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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Yoga For Diabetes - Proper Breathing For Stress Reduction and Glucose Control

By Bradley Kapture

Can you remember as a child going to the doctor and having him place his cold stethoscope on your chest? "Now take a big inhale breath". If you are like me I recall expanding my chest, lifting my shoulders and pulling my shoulder blades back. Right? Wrong! As a culture the way we sit, drive, stand and a lack of knowledge in the proper mechanics of breathing has created a health crisis. In addition to this, the vanity factor of pulling our belly in tight and not allowing it to flow with the breath has compounded this chronic condition of hypoventilation.

As a result of this hypoventilation the average person uses only 10% of their lung capacity. This shallow breathing pattern is associated with the "fight or flight' syndrome. This syndrome drives blood glucose levels high and also inhibits the body from producing insulin. The result is a type 2 diabetes train wreck! To compound the problem, without proper breathing the body becomes a toxic waste dump and an easy target for a variety of other diseases.

The mechanism of breathing though normally automatic can be consciously controlled as well. Proper techniques of conscious breathing can eliminate stress and the high blood glucose levels caused by the fight or flight syndrome. In yoga these techniques are referred to as pranayama, the third action in my yoga method to manage diabetes.

Action 3 Pranayama



Yoga breathing techniques



Pranayama teaches you to use the other 90% of your lungs and to neutralize the stress that contributes to high blood sugars associated with diabetes. It also provides a deep cleansing of the body's tissues and helps treat such problems as high blood pressure, irritability and disturbed sleep. Pranayama breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic response calms the body and neutralizes the stress and anxiety triggered by an overactive sympathetic nervous system.

There are a wide variety of techniques in pranayama for both energizing and healing the body. However the first lesson of pranayama is to master the proper flow of breath itself.

An overview of the mechanism of breath



The primary muscle of respiration is the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle that sits in the center of the torso separating the chest and abdominal cavities.

When you inhale the diaphragm pushes down to create a larger space in the chest and in turn drawing more breath into the lungs. To take full advantage of this process and draw a full breath you must allow the belly to become soft and expand as the diaphragm pushes down. This is simply how we are designed. As you exhale the diaphragm relaxes and pulls back up towards the chest and the belly contracts.

The secondary muscles of respiration are the intercostals, (these are the muscles between the ribs), and the abdominals. For the sake of developing proper breathing begin to focus on these secondary muscles and consciously draw your belly in a bit tighter on the exhale breath to help further empty the lungs. This action will also have the counter action of triggering a more complete inhale on the next breath drawn. Now let's put the proper mechanics of breath to work with a pranayama technique.

Stress response pranayama technique



This simple little technique can be used at any time to reel yourself back in and keep your blood sugars in check. Try this a few times at home first to get the rhythm right and then you will be able to comfortably use it anywhere you go.

Step One: Breathe in through the nose for a brisk 4 count. (Remember let your belly be soft and allow it to expand on the inhale breath).

Step Two: Hold the breath for a brisk 4 count.

Step Three: Breathe out through the nose for a brisk 8 count. (As you exhale the breath pull the belly in tight to squeeze all of the air out).

The whole cycle should only take about 10 seconds. If for any reason you find it difficult to hold your breath or if you find yourself a little dizzy, shorten the hold and the exhale by 2 counts each.

That's it! Just practice this prescription for eight or ten cycles any time you find yourself "ready to blow" and repeat as necessary. It works like a charm and the refills are unlimited!