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Latinos living healthy through yoga

By Deborah Charnes


Disparities in access, quality of service, and burden of chronic diseases are especially troubling for the Latino community. According to the Centers for Disease Control , Hispanics are almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with diabetes, and one in four Americans living with diabetes are undiagnosed. Most alarming, Latinos are 50 percent more likely to die from diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.

While we can’t pinpoint why more Latinos suffer from diabetes, we can address blood sugar management.

No one likes needles, and no one likes diets. Yet needles and diet are essential for many unable to control their sugar levels. We’re not talking ten days on an antibiotic, or giving up candy for lent, but constant injections, finger pricking and restricted food intake which can be depressing and stress provoking.

While yoga does not replace insulin or oral meds, it is one of the best antidotes for stress, and stress aggravates the blood sugar level. Yoga incorporates bodywork, meditation, breathing exercises, chanting and ultimately changing one’s lifestyle which doctors will say is essential for treatment of type 2 diabetes.

“If you only address physicality, you won’t reach the cause,” said Chase Bossart, co-director of Yoga as Therapy North America at a workshop on diabetes.

“Yoga Therapists can train people to alter their lifestyles to help them with specific issues, and at the same time, help them to have a healthier mind/body/soul for longer term,” he said.

Gary Kraftsow, author of Yoga for Wellness, adds, “A personal (yoga) practice will enable you to break unconscious and self-destructive behavioral patterns and establish new ones that will lead to positive change. The basic principle of yoga cikitsa (therapy) is that diseases are symptoms of imbalance; and therefore, the orientation of yoga cikitsa is to restore balance.”

Among a recent study of overweight seniors, those practicing yoga were nearly 20 pounds lighter. Since just five percent loss in body weight can improve the blood sugar level, this is significant.

Yoga therapy is a holistic customized approach under the guidance of a qualified yoga therapist and a general practitioner or endocrinologist.

Following are four simple exercises for diabetics:

  1. Walk outside, 10-15 minutes daily. Use walks to connect with nature or a loved one.
  2. Breathe in bed. Feel your tummy rise and fall as you inhale and exhale. Count each breath for five to ten minutes nightly before sleep, or during interrupted sleep.
  3. Eat mindfully. Count your carbs (less than 50 grams per meal) and skip high glycemic foods. Reduce or eliminate animal fats, including meats, cheese and butter. Use cinnamon instead of sugar in coffee, oatmeal, smoothies or other foods.
  4. Twist* your body in both directions, five to ten minutes daily. (See sample photos.)
    *Contraindicated for pregnant women, herniated discs or other spinal injuries.

Deborah Charnes is a freelance contributor and has more than 30 years experience working in multicultural communications. She is owner of The Write Counsel, and when she’s enjoying life off the grid, she can be found at The Namaste Counsel.

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