The Berrie Center’s Caroline Bohl on Yoga and Diabetes
"It's Great for Beginners"

Many of you may know Caroline Bohl as a Berrie Center dietitian and diabetes educator. But did you know that on weekends, Caroline practices what she preaches to her patients about health and wellness—by teaching yoga on Long Island where she lives. A unique resource at the Berrie Center for anyone considering adding yoga to their exercise regiment (“it’s great for people with all types of diabetes,” she said, “and it’s great for beginners”), we asked Caroline to enlighten us about the ancient practice that has become ubiquitous in today’s culture.

What are the physical benefits of yoga?

It can lower stress, increase muscle tone and balance and, like other forms of exercise, increase insulin sensitivity and improve glycemic control.

How does practicing yoga lower your blood sugar levels?

Just like any physical activity, yoga helps the muscles become more  efficient at taking sugar out of the blood to use for energy.  Exercise can often lower the blood sugar

What might make yoga helpful for people with diabetes?

Yoga can help people be more sensitive to the mind-body connection and might help people be more mindful of their self-care. It’s that mindfulness component that yoga offers that often helps people dealing with a chronic illness, like diabetes. It can also help with the stress and anxiety that surrounds taking care of a chronic medical condition.

What’s the hardest part about getting started with a yoga practice?

It is hard to get over the initial hump, I admit. I think the intimidation factor holds a lot of people back. For years, I lived around the corner from a yoga studio in Manhattan and wouldn’t walk in. I don’t know what I was afraid of.

Where is a good place to start?

I recommend that you start with a few beginners’ yoga classes at a local studio or gym. And start slowly!

Another good place to start, if you don’t want to go to a studio, is with simple breathing exercises that can be done anywhere. Breathing in and out through the nose so that the length of the inhale meets the length of the exhale is a good way to calm you and slow the heart rate. Even if you did it for 20 seconds in the middle of the day it will help.

How does one become a yoga instructor?

You have to attend an accredited training program (thru a yoga studio usually) and graduate with a 200-hour teaching certification.  It requires class hours, observation and teaching.  After that, you can go on for more advanced training.

 Ask your doctor or diabetes educator how you can incorporate yoga into your daily life or exercise regimen—or contact Caroline Bohl  at cb2142@cumc.columbia.edu.