Exclusive interview with Meena A. Kankani, of Swasth Yoga, on how yoga helps treat diabetes, alleviate back pain, and build strength and self-esteem.
Tell us briefly: What is yoga?
First I would like to say, Yoga is not only physical posture. Yoga is a combination of Asana, Pranayama and Meditation. Asana makes you physically fit. Pranayama makes breathing perfect. Meditation gives enormous benefits. It reduces the stress, brings clarity to thoughts and brings harmony between mind and body.
How does yoga help people who suffer from Diabetes?
The main root cause for diabetes is Stress. Stress can be easily controlled by yoga. Yoga can serve as an effective supplement to diabetes treatment. Yoga burns calories, reduces weight and increases insulin sensitivity. It improves blood flow to the pancreas by increasing negative suction pressure in the abdomen. The muscular stretching and relaxation improves blood supply to muscles, and it enhances insulin receptor expression on the muscles, causing increased glucose uptake by muscles, and thus reducing blood sugar.
Does the practice of yoga address the cause or the symptoms of Diabetes—or both?
I can say both. Yoga treats the disease of the root cause. Many yoga postures do produce a stretch on the pancreas, which is likely to stimulate the pancreatic function. Deep stretches and concentration on the zone of the pancreas and letting it go gives deep rest and better blood flow. Yoga reduces stress hormones–adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol–in the blood. Deep relaxation techniques (DRT) help to control symptoms of diabetes where stress hormones are relaxed. Pranayama or breathing practices also play an important role. Daily such practices helps to normalize breathing, and has a calming effect on the nervous system, which reduces stress level.
Tell us about your yoga diabetes clinics (screening, actual classes, duration, dates of next clinic).
Stop Diabetes Movement (SDM) is a service project for the whole community undertaken by VYASA- Houston and Sewa International (a non-profit organization). These camps are for pre-diabetics and diabetics. This is a 20-hour program where postures, sun salutations, Pranayama relaxation and meditation are taught by certified yoga therapists. Lectures are given on understanding diabetes, diet and nutrition, stress management and counselling by physicians and yoga experts. Upon registering for a diabetes camp, doctors perform a pre-screening. At this point, we have done three camps in Houston-Katy, Alief and the Woodlands. Our next camps will be coming to Sugarland and downtown, Pearland.
Is yoga a good practice for children? If so, does it help physically, emotionally, spiritually or all of these? How?
Yes, yoga is a good practice for children. It helps them in so many ways. For starters, yoga promotes physical strength–it helps kids develop better bodies. Kids learn to use all their muscles in a new way. It cultivates self-esteem, patterns of success and achievements. It strengthens mind-body connection. It helps the kids to see beauty and light within themselves.
Are there any drawbacks or points to consider before engaging a child in a yoga?
Not really. You should treat kids as kids and teach them in fun way. Try not to force them, and when they are ready they will enjoy each and every movement of yoga.
According to Mayo clinic, approximately 80% of all Americans will have lower back pain at least once in their lives. How does yoga helps with back pain?
Yoga techniques involving slowly body movements followed by practices of deep relaxation are useful in maintaining the strength and flexibility of the spine. These practices create a balance in the musculosketal system. Yoga postures lengthen and tone all muscles that cause aggravation of lower back to reinforce proper motor patterns.
Are there other common ailments, sickness or diseases that yoga helps alleviates or treat?
Yes, yoga has been useful in preventing and managing most of the diseases. Yoga has been very useful in bringing relief in breast cancer patient and seen changes in their quality of life.