air and spiral into a burnout or pity party, our mindset comes back to “show up, focus, breathe through it and persevere.”
Yoga teaches us to control what we can, and let go of what we can’t.
Working as an online Diabetic Health Coach, I have the opportunity to speak with diabetics from around the world on a daily basis over a 3-12 month period. One common denominator I see in people with diabetes, myself included, is a need for control. What I love about yoga is that it is an incredible way to learn to let go of perfection and expectations. Living with this disease, there are good days and bad days. On the bad days, I’ve trained myself to reflect and say, “What could I have controlled so that my blood sugars were all in range? What things were out of my control?” This has taught me to control what I can, let go of what I cannot and continue to move forward. Mindset is the best tool you own.
Yoga makes us more mindful of our food choices.
Unlike many other exercises, yoga forces you to be present and go inward. After a 60 minute practice of actually reflecting and being aware of all the good you just did for your body — improving circulation, wringing out your organs, twisting to improve digestion, opening up your heart center — it’s very unlikely I’m going to leave a yoga class and go grab a Big Mac and fries. You are less likely to drift into a bad mindset because you are in touch with the beautiful nourishment your body deserves and needs.