Diabetes.bh had the pleasure of catching up with Amal Jaffar. Amal is a certified yoga teacher and yoga therapist (RYT200) who has received her training in both Bahrain and India. We asked Amal on her thoughts on Yoga and Diabetes.
Amal, tell our readers about your journey in yoga.
I began my regular practice of yoga in the summer of 2011; although I had been driven towards it several times before and was hesitant about it. I knew yoga would be beneficial for my often busy mind, but kept telling myself I just won’t be able to stay still. When I found Namaste, a local yoga studio established by an old school friend of mine, I attended classes with the intention to be fit and lose weight. It worked, but that was just the nature of the first steps into the practice.
As months and years passed, I found a much more profound impact of yoga practices on my being. The yoga philosophy is very inspiring in terms of dealing with external factors, with our own selves, our bodies, our minds and our emotions. It offers various ideas on how to find peace by remaining equanimous with all these elements. In that equanimity, I found the stillness and groundedness I much needed, and I found love in many forms.
Amal, what is Ayurveda and how did your journey in it begin?
Ayurveda is defined as “the science of life”. It is a holistic “medical” system that originated in India and dates back to more than 5000 years ago. This system offers natural herbal treatments to not only cure ailments from their origin, but also prevent them.
During my first year of practicing yoga, I got to learn about it while studying yogic philosophy. It made a lot of sense and I became very passionate about it, so I continued self-studying Ayurveda and applied its principles in my lifestyle. The first benefit I immediately noticed is that my digestive issues drastically lessened after adopting an ayurvedic lifestyle. Then my mind became even calmer, my sleep quality improved and I became generally more energetic and happy.
Over the past 4 years I rarely saw allopathic doctors or took “chemical” medications. I found that most ailments can be treated via the gentle, natural remedies of Ayurveda.
How can diabetics follow a lifestyle based on ayurveda to help them manage their diabetes?
Yoga practices and ayurveda, as mentioned, can provide methods to control, cure and prevent diseases. To keep it simple, illnesses are often linked to energy blockages in the body, and with practicing stimulating yoga poses, breathing techniques and cleansing methods, along with having a nutritious diet, the functions of a stressed pancreas can be restored to aid the body in producing an adequate amount of insulin.
I would highly recommend consulting a certified ayurvedic doctor (we have several clinics in Bahrain) and, if possible, treating oneself to a full-rounded holistic treatment in a specialized well-reputed Ayurvedic centre in India, where one’s case would be looked into in depth and a personalized treatment program can be offered. This will also help a diabetic individual be inspired to positively adjust their lifestyle once back home.
What type of yoga would you recommend for people with diabetes? Are there any specific poses? Do you have any tips and advice?
It is recommended that a person with diabetes first begins with gentle yoga practices to release toxins and strengthen the digestive system; the practice of the therapeutic Pavanamuktasana series offers that. Gentle balancing pranayama (breath control) techniques can be practiced under proper guidance, such as Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril) and Ujjayi (full yogic) breathing. After that one can build up to higher-impact poses and Surya Namaskara (sun salutations). Examples of recommended poses are shoulderstand, plough pose, fish pose, seated forward bend, cobra pose and cow-face pose, which all help stimulate the lower part of the digestive system and restore energy in the pancreas. These poses are advised to be learned via a certified yoga teacher, taking into consideration one’s personal physical condition, the same applies to learning advanced pranayama techniques.
Along with that, one needs to adopt a wholesome low-carb, low sugar diet, engage in regular light relaxing physical activities such as walking and utilize what is suitable from the many relaxation techniques available.
Since you were also in the corporate world, what tips and advice would you recommend for people working in a desk job? Are there any stretches or minor exercise that you can recommend?
My biggest advice is to start with the mind; to take work a bit less seriously and learn that we are allowed and deserve to have a fun and an enjoyable life outside the office. Stress is unnecessary in the corporate world despite what corporates say. We can all perform our work related tasks professionally, if not even more efficiently, without feeling stressed. I think that stress is a choice and we can all choose to be less stressed, less tight in our bodies, less sick and more content and happy.
In the office, I recommend taking light walking and standing breaks, stretching the neck, shoulders, back and legs. Stretching and releasing tension in the wrists is also very important. Taking a break to close the eyes or look far outside the window can also rest the eyes and remind us of a vast, possibly abundant life outside the walls of an office. It lightens the heart.
Who Is Amal?
Amal is a certified yoga teacher and yoga therapist (RYT200) who has received her training in both Bahrain and India.
She has experienced a deep positive shift in her heart and health since her journey began in 2011 with studying yoga and ayurveda and loves sharing knowledge with the world.
Amal’s teaching style is meditative, deep and caring. She believes in grounding with the present moment and exploring how you can gently take yourself further to achieve relief and balance.
Amal enjoys teaching, nutritious vegan cooking, traveling and writing. She shares her thoughts with the world on Instagram @yogawithamal.
Her moto is