Yoga Teacher Training for Diabetes
When you attend a 200-hour yoga certification course, you are often trained to work with athletic types. After a yoga instructor begins teaching, he or she addresses the most common health problems. Sooner, or later, an instructor will have a student who is a diabetic. If you didn’t cover special populations and ailments in your foundational teacher training, it’s no problem, but now is the time to work on your continuing education. Just so we’re clear, continuing education is part of keeping your mind active for life and there is no one course with all the answers to the puzzles of life.
What are the best postures we can teach to diabetics? Flowing sequences come to mind first, but not every diabetic is ready to begin practicing Sun Salutations (surya namaskars) and vinyasa sequences from the start. These means, we have to research, consult a mentor, and possibly modify the routines we learned at foundational training. Depending on the health of your student, all asanas may have to be modified by using a chair and establishing a restorative practice.
Diabetes is a serious disease that affects the way the body metabolizes food. Diabetics don’t produce adequate amounts of insulin for cells to be able to take in the glucose that our bodies produce. This incurable disease lasts a lifetime. Although it can be controlled through proper diet, exercise and medication, there is nothing that patients can do to eliminate the disease. If it isn’t treated properly, diabetes can lead to other health concerns, such as cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, nerve damage or gangrene. People with diabetes can, however, live a normal, healthy life.
Today, more and more people are being diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, which means the body isn’t producing enough insulin. There is a common perception that the most common reason why people get Type II is often due to poor diet, obesity and a lifestyle that doesn’t include exercise. This is not always true, you could be fit, lean, eat right, and still have Type II. So, let’s avoid stereotyping because anyone can become a diabetic. Walking, surya namaskars, and a regular yoga routine can usually help eliminate many of the causes and symptoms of diabetes. The gentle nature of asanas and the deep breathing included with the poses can result in lower blood pressure, better digestion, weight loss, and an overall healthier body.
My suggestions for any asana are modify when needed. If you never learned to teach with props, you should take a continuing education course that will help your skills. Yoga teacher training courses can cover the full spectrum of special needs that our students have. Here are three of my favorite asanas for diabetics, but there are many more to choose from.
Downward Facing Dog
Begin on all fours, with palms flat on the mat, fingers spread, and the hands below the shoulders. Push up and back, creating an inverted ‘V’ with your body. Heels can rest flat on the mat, or be raised off the mat a bit. Pull the belly in, push down into the mat with your hands, and point the tailbone up towards the ceiling.
Big Toe Pose
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Slowly bend from the hips, lowering the head toward the thighs. It’s okay to keep a slight bend in the knees. Reach your hands down to grab your big toes with the thumb and forefingers of each hand. Release the head and neck, allowing the weight of your upper body to pull you into a deep stretch.
Stand with feet wider than shoulder width on the mat, toes pointing forward. Turn one foot about 90 degrees, keeping the other foot pointing forward. Keeping the hips squared forward, raise both arms to shoulder height. Slowly lower the upper body to the side of the body with the turned-out toes. Bend from the waist and reach with your arms. Place the bottom hand next to the foot, rest it on the calf, or use a block for support. Reach the opposite arm up toward the ceiling. If it’s comfortable on your neck, turn your gaze up toward the ceiling.
As a yoga instructor, nobody expects you to have all the answers, but you should maintain contact with a source or a mentor. Don’t make false promises and make sure you do diligent research before you work with yoga students who have special needs. There are many circumstances that can contribute to any ailment. As a yoga teacher, it’s important to keep your students safe.
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