In 1976 the International Diabetes Federation Meeting was held in India for the first time. During the meeting, however, it became evident that adequate systematic research had not yet been carried out in the area of diabetes and yoga. I felt that this was very unfortunate as yogic science has much to contribute towards the medical knowledge of the world. Therefore, I decided to launch a scientific program for diabetics in which the yogic system could be thoroughly tested.
In April 1978 we started the first course at BSY Calcutta Unit with fifteen diabetics. They were divided into two groups, one which remained on drugs and one which went off drugs. Many of the subjects practiced asanas but a control group did not. The course was held for one month and results were taken at four intervals. The following are some of the results : Subject one was tested on arrival when his blood sugar level in milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood was 185 fasting/211 after lunch. After one month of asanas and diet control his blood sugar was 140 fasting/151 after lunch. Then he was put on asanas, diet control and tablets, and the following blood sugar levels were recorded - on two Dalmol tablets twice daily in fasting/185 after lunch; on one Dalmol tablet twice daily 104 fasting/106 after lunch. The combination of yoga and medicine proved to be very effective in managing the high blood glucose. Subject two was given yoga and diet only. On admission into the ashram his blood sugar was 211/251. By the 25th day it measured 120/135, a normal level.
Subject three could not walk or climb stairs on admission. He improved remarkably and after one month was able to climb up and down stairs freely without becoming tired.
Diabetes is mostly due to faulty regulation or insufficiency of insulin. When the insulin level falls, diabetes occurs. In some cases there may be plenty of insulin but the cells are not able to absorb it. There are many reasons why diabetes occurs so frequently in modern civilization, but it is mostly due to lack of exercise and faulty diet usually combined with overeating. There is also a hereditary factor involved, but through the powerful combination of yoga plus a balanced lifestyle, this can be controlled and manifestation of the disease avoided.
Primitive man had a different lifestyle than we have today-he either feasted or fasted. He would hunt until he got something to eat, feast until it was finished, and then fast until he was able to get something else. Today, however, most people do very little physical work, yet they eat all day, every day. Technological development has temporarily solved the food problem and today man is able to have most of the things he wants at any time of the day or night. Modern conveniences have provided us with all the comforts, but at the same time deprived us of exercise and physical work, so necessary for the maintenance of a healthy body and mind. The need for manual labour has greatly decreased while the consumption of rich food has increased.
To make this point more clear, I will tell you about some recent investigations carried out on sand mice. Living in the desert, their natural habitat, they had to work very hard to get their food. When these mice were kept in a cage and fed regularly, they became diabetic within six months. After they were put back in their normal environment, the diabetes disappeared. This seems to show that if exercise and diet are balanced, diabetes need not manifest. If any person with diabetes comes to us now, we will tend not to go in for drugs straight away as was the usual protocol five years ago. Instead we will first put him on a proper diet and yogic exercises. At present we have not proved which component of yoga works best - whether asanas, pranayama or meditation - but we aim to experiment further and come up with more definite answers. I am going to investigate shankhaprakshalana and its effects on both healthy and unhealthy subjects at Sambalpur ashram, as I feel this is one of the most important components in yoga therapy.
Through our experiments in the field of yoga and diabetes we have concluded that people with diabetes no longer need to consider themselves as abnormal or permanently incapacitated. Yoga provides a definite means for the diabetic to lead a normal life.