We know that mindfulness is a way to approach all aspects of life, including the most difficult. Here at Yoga Unify, we’re nearly all steeped in the assurance that our yoga practice—all eight limbs of our yoga practice—is not just healthy, but may help us live longer and healthier. As Yoga Unify Founding Member Sat Bir Khalsa said at Brooklyn’s 2019 Yoga & Science Conference, and as reported by Kripalu:
““Lifestyle choices, such as practicing yoga and meditation, can impact wellness, immune function, and longevity,” said Sat Bir. Yoga increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and reduces activity in the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system. This means that when we practice, we experience a reduction in cortisol (the stress hormone). The result: “Yoga and meditation can create change at a molecular level, in the cells of our body,” Sat Bir summarizes.”
But a new study reveals that there may be an even deeper connection between treating disease and mindfulness practices. It’s not just the deep breathing and the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. It may also be the attitude with which we approach diagnosis and treatment.
According to the US Center for Disease Control, diabetes affects more than 10% of the US population (global statistics are not available). At the root of mindfulness teachings, of course, is the insistence on presence, an instruction to cultivate acceptance of what is, without worry of the future or regret of the past. When we are able to live wholly and fully in the now, we are able to best connect with our deeper selves and the world around us.
This study, first reported in Diabetic Medicine and summarized by Healio, found that in analysis of four studies involving 319 participants:
Adults participating in mindfulness- or acceptance-based interventions had a significant reduction in diabetes distress compared with the control cohort… A meta-analysis of three studies involving 306 participants revealed similar results for changes in glycemic level, with those participating in mindfulness- or acceptance-based programs having greater reductions in HbA1c [a measure of how well controlled your blood sugar has been over a period of about 3 months] up to 1 month after intervention compared with adults receiving usual care.
This isn’t the first study to conclude that mindfulness practices can have a positive impact on managing diabetes. In 2018, the National Institutes of Health concluded that:
Mindfulness-based stress reduction was associated with significant improvements in diabetes distress, weight, glycaemic control and blood pressure control. Thus, it results in reduced heart rate variability, vascular resistance and ventricular workload…
… mindfulness interventions have demonstrated impact on a broad range of outcomes relating to all domains of holistic care in diabetes—biological, psychological and also social.
In a different 2018 study, the National Institute of Health confirmed that a yogic lifestyle may be beneficial to diabetes patients, for its holistic approach. While there doesn’t seem to be conclusive evidence as to why mindfulness-based therapies were effective for diabetes patients, it seems that the positive outcomes are similar to those experienced by anyone practicing mindfulness, diabetes or not. And this, of course, is why we practice.
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