The answer to that question is a big YES, IT SURE CAN! AND IT DOES!
But let me give you some info and details about this to explain a bit better.
Diabetes is one of the major causes of premature illness and death worldwide. The prevalence of diabetes in adults was estimated to around 285 million (6.4%) in 2010 and the number is expected to grow 439 million (7.7%) by 2030.
India has the world’s largest diabetes population with 50.8 million.
As we all know, one of the several essential strategies required to reverse diabetes (yes, diabetes type 2 is totally reversible and there is no need for insulin or metformin to just “manage” it. “Managing” is not what a diabetic type 2 should aim for), is regular exercise. But, did it ever occur to you that different forms of physical activity like yoga could be ideal in diabetes?
Many studies have emerged in the recent years proving that yoga may be as effective as or better than other types of exercise in improving a variety of health related outcome measures including heart rate variability, blood glucose, blood lipids, salivary cortisol, oxidative stress, fatigue, pain, and sleep both in healthy and unhealthy populations. Three of the myriad of examples of these studies are the work of Savitah Singh and colleagues, published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry in 2008; the work of BK Acharya and colleagues published in the International Journal of Yoga in 2010; or the work of Arkiath Veettil Raveendran and colleagues, published in the the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2018.
In diabetes type 2, it is important to normalize glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, cortisol, inflammation, and insulin. The interesting fact here, is that yoga has shown to balance all these markers through the practice of a combination of pranayama (breath work), asana (physical movements and postures) and meditation. And to make these findings even more impressive, I’d like to also cite the work of Sartaj Khan from the Aligarh University who demonstrated that yogic practices and pranayama have also positive effects on white blood cells (WBC), red blood cells (RBC) and platelets.
This is one of the many reasons why people with other diseases including cancer should practice yoga too.
Yoga is ideal for diabetes or cardiovascular disease thanks to the combination of pranayama and several great sequences that include meditation, breath work, and spiritual mindfulness that help to improve glucose, triglycerides, cortisol, and even to combat inflammation. I personally recommend Agni Pranayama (breath work to boost lymphatic clearance), Chandra Pranayama (breath work to lower inflammation and regulate heart rate), Surya Namaskar (the sun salutation, which works on toning and fortifying the heart and vessels), and Kundalini kriyas for the cardiovascular system that promote healthy blood and lymphatic circulation.