Background: Yoga is a popular therapy for diabetes but its efficacy is contested. The aim of this study was to explore the feasibility of researching community based yoga classes in Type 2 diabetes with a view to informing the design of a definitive, multi-centre trial
Methods: The study design was an exploratory randomised controlled trial with in-depth process evaluation. The setting was two multi-ethnic boroughs in London, UK; one with average and one with low mean socio-economic deprivation score. Classes were held at a sports centre or GP surgery. Participants were 59 people with Type 2 diabetes not taking insulin, recruited from general practice lists or opportunistically by general practice staff. The intervention group were offered 12 weeks of a twice-weekly 90-minute yoga class; the control group was a waiting list for the yoga classes. Both groups received advice and leaflets on healthy lifestyle and were encouraged to exercise. Primary outcome measure was HbA1c. Secondary outcome measures included attendance, weight, waist circumference, lipid levels, blood pressure, UKPDS cardiovascular risk score, diabetes-related quality of life (ADDQoL), and self-efficacy. Process measures were attendance at yoga sessions, self-reported frequency of practice between taught sessions, and qualitative data (interviews with patients and therapists, ethnographic observation of the yoga classes, and analysis of documents including minutes of meetings, correspondence, and exercise plans).
Results: Despite broad inclusion criteria, around two-thirds of the patients on GP diabetic registers proved ineligible, and 90% of the remainder declined to participate. Mean age of participants was 60 +/- 10 years. Attendance at yoga classes was around 50%. Nobody did the exercises regularly at home. Yoga teachers felt that most participants were unsuitable for 'standard' yoga exercises because of limited flexibility, lack of basic fitness, co-morbidity, and lack of confidence. There was a small fall in HbA1c in the yoga group which was not statistically significant and which was not sustained six months later, and no significant change in other outcome measures.
Conclusion: The benefits of yoga in type 2 diabetes suggested in some previous studies were not confirmed. Possible explanations (apart from lack of efficacy) include recruitment challenges; practical and motivational barriers to class attendance; physical and motivational barriers to engaging in the exercises; inadequate intensity and/or duration of yoga intervention; and insufficient personalisation of exercises to individual needs. All these factors should be considered when designing future trials.
Trial registration: National Research Register (1410) and Current Controlled Trials (ISRCTN63637211).