Can Yoga Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes?

February 18, 2020
Can Yoga Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes?

How does yoga impact type 2 diabetes?

Research Study At A Glance

Research Study At A Glance

The Research Question Asked

Can yoga help manage type 2 diabetes?

Type of Study

Review study


The researchers consolidated and summarized the results of smaller individual clinical studies that found yoga to be beneficial for managing type 2 diabetes.


Yoga positively impacted aspects of the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system — all of which helped mediate the complications and effects of type 2 diabetes.


Yoga can help manage the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

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Type 2 diabetes is the kind of diabetes that occurs when lifestyle and habits have led to acquired insulin-resistance. (This is different than type 1, which occurs when you are born with a dysfunction in which the pancreas produces insufficient insulin.) This type of diabetes is a very significant disease in the US. Lifestyle choices that have the potential to lead to it include things like sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy food choices.

Research studies have suggested that yoga shows promise as a tool for managing this disease. Due to the nature of research with human participants, however, often these studies were completed with small numbers of participants (small sample sizes). A review study allows a team of researchers to summarize all of the smaller studies to see if there are trends or results that emerge when you combine the smaller studies and look at them together.

Research question

Can yoga help manage type 2 diabetes?

Research methods

The researchers summarized specific yoga practices reported in individual studies that had been found to be beneficial for managing aspects of type 2 diabetes. The research team also summarized the suggested mechanisms for these benefits based on the smaller individual clinical trials.


Yoga had positive physiological and psychological effects, as well as positive effects on behavior changes. Yoga positively impacted aspects of the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system. Reported positive changes that also helped manage aspects of type 2 diabetes included:

  • Improved mood
  • Reduced stress
  • Decreased risk factors including reduced body weight, reduced blood pressure, and reduced heart rate
  • Increase in positive behaviors including: increased exercise participation and maintenance of appropriate diet
  • Improved immune function
  • Reduced stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline
  • Better insulin balance — more insulin secretion and less insulin resistance

Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?

As yoga practitioners, we likely already experience many benefits of doing a regular yoga practice. Reviews of research like this one, help us begin to understand some of the potential mechanisms for why and how these benefits arise from yoga. When we understand more about the mechanisms behind the benefits that we experience, we are better able to apply yoga to support managing specific conditions of disease or sub-optimum health.

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This review paper shares very encouraging information about the ways that yoga has the potential to help manage the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. The benefit of a review-type study such as this one is the opportunity to combine the results of many smaller studies to look at larger trends. While the trends that are reported are encouraging, further research is still needed with larger participant groups to confirm the trends.

Reference citation

Raveendran, A.V., A. Deshpandae, and R. J. Shashank. 2018. Therapeutic role of yoga in type 2 diabetes. Endocrinology and Metabolism. 33:307-317.