Stretching is good for you

A while back I was asked to write an article about the value of yoga for people living with diabetes for Diabetes Health Magazine.  It was actually a challenging exercise because the editor asked me to cite research from various studies on yoga and its health benefits. Getting overly technical is not my forte but I gave it my best shot.

At one point while diving down the rabbit hole I discovered that restorative yoga does not switch on the relaxed part of our nervous system as I had previously been led to believe.

This floored me!

Apparently, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that lying around on cushy bolsters while your yoga teacher massages your temples with do-terra oils is of any use. Instead, the study suggested that the only thing that relaxes the nervous system is concentrated stretching of targeted muscle groups.

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To be honest, I am not interested in evidence based yoga. I am not even interested in evidence based science.  What gets me is that nobody really knows how the body works. We keep exploring the human body hoping to find answers and no matter how much we discover we are still a mystery.

Why are we here? Who are we? What is our purpose and our role in this vast creation? Do you know?

I can remember playing a game once where one person had to make a statement like, why is the sky blue? And the other person had to come up with a reason like because I can see it! Then the person would ask… and why can you see it? And the questions would go into infinite regress driving both players nuts!

Living with Diabetes is like that for me. Just when I think I’ve tapped into a reason why…I realize I haven’t got a clue

My yoga practice is a daily life saver, my solace and the place I go to be with myself. No matter what goes on with my levels or my emotions it levels the playing field. I finish my practice and I can face whatever comes.

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This week I’ve especially been focusing on stretching my inner thighs and hamstrings just to see if it really does help to relax the nervous system. We spend a lot of time sitting in chairs squashing the back of our legs and decreasing the venous blood return to the heart. It also limits circulation and can cause edema (swelling in the legs). Keeping the legs in one position may also hamper our ability to uptake insulin.

Stretching and opening the legs and inverting the body (taking the head lower than the heart) helps to relax the nervous system, increase circulation and lower blood pressure.

Fan posture is the perfect pose to facilitate all these things so I’ve put together an 8-minute sequence for you to practice. We head straight into the posture so if you’d like a warm up first I suggest you to do a few Sun Salutations or try my practice to beat insulin resistance .

I’ve made sure to add variations for beginners and advanced alike and remember continuous practice gets results. Give it a try and make sure to comment below. 🙂

With great respect…Rachel

Would you like me to design a practice specifically for you? Why not work with me this month. I’d love to be of service.

Yoga mudras for diabetes

When most people think of yoga they think of a physical practice involving stretches and strengthening exercises to create flexibility and balance.  But there is another way that yogis approach their practice. Rather than seeing the practice as postural, they think of the practice as a way to build energy. This energy is called Prana and it’s our life force.

The physical postures help to detoxify the system while the breathing practices cleanse and purify the system. Once energy flows freely we can start to absorb prana more readily and seal it into our nervous system. The more prana we retain the easier it is to manage our stress.

In yoga, mudras are the postures we use to seal energy into the body. These can be physical postures or they can be hand gestures.

Mudras have been around for thousands of years. In fact, before there was language we used gestures (sign language) to communicate. That’s why we still use our hands when we talk.

Mudras are the perfect way to calm the emotions and settle the mind and they are super easy to do. No prior experience needed!

Perfect for supporting us in our diabetes care.

I decided to create a vlog of a short mudra sequence that you can practice right away.

Want to know more about how I used yoga to help me come to terms with my diagnosis? Check out my free ebook Surviving Insulin. Would you like to find the perfect practice to make living with diabetes that little bit easier? Why not work with me

Beat Insulin Resistance with Yoga

I’m sitting here on the hottest day ever in the wilds of South Africa. I mean 38 degrees and climbing. They say when it gets hot like this here it’s a Berg wind blowing in from the desert. I’m trying to get excited about it, but it’s hard. The heat really affects my BG levels. They go high and then they go low…What to do!

Because I was diagnosed with type 1 well into my adult life I do battle with Insulin Resistance. It’s there on hot days, when I get sunburned, exercise too vigorously, don’t get enough sleep or inject too many times in the same place.

Instead of getting frustrated or feeling helpless I use my morning yoga practice to get my legs working so the uptake of insulin is more efficient. I find the routine below really helps.

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Being someone who regularly does yoga there are definitely some postures in this routine that are a little challenging for beginners so I suggest you watch the routine first and then decide which aspects you can do and leave out what’s challenging. I’ve included postures at the wall, seated and on the back for anyone who isn’t ready for the standing section.

I recommend you do this sequence every morning before breakfast for at least 7 days. If you can do it for longer that would be awesome!

Let me know how you go and have a wonderful start to 2017

with great respect…Rachel

If you’d like a personalized yoga routine to kick start your year and get motivated to incorporate yoga into your daily diabetes management plan why not Work with Me I have just 5 spots available for this month.

Set Your Intention

Today is the 2nd anniversary of yogafordiabetesblog.com and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to share with you this simple intention setting practice for the new year.

Yoga For Diabetes

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Happy New Year! It’s the beginning of another year and like everyone I am so excited to implement some new routines and try to let go of some challenging habits. I learned long ago that New Years Resolutions don’t really work.  In the short term they might motivate us back to an exercise program or encourage us to change our diet but ultimately we want to make a lasting change; one that can carry us past the initial excitement of trying something new.

I always start the year with a beautiful meditation to set my intention. An intention is different to a resolution. An intention gives you room to breathe. You might have the intention to check your blood sugar more often, be more vigilant with counting carbs or even work on your emotional relationship to your health. An intention says, “I’ll do my best” rather than “I must…

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Letting it all go

I’ve been tearing up quite a lot lately. It could be that I finally have a home again after 6 years of non-stop travel. Or the fact that so many of my childhood dreams are bearing fruit. Or that, besides all the good in my life, I still find it hard to accept the daily ups and downs of diabetes. No matter what the reason for my tears I know that taking the time to sit and be with my vulnerable heart enables me to be stronger and to deal with whatever challenges come my way.

As my holiday gift to you, I’d love to share this simple technique to release the feelings that can threaten to overwhelm us during this sensitive time.

And…I wish you a very happy, settled and balanced holiday season!

with great respect…

Rachel

The Sat Yam meditation

Place your hand on your heart. Feel the warmth of your hand at your heart and notice your breath. Take a few moments here to let the mind settle.

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Bring the heels of your hands together and extend the fingers so your hands are in the shape of a cup or lotus (padma mudra).

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Imagine that inside your cup/lotus are all the emotions and feelings that haunt you. Don’t think too hard about it. See what arises.

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As you inhale, lift the cup/lotus by straightening your arms sending the emotions back to pure unconditioned awareness.

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As you exhale, open your arms to the side and surround yourself in a fine purple mist.

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Repeat this a few times, lifting the cup/lotus overhead on inhalation, surrounding yourself with a fine purple mist on exhalation.

Repeat the moving meditation a few more times silently adding the sound Sat on inhalation and Yam on exhalation.

Let go of the movement with the arms, resting the hands on the thighs.

Continue to chant internally: Sat as you feel the breath moving up the spine to the crown of the head on inhalation; Yam surrounding yourself in the fine purple mist on exhalation. Think of it like an internal fountain replenishing itself with every in and out breath.

Finally, feel the sound Satyam resting like a pulse at the centre of your heart. Rest there for another few moments.

When you’re ready, gently open your eyes and head into your day.

 

 

Holiday Surprise

I can’t believe we are a quarter of the way into December. My inbox is already teaming with gift ideas and strategies for surviving the holiday rush. Instead of coming up with tips and tricks for my own brand of ‘surviving the holidays’  I’d like to share some exciting non holiday news.

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I may have mentioned in previous posts that my partner John and I have been building a house over the last few months on an incredible piece of land in South Africa. Finally at the end of November, we moved in!

Instead of focussing on social media content and how yoga can help manage your diabetes, I’ve been focusing on home contents. It’s been quite exciting making a house into a home and knowing that our home will eventually be a hub for people to come rest, rejuvenate and be with themselves.

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Our centre is called the Sundaram yoga & adventure park. Sundaram means “the Beautiful” and beautiful it is.  Right now our centre is a simple dwelling on a virgin piece of land surrounded by an 150 million year old indigenous forest with sweeping vistas of mountains down to the sea. Eventually it will be a network of cabins and studios to host workshops of all sorts for people from all over the world. I’m especially keen to host Yoga retreats for people living with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes…so stay tuned for more on that one.img_0144So with all the excitement on the ground, my blog has been gathering dust …but 2017 is just around the corner  and my goal is to serve up some awesome meditations, yoga practices and more to usher in the new year… until then have a wonderful holiday season!

with great respect…

Rachel

P.S Want to know more about my first year on Insulin? Get my free ebook here.

 

What will the world look like now?

Last night I couldn’t sleep and I know I wasn’t the only one. The biggest question on my mind was, what will the world look like now? What will be the worlds attitude towards America and how will we move forward?

My Facebook feed is packed with fearful and tearful exclamations and words of comfort too. Close friends who practice yoga sharing personal stories of how they’ve coped in the past with tragedy and uncertainty. How do any of us face the unknown?

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As this is still #diabetesawarenessmonth and managing diabetes is a 24/7 job this whole election palaver and subsequent result although hugely daunting is also an opportunity to tune in to how any of us cope when faced with something we don’t want to face.

When someone is diagnosed with diabetes often friends and family comment that at least it’s not cancer. At least you can’t die from diabetes. Isn’t it the same with an election result we’d rather not stomach? Surely this isn’t going to kill us and for those of us who live with chronic illness, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

We find ways to more than cope. We thrive!

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And how do we thrive? Through acceptance. Accepting the hand we have been dealt with grace and determination.

Do you know anyone who lives with diabetes? have you seen them injecting at a meal, testing their blood sugar, eating differently, perhaps fiddling with a device attached to their belt? If you have then you might have assumed that what they do is easy and that they have adapted.

What you don’t see is the shock and horror of diagnosis. The fear and uncertainty of how they will cope. The grief, and the loss and despair. Even worse if that diagnosis happens to a baby or a small child how that little innocent being is just that, innocent and how the parents for years to come will have to bear the burden. Constant blood sugar checks day and night, injections and more.

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The road ahead after diagnosis is harder then anyone can imagine. But somehow little by little that baby grows up, graduates from college and goes on to live a healthy and productive life.

I truly believe that as a human race our ability to adapt is a blessing. We can stare down the barrel of a gun, live in the most appalling conditions, survive holocausts, wars, famine and still love and create beautiful, astounding things that change the world.

Shame

This month is Diabetes Awareness month and today I wanted to share more about the vulnerability I experience while living with Diabetes.

I can remember the moment of diagnosis like it was yesterday. The feelings of confusion and disbelief as my GP hurriedly told me, “YOU HAVE DIABETES” There was no sugar coating, no silver lining and I was terrified and convinced there was some mistake. I didn’t get to see a specialist straight away so for at least two days I just sat in my house in tatters. I didn’t know what to do. The doctor had given me all sorts of instructions to change my diet, google diabetes and find out how to fix myself.

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I didn’t know whether to call my parents, tell my best friend or just be quiet about the whole thing. The biggest overriding feeling I felt was shame. I kept thinking how could a yoga teacher who was supposedly healthy get this disease. 8 years ago I knew nothing about type 1 diabetes and that it was possible to get this as an adult and that mine was a particularly slow onset.

At that stage I thought I had type 2 diabetes which can be brought on by stress, diet, lifestyle choices and other factors. The two diseases are very different. In type 1 the pancreas loses beta cell function and the ability to produce insulin. In type 2 the body does produce insulin but the cells resist the insulin. In LADA which is what I have, it’s sometimes called 1.5 which means I can do both. Not have much insulin and resist the insulin. This means I have to do everything I can to make my cells more open to receiving insulin and preserve my beta cell function at the same time.

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Understanding my disease was the first step in letting go of the shame I felt. When I was finally at the stage where I needed Insulin, the diabetes educator said in no uncertain terms that this disease is not my fault and that there is absolutely nothing I could have done to change its onset and progression.

The tears that flowed from that moment were tears of relief. letting go of my shame has helped me to be more compassionate too. Not one person living with chronic illness, mental health issues, personal tragedy or any other crisis should ever feel ashamed.

Things happen!

It’s up to us how we respond to our circumstances. I am grateful every day for the gift that diabetes has given me.

with great respect…Rachel

Want to know more about my first year on Insulin? Get my free ebook here.

Highs and lows

Friday was a biggie, not in terms of my blood glucose numbers, but because I’ve finally realised a life long dream. In November 2017 a book I had no idea I would even write, when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes eight years ago, will be published worldwide.

If you’ve been following this blog over the last two years you’ll remember how busy I was last year writing Yoga for Diabetes Some of you even generously donated to the crowdfunding campaign I ran in February. I am beyond grateful for the outpouring of generosity from friends, family and people in the DOC.

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What I didn’t expect was to be approached by a publisher in the U.S after the campaign had finished and that our discussions over the last 7 months would lead to being offered a contract for world wide distribution. Obviously I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Prior to being offered the contract my plan was to have the book ready for print by May 2016. Being an absolute novice with self publishing I came up against all sorts of road blocks while sourcing quotes from printers. On the exact day that I received the best print quote I also received the contract offer from the publisher.

I have decided to go the traditional publishing route with the hope that my enthusiastic supporters from the crowdfunding campaign will celebrate this exciting turn of events, even if it means waiting a year to receive the book.

So the absolute high of the week? Signing that contract!

contract-signAnd the low?

Waking up up the next day with higher blood sugars. Heading to my mat hoping the numbers would fall. Turning up the dial on my nightly basal injection. Feeling sleepy, grumpy and frustrated because no matter what I do only trial and error will bring my blood sugar down again.

When I hit these emotional lows, the best yoga practice is one of surrender, acceptance and knowing that I can ‘try’ again tomorrow.

And what does that practice look like?

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I imagine myself at the feet of something greater and offer up my pain, frustration and sorrow to that force. I express absolute gratitude for the sweetness of life, the breath and this body, letting the emotions come.

This to me is the power of Yoga in the form of Bhakti. And one of the many ways I bring yoga into my daily diabetes management plan. No matter what your religion, culture or belief, surrender and gratitude are universal and a powerful daily practice.

with great respect…Rachel

And if you can’t wait for the book why not check out my free ebook on how I managed my first year on Insulin here.

Staying Balanced

It’s been pretty quiet over here on the blog. Mainly because I’ve been in flux. First there was the awesome safari in Kruger national park and then flying home to Australia, recovering from jet-lag, preparing for my upcoming yoga teacher training and generally adjusting insulin, routines and more to the the new environment.

rachel-2016-2-2Throughout all the change my yoga practice keeps me stable. That and my strict adherence to routine.  Knowing my ayurvedic type means knowing what will easily imbalance me and what will easily bring me into balance.

Travel and change are some of the biggest hurdles when it comes to staying balanced as they increase vata dosha. Vata is the combination of air and space in the system. When we have too much we experience things like insomnia, anxiety, a feeling of being spaced out and difficulty concentrating. Physically the skin dries out, we suffer from constipation and our joints tend to pop and crack. Excess vata can also cause erratic blood glucose levels. Bringing the vata back into balance is good for everyone whether you live with diabetes or not. flower-offering-the-photo-forestBesides, eating well, sleeping at least 7-8 hours and drinking plenty of water I make sure I’m really warmed-up before starting my postural practice. Repeating movements that flow on the breath is a great way to start.  Lately I’ve been putting together short sequences on my iPhone and posting them on Instagram and Facebook just for fun. The one below is one of my favourite ways to get warm quick.

Check it out and let me know what you think…and if you feel inspired and would like to do more you can get a free yoga class here.
With great respect…Rachel