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Put yourself in my shoes

When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes all I knew about the condition was that I would be insulin dependent for the rest of my life. I didn’t think much about the details about the invention of insulin until I became more involved with diabetes advocacy. I was surprised to discover that before the discovery of insulin in 1921, a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes was a death sentence.

Diabetes is one of the most studied diseases in the history of medicine, whose first mentions trace back to a collection of Egyptian medical texts proposing a treatment of a decoction of bones, wheat, grain, grit, green lead and earth. The Indian physician, Sushruta, and the surgeon Charaka were able to distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, termed as “madhumeha” (literally, ‘honey urine’).

The term “diabetes mellitus” was introduced in 1674 by the British physician Thomas Willis who defined diabetes mellitus as the “Pissing Evil.” It was only in 1776, that physician, natural philosopher and experimental physiologist Matthew Dobson discovered that urine of diabetic patients is sweet because of excess sugar.

Before the discovery of Insulin doctors were confused as to what caused diabetes. Was it a problem with kidneys, a metabolic issue? Not knowing the cause, all manner of bizarre treatments were prescribed from high calorie diets to fasting to opium. The founder of the Joslin Diabetes Centre, advocated for severe, prolonged fasting and under-nourishment as a cure for diabetes, coined the “starvation diet”.

Discovering that the problem lay with the pancreas took many years and experiments.

To give you a long history and treatise on the discovery of Insulin is not my goal, rather I hope it will inspire reflection on the ground-breaking discoveries we make as humans and the miracle of medicine and science.

I’m not a science nerd. I am a physical, emotional type, a dancer. Diabetes has forced me to find interest in things I wouldn’t naturally be drawn to. It’s made me more rational, reasonable and logical and I am starting to like this new part of me. Especially right now in the midst of this pandemic.

I admit I have been trolling conversations on facebook, just to try and put myself in the shoes of my friends who are struggling in the current climate. The ones who are adamant that the vaccines we are being asked to take are dangerous, that the statistics and scientists are wrong, coerced or lying because there is a much larger plan at work. That our freedoms are threatened, that we are now living in George Orwells 1984. Not only that but we must take a stand and say no.

I agree these are unprecedented scary times. Yet… it seems to me there is a missing piece to this and this is where the discovery and implementation of life saving insulin comes in.

How did Banting and Best, the two famous men responsible for bringing insulin to the world figure out that insulin was the key? They had to experiment. Once they had the inkling they were on the right track, they injected themselves to see what would happen. The final step was to inject a person living with diabetes who was about to die.

I am here today because of these risky human trials, because of years and years of experimentation and research. This was raw, edgy medical experimentation.

Now here we are in 2021, living on a knifes edge, friend pitted against friend, the world divided. Some of us absolutely convinced that the discovery of a vaccine for Covid is a miracle and others certain it’s a long-term death sentence, the end of life as we know it and NOTHING in between.

But what if this vaccine like insulin, is the start of something truly beautiful. A new beginning, a way forward in science, medicine and technology that’s only just beginning. Maybe this mRna technology are the first signs of a cure for all the genetic incurable diseases we have today. There is a great deal of evidence in credible scientific journals to suggest this.

To my friends freaking out, angry or even just hesitant and on the fence. There are many issues on our plate today. The climate crisis for one.

If we are willing to believe climate scientists, why aren’t we willing to believe our medical scientists? What is the difference? Is one body more co-opted than another? Most friends are terrified of what we are doing to the earth.

Which then begs the question how can a nature loving, non-harming, vegan like me even think of injecting myself with a supposed gene altering vaccine I know nothing about?

Try a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. It changed my perspective about everything. I have learned that sometimes to live a life in harmony with nature I have had to put myself first and trust science.

Life is precious and whatever keeps me living is precious. If that means injecting myself seven times a day with a lifesaving hormone, created in a lab from sequenced human DNA so be it. If it means taking an mRna vaccine so be it. I have way more years left in me to share, support and bring light to this earth

With great respect…

Rachel

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Beam me up Scotty

Something not many people know about me is that I am obsessed with sci-fi and dystopian stories. I was never a big Lord of the Rings fan, instead stick me in front of Star Trek and I’m as happy as a pig in mud. I am not quite sure why I’m so obsessed, but I think it has something to do with wanting to be just like my big brother when I was little, who along with my cousin, spent hours making meticulous Star Trek Enterprise models and filming action shots with them for fun.

Lately I haven’t had much patience for sticking my nose in a good novel, so I’ve been tooling through Netflix, consuming shows like Sense 8, Colony, Handmaid’s Tale and my current favourite ‘THE 100’

What is it about THE 100 that has me on a binge? It’s the unresolvable crisis’s that just seem to pile on top of each other in never ending succession, while going through every genre of horror, Sci-Fi adventure movie ever made. Think killer bees, the Lockness monster, the Blob, Frankenstein, Werewolves, Zombies, Cults, Raiders of the Lost Ark, King Kong, Jumanji, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Soylent Green, Rosemary’s Baby, even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (yes, to me that’s a horror flick)

No matter what kind of decisions the characters make to ‘do better’ or save their people, things never resolve in the way one would expect. In fact, in the show someone always ends up dying, getting maimed, or emotionally scarred for life. Yet somehow, they pick themselves up after their super awful decision and try again, usually making an even worse choice.

This is exactly on my worse days how I feel about managing my diabetes. No matter what choice I make, the outcome will never be what I expect. Even when I have all the right information, all the best tech, and excellent support.

Somehow, I’m back at the Dropship, waiting for the next Grounder invasion or trying to make nightblood in Zero G without a spacesuit or worse stuck in a bunker during yet another nuclear holocaust forced to become a cannibal or die.

Of course, if you haven’t seen the show you have no idea what I’m talking about but rest assured. Living with diabetes is just as edgy, and all out terrifying on even my best days.

Learning to accept my decisions when it comes to day to day management is my new goalpost. Like the characters in the show, who have to accept that killing, and maiming is the way to get their ‘humanity’ back.

I am not really sure about that sort of self-reflection when it comes to diabetes rather it’s through constant revaluation of the 180 decisions I make a day that keep propelling me forward with positivity and faith.

Like today when I took 65% of my breakfast dose, because I knew I’d be teaching yoga, which would drop my blood sugar, except woops it didn’t  so subsequently I spent most of the morning plateauing high, which then caused me to spike higher at lunch even with a correction, which in turn had me scrubbing the stove and vigorously moving furniture about which most likely will mean more insulin sensitivity by dinner and a low overnight. Adjusting like this over and over takes effort, discipline and awareness. Qualities I developed through my yoga practice.

Some people might think of yoga as Sci-Fi. All woo-woo weird stuff with buzz words like transcendence and higher consciousness. But in reality, yoga is what happens when all words, ideas, identifications and imaginations drop out. It’s the base. The thing that doesn’t change. The changeless is the nature of yoga which is you, the perceiver of every experience, every choice. Even when you make a terrible choice, taking you down a dark seemingly treacherous path to a place you know nothing about. Who you are, the yoga itself, is the constant. The pathless path.

With great respect

Rachel

P.s Join me for a grounding nourishing all level practice perfect for these times we find ourselves in

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Diabetes as a transformational experience

I’ve just completed a course on Mental Health Aware Yoga. I took the course because I wanted to learn more about how to meet the needs of students dealing with mental health challenges. As I progressed through the course it became apparent that everyone at some point or other has dealt with some sort of mental health issue. In fact, nearly half the population has experienced a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lifetime.[1]

When I discovered yoga in my late teens, I realized the value of yoga in supporting me in dealing with my own challenges. As a young girl, after the sudden death of my mother I experienced anxiety. At the time it showed up as digestive issues and a fear of being by myself. My father and step-mother did their absolute best to support me, but back then unless there was a real observable physical or deep mental disturbance we were expected to cope and move forward.

The discovery of the physical practice of yoga gave me my first taste of true relaxation and surrender. I didn’t really understand why it worked. All I knew was that I wanted more.  Yoga gave me a sense of peace and security and I loved its physicality. Little did I know that the yoga class was a transformational space and the yoga itself a transitional object.

In Stephen Cope’s book “Yoga and the Quest for the True Self” he explains that, a transformational space is a place where you can find refuge from the demands of everyday life. A place where you can let go and say, “it’s not up to me.” A place where you can find acceptance and support for who you are rather than what you have. [2] He also explains what a transformational space is not. It’s not a place where you are asked to trade one set of ideologies or beliefs for another. I.e. trading ideas about religion with ideas about yoga or spirituality. Or that you must do a practice in a certain way to gain the peace and freedom you crave.

It was easy in the early days of my yoga life to think that I had to be rigorous with myself and push myself into the forms and shapes of the physical practice. Even though I had all the necessary ingredients to transform and grow, trying to be like my teacher or like the person next to me on the mat only served to make me more anxious. If I couldn’t get it right, I’d try harder. It took years of looking in all the wrong places and a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes to recognize that a transformational space didn’t have to be external, it could be the purest form of acceptance. Acceptance of one’s self.

Living with diabetes carries with it it’s fair share of trauma, anxiety, stress and depression. It’s a very rare person that can escape unscathed. No matter how much information you are given via your health care providers or support team no one knows exactly what you must do to manage your condition. No body responds to medication, diet and exercise in the same way. The amount of energy that goes into daily management is exhausting. You are asked to think like a pancreas 24/7.

One of the biggest things that’s overlooked by our health care system is how traumatic it is to receive a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. The initial shock and disbelief are overridden by the huge amount of information one needs to assimilate to immediately manage the condition. Without missing a beat, you are expected to self-medicate, learn how to use technology and treat any hazardous side effects. I.e. keep yourself alive!

Trauma occurs as a result of powerlessness in the face of an overwhelming force, and when the ordinary systems that give people a sense of control, meaning and connection are overridden[3]

Trauma like anxiety is not an uncommon occurrence. According to studies in the US more than half the population (60.7% of men and 51.2% of women) reported exposure to at least one traumatic incident in their lifetime, including rape, molestation, physical attack, combat, shock, threat with a weapon, accidents, natural disasters, abuse, neglect or witnessing something traumatic. [4]

I find it interesting that being diagnosed with a chronic illness is not emphasized on the above list. Nearly half the global population are dealing with some sort of chronic disease, and one in three adults worldwide is living with multiple chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease alongside diabetes, depression as well as cancer, or a combination of three, four, or even five or six diseases at the same time.[5] That’s half the population or more dealing with multiple traumas.

It’s astounding to me that more time and resources aren’t devoted to supporting the population to manage all the associated mental health challenges that come along with these chronic conditions.

It’s encouraging that yoga is now being seen as a viable adjunct alongside western psychological treatment. In studies on Yoga and Trauma In a randomized control trial (RCT) by Bessel Van der Kolk, David Emerson and colleagues, 64 women with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD were assigned to either a trauma-informed yoga class or a supportive women’s health class.[6]  Students were taught physical yoga practices, breath work and meditation with an emphasis on inner sensing, taking note of how the postures felt internally as opposed to how they looked externally. The group was also encouraged to modify a pose or hold a pose longer or stop as they needed. Key phrases like, “notice, allow and when you are ready” were used in the instructor’s language. The key ingredient here was not to pressure the student. Rather inviting the student to follow what the body was telling them as they executed the poses.

The results of the study concluded that, [7]yoga significantly reduces PTSD symptomatology, in a manner comparable to well-researched psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological approaches, and that yogmay improve the functioning of individuals with PTSD by helping them to tolerate physical and sensory experiences associated with fear and helplessness and to increase emotional awareness and affect tolerance.

In my own experience, I have been able to find comfort and safety and a way through the traumatic shock of my own diagnosis and subsequent challenges with the use of what Stephen Cope calls “transitional objects.” A transitional object can be anything that is constant, reliable, and supports the student during this period of transformation. It could be the teacher, the room, a favourite book, a chant or a specific practice.[8]

As I transitioned from healthy person to person living with a chronic illness and specifically diabetes I found the following ‘objects’ of immense support.

A guide – having someone to literally and symbolically hold my hand through the transition. Not only is the support of loved ones invaluable but having a guide who knows the pitfalls and goalposts can help ease the transition. For me that started with my first CDE who showed me how to inject and work out my insulin to carb ratios. She also gave me significant emotional support. Reminding me that a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes happens to anyone. There’s nothing I could have done differently.

Hearing this brought tears of relief.  I had tried so hard to fight the inevetable and here was someone letting me know it wasn’t my fault. So often with a disease like diabetes we are told by the media and the medical establishment that we ate the wrong things, had the wrong kind of lifestyle. These ideas made me feel like somehow, I was wrong. Her kind and gentle words let me off the hook and helped me to relax.

A community – After my diagnosis I went online to see if there were any other people into yoga or healthy lifestyles living with type 1 diabetes. To my surprise I discovered a thriving community in online forums and Facebook groups. I tentatively sent out a question and immediately received 15 replies. Realizing I am not alone, that the problems I have living with this condition are shared, helped me come out of isolation. Whenever I have a question related to my diabetes management or my feelings about living with diabetes I can reach out and get immediate support. This has been especially potent when in the middle of the worst hypoglycemic event ever I reached out to a fellow type 1 on Instagram and received her advice on how to treat the event with glucose and post low insulin dosing.

A routine – Having a regular daily routine has been another potent tool. Knowing that I’ll be taking my insulin shots at the same time each day, eating at the same time, with roughly the same amounts of carbs. Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. Having a regular daily yoga practice and afternoon walk are all regimes that give me a sense of certainty and stability. I may not be able to control my pancreas, but I can control the parameters around how I respond to stress. Keeping things simple and rhythmic is a great way to stay stable and grounded throughout changing conditions.

A practice – Having a consistent yoga practice has been my number one transitional object. I’ll never forget the day of my diagnosis and how after returning from my GP I went straight to my yoga mat. As I settled into child’s pose to prepare for the practice I symbolically felt myself giving up and giving over to a higher power. Asking for support, healing and whatever else I could think of. I rededicated myself to yoga and all that it offers not only as a practitioner but a teacher. I recognized myself in the wounded healer and that I could only ever teach from my own experience. This shocking new normal would have to serve as the springboard for my journey into this next phase of life. Returning to my mat day after day, especially amongst the challenges of anxiety or re-traumatization from a severe hypoglycemic event.  My yoga practice rebuilds my inner strength.

In yoga a transitional object is called an ‘Alamba’ the word means crutch. We may need the aid of a crutch in the beginning but eventually as we regain our inner strength and heal from a traumatic event we walk freely again.

Learning more about mental health and how to support someone living with a mental health challenge through the medium of yoga has been an inspiring and healing journey for me. Not only have I gained valuable tools in working with others but it has been exactly the kind of transformative space and transitional object I’ve needed in my own healing journey.

With great respect…

Rachel


[1] Mental Health Foundation. (2016). Fundamental Facts About Mental Health 2016. London, UK: Mental Health Foundation.

[2] Cope, S. (2000). Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. New York, USA: Bantam Books.

[3] Herman, J. (1997). Trauma and Recovery. New York, US: Basic Books.

[4] Kessler, R.C., Hughes, M., Sonnega, S. and Nelson, C.B. (1995). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the National Comorbidity

Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry. 1995; 52(12): 1048-1060.

[5] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/healthcare-future-multiple-chronic-disease-ncd/

[6] Van der Kolk, B.A, Stone, L.,West, J., Rhodes, A. Emerson, D., Suvak, M., and Spinazzola, J. (2014). Yoga as an Adjunctive

Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 75(0), e1-7.

[7] Van der Kolk, B.A, Stone, L.,West, J., Rhodes, A. Emerson, D., Suvak, M., and Spinazzola, J. (2014). Yoga as an Adjunctive

Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 75(0), e1-7.

[8] Mental Health Aware Yoga Teacher Training Manual © Lauren Tober 2020

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The changing monster

As a child I was terrified of monsters. They lived under the bed, lurked behind corners and haunted the dark spaces at night. As I grew up the monsters changed but the terror didn’t.

Instead of thinking some dark presence was going to eat me up while I slept I feared blood poisoning from cuts, unsafe food and when I moved to Australia, spiders and snakes.

Moving to Byron Bay in the early 90’s I became part of a health focussed, organic, solar powered yoga community. We shunned anything unnatural or chemical. No roundup for us, no on grid electricity and definitely no unnecessary medical intervention.

I gave birth to my baby boy in a tub in a one room 7-sided house. I had no ultrasounds during pregnancy, planned a home birth and even when the pain became unbearable called an acupuncturist to help me manage.

When it came to medical intervention just after the birth, we did the heel prick test and that was it. Months later when the pamphlets from the doctor recommended vaccination we politely declined.  I had read the pros and cons, reflected on my own experience with vaccination and trusted the advice we had been given by friends. We wanted to give our boy every opportunity to develop a healthy immune system.  And by then anything discharged from western conventional medicine seemed monstrous to me.

When my son at 19 announced he was getting vaccinated for just about everything I freaked.  Hadn’t I raised him to be afraid of monsters too? Letting go of my overprotectiveness and trusting his choices was huge for me. But I did it.

As many of you know I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 42. Was it the monster of being in 9/11 that caused it? Breathing in that cocktail of chemicals washing over our neighbourhood in Brooklyn? Was it that weird flu I had just after? Whatever the reason, which I will never know, I am now living with a chronic disease. One that requires at least 5 shots a day of a synthesized chemical to keep my blood sugar in just the right range so I don’t fall into a coma. When I think about it’s insane! We take our life so for granted until we are diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.

Slowly over time and as I have grown older I have had to face many terrifying events while trying to uphold my beliefs and ideals.

When the pandemic first hit I stayed calm. On holiday here in South Africa we had very few cases and went into lockdown early. Things looked hopeful. I felt relaxed. I hadn’t stopped travelling for 10 years. Staying in one place was a god send. Time to create a garden, adjust my diet, heal and renew.

Those living with diabetes were asked to self-isolate. Apparently 40% of all admissions to hospitals here are with people living with some form of diabetes. At first we were told just keep your A1c ( a 3 month blood sugar measurement) in range and you should be fine. But then we were informed that COVID didn’t discriminate when it came to diabetes. Better to stay home period. So, I did.

When news of the vaccine came to the rest of the world. I had already decided. No way was I going get it. As I watched family members, get Covid and recover I thought, “they survived. Maybe it’s not as bad as they say.” Of course, all the theory’s about alternative treatments were rife on my newsfeed. I started feeling overwhelmed with all the info out there. There was that monster again, just around the corner, maybe under the bed, or in the dark spaces. Waiting only for me.

I’m not quite sure what the tipping point was. Maybe it was seeing my beautiful grown up son in his 5th lockdown in Melbourne. My parents each ending up in hospital for different health reasons. The death of my Aunt and one of my closest friends. Watching the spread here in South Africa of the Delta Variant. Hospitals over crowded. The country buckling under riots. The feeling that if I had to leave to see family as a person living with diabetes I would be risking my life. The irony being I risk my life every day with diabetes and yet I have a semblance of control through medical intervention. But with Covid? How could I be sure that a 24-hour flight and exposure in multiple airports etc wouldn’t be the linchpin. And if I wanted to return to Australia without getting vaccinated it would cost over $20,000. Was I willing to live in fear and isolation for the rest of my life?

Asking myself these deep and challenging questions was important. I had many things to weigh up. Luckily, I didn’t have to make my decision alone. My parents and siblings had already had the vaccine. They were doing well. My brother had done a ton of research. Being somewhat of a science geek he had weighed up the risks before getting vaccinated. Seeing many yoga teachers and friends in the US proudly displaying there “I got vaccinated” stickers was encouraging, but it didn’t make me any less certain. It was like lemmings jumping off a clip. Everyone just keeps jumping, should I? Could I?

And then there was an opportunity to get a shot. We had waited for months for the Vaccine. I panicked. It was crunch time.

That night, as I lay in bed I went through absolutely everything that could go wrong, from anaphylactic shock, to blood clots, to fevers, to this weird thing flowing through my veins. You name it. And then I thought all about what could go right. I could see my son and parents and family again, I could go for a walk with friend. I could go into a bookshop and choose a book. I could see some of Africa, teach in person again. Interact with friends, be in society. 18 months is a long time to be in isolation.  It was time to let go of my fears. To face that monster and trust my decision.

I had my first Pfizer shot last week with minimal side effects. In fact, I felt like the energiser bunny straight afterwards. Facing my fear and doing it anyway I felt a huge sense of relief, like when you jump off that high diving board into cool, clear water and happily swim to the shallow end. Thinking, “I can’t believe I did it, I’m such a dill for being afraid”

Like many of those who chose to get vaccinated I have no idea what the long-term effects will be. But for once I do trust the science and the many friends who have like me chosen to take the plunge. For those sitting on the fence I hope my message encourages you. For those friends who are a hard ‘no,’ I get it. I really do. This was one of the hardest decisions of my life.

With great respect…

Rachel

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Feel the fear and do it anyway

I’ve lived with diabetes for 13 years. For the first six years after my initial diagnosis, I still produced my own insulin, I could manage the whole thing with yoga, diet and herbs. I never imagined I’d need insulin. But then I did.

I started slow.

First there was the daily shot of basal insulin. I restricted my diet, ate under 30 carbs a day, exercised fanatically, dragged myself up and down hills and ate a ketogenic diet. I sported flat lines and felt safe and confident with my management. That went on for 4 years. It worked, until it didn’t.

10 years after my diagnosis I took the plunge and started meal time insulin. My motto was, a little goes a long way. I used 1/2-unit syringes and eked out the doses. Learning from the low carb diabetes community that the less insulin I used the less likelihood of lows. It felt safe and doable. I could relax. Or so I thought…

Last year I started needing more insulin because I made a radical change. I wanted to go vegan for ethical and emotional reasons. I’ve talked a lot about the why here on the blog. Suffice it to say changing from a strict low carb diet to a high carb low fat one has been no picnic. I’m nearly a year and a half in and it’s tough.

Don’t get me wrong. I am over the moon being plant based. I feel healthier, I’m more resilient and I love being creative in the kitchen again, but to be honest I’ve struggled with my mindset.

Right now, I’m dealing with Diabetes Burnout.

I though diabetes burnout would look like giving up on my management or feeling like things were hopeless. But Diabetes burnout is subtle. Mine was triggered by a severe low. I wrote about that on the blog too.

Since my low I’ve lost confidence with dosing. Even after meeting with my diabetes coach and fine-tuning things, I’m still afraid. As a result, I’ve been taking less than I should, or over treating a low and then not correcting when I go high. I’ve let my blood sugars run high over night. Been afraid to adjust my basal rate and tweaked and adjusted my bolus ratios up and down like a yoyo. Looking at my meter day after day and watching the peaks and valleys, I feel defeated. I keep asking myself where did I go wrong? I have all the right education, I know what I need to do, but when it comes to doing it, I don’t.

In Tandem with going plant based, I’ve been studying Mental health Aware Yoga. This involves being able to tailor a class to students dealing with any kind of mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, trauma and stress. One of the first things I learned was how to create a safe container. How to make my students feel safe no matter what.

Feeling safe goes hand and hand with gaining confidence. And if I’m really honest with myself, right now I feel the opposite. Out of my depth and worried I’ll never regain ground.

So how can I create a safe container for my life with diabetes? I don’t want to wrap myself in cotton wool, but I do need to feel safe when making decisions that often make me feel like I am teetering on the edge. It’s heart thumping, stomach churning scary stuff. Who wants to jump of a cliff ever?

There’s a Zen story:

“An honor student, frustrated with his life and with school, worried about what tomorrow may bring, approached his teacher asking for some guidance.

“The story goes,” says the teacher in response to his students request for help, “That a Buddhist Monk was walking through the mountains one day. Then, out of nowhere, a tiger appears, chasing the monk towards the edge of a cliff. The monk, in his quest to escape the tiger, runs to the edge of the cliff and climbs over the side, where he sees five other tigers 15 feet below him, waiting to eat him.

So, the monk is just hanging there, holding on to a vine on the side of the cliff, waiting there for the little chance he has to escape or for his imminent demise. Then, as the monk hangs there, exploring his options, he turns to the left and sees a strawberry.

He smiles, “Wow what a magnificent strawberry!” he says to himself. So, he picks it and eats it.

The student waited for his teacher to continue but it was clear that the teacher was done with the story. “That’s it? That’s the story? The monk is about to be eaten by tigers so he reaches out to pick and eat a strawberry?” the student exclaimed.

“What’s the point?” he added.

The teacher replied, “The lesson is to know and embrace the experience of being alive. You must be alive every second you are alive.”

The student responded, “But teacher, everyone is alive when they are alive.”

“No,” said the teacher. “It’s the experience of being alive in each moment, in each experience, good and bad. We must be alive every second we are alive and not simply exist and live out our days.”

The student, confused, questioned his teacher, asking, “But everyone alive is alive, aren’t they?” he insisted.

“No. Look at you now,” explained the teacher. “You are running around being chased by tigers, consumed with your thoughts of how it could be better, how you could be better if only things were different. Yet, you have shared with me over the past year several difficult situations, in addition to the circumstances that I have observed, how you were about to be eaten by tigers and how you have been saved in each situation. You can’t be alive if you are living in fear and if you’re living in fear you can’t see and experience life; the magnificence of your life that is right in front of you in each moment.” –  Keith Rosen

The story is a powerful reminder for anyone who grapples with challenging circumstances. To be fully alive means feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

And that’s what I intend to do. Starting today…

with great respect…

rachel
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Flying Blind

When I was little I was convinced a monster lived under my bed. Every night just after brushing my teeth and getting into my P.J’s I’d make a bee line for the bed and hide under the covers. Spending the night terrified that if I moved or breathed the monster would get me. Even though at night I was frightened for my life, I woke up every morning refreshed and unafraid. Somehow, I knew the monster could never survive the light of day.

After years of yoga, personal reflection, and trauma work I now know why I was so afraid. Having lost my mother suddenly at the age of 10, I projected the shock and fear into an external threat. As an adult and the author of my thoughts, I understand that I can only ever be the source of anything I project. The monster wasn’t separate to me, it was a part of my psyche supporting me to make sense of the incomprehensible. Mothers aren’t supposed to die and leave their 10 year old daughters.

Being with fear and uncertainty is something I deal with every day as someone who lives with type 1 diabetes. I spend my whole day managing risk. Most of the time I get it right. But every now and then I don’t.

unrecognizable mother holding hands with daughter

To describe the onset of a mild low is easy. There’s the feeling of ants crawling around my middle. The rushing to the loo, the increased heart rate. A kind of hyper vigilance and anger all at the same time.  But when the low is severe? With no warning? That’s something that defies words.

Last night was just like any other. We’d gone for our afternoon walk and I decided to water the plants. I’d kept my CGM in my coat pocket, so I could keep an eye on my levels. Often around sunset I dip low as my long acting insulin wears off. As my numbers were more than steady I decided to do some weed pulling. No more than 10 minutes, knowing that any kind of gardening induces a low. Still, after checking my blood sugar I was in the clear. A nice steady 5.0 mmol.

I came inside, prepared my dinner and then decided to have a shower. I took my long acting shot for the evening ( I split my dose), checked my level, it was 5.3 and hopped in the shower. I checked again when I got out and due to my CGM getting damp it read 5.6 with an upward arrow. Great, I thought to myself, I’ll check again in five minutes when the heat from the shower dissipates. On my mat, I started my evening practice. After a few poses I felt a strange tingling around my middle. Knowing that that is one of my ‘tells’ for a low, I checked my CGM, it said 5.4… I  decided to cross check with my glucometer just in case.

Thank GOD I did! It said 2.9!

I freaked, checked another finger, while at the same time trying to wrack my brain as to where my glucose tabs were. Once the other finger came back with the same number I ran upstairs, realised they were downstairs and ran to them and shoved four tabs in my mouth at once. My heart rate was through the roof, I had no idea if 12 carbs was enough. Everything went into soft focus. All I could do was feel my heart rate pounding, the sweat running from every pore, the thoughts in my mind jumbling with no coherence. While John went upstairs to get his phone (in case he had to call the ambulance) I ate another glucose tab thinking 15 carbs would be better than 12. Then suggested we get the hypo kit out of the fridge, unused, not even looked at since purchase.

I tried to read the instructions to John. “What is this for? “He asks, “Just in case I pass out.” I am trying to read the instructions and stuck on number 2, which says, slowly inject the water into the vial. I’m thinking but where is the water? Do we have to get the water from the tap and put it in? John is saying there are pictures of what to do on the inside lid of the kit. I don’t understand the pictures, I don’t understand the instructions, I’m sweating profusely now. I check my CGM it’s a straight down arrow

NOT GOOD! I down another three glucose tabs so that’s 15 + 9= OMG don’t even know how much I took. Was it too much? Not enough? I can’t set my timer to make sure its been 15 minutes since I took the tabs. I can’t do anything but try and explain that we only need the hypo kit if I am unconscious. “Whatever you do John, don’t put the needle in the vial we cant waste the kit.”

We hang in the balance, check my blood sugar with the meter which is much more reliable than my CGM at this point and see it’s the same number as it was five minutes ago. Not going down. Phew, but not going up.

I start to really feel the low now. I feel faint, sick to my stomach, weird as F…ck.

And then inch by inch it creeps up. John puts away the hypo kit. I sit in a stupor. Even though my blood sugar is back up past 4mmol (that’s a normal range) my brain is not online. It’s worse than the feeling after a panic attack. I’m literally numb. All the while my only thought is why?

Why did I drop in 20 minutes from 5.4 to 2.9? I knew it had to be something to do with the long acting Insulin, somehow it had absorbed too quickly. Maybe the shower and the heat? But how much was absorbed and how long would it last. Was there a danger of going low again? This had happened just before dinner and I had to inject meal time insulin for that. Would they interact? Was eating and injecting going to endanger me again? And why didn’t I know more about this? Where are the formulas and strategies for this unexpected scenario? Why can’t our HCP help us to be prepared for these kinds of situations? They send us home with the basics. Eat, inject, treat a low with 15 carbs. That’s it? Talk about flying blind.

Once I could properly operate machinery again I sent a message to some of my allies in the DOC (diabetes online community). Their response was so immediate that I cried.

One friend mentioned that I should split my meal time dose just to be safe. Take a unit at the start of the meal and maybe another one two hours later. Another friend assured me that at 2.6 mmol 24 carbs worth of glucose tabs was the right amount to treat the low and my levels would soon stabilise. She also mentioned taking less insulin for the meal and watching every 30 minutes to see what happens. If I saw my levels spiking, then that was a sign to take more insulin. After a ton of messages back and forth, she admitted she couldn’t ‘tell’ me what to do and that I would have to trust my intuition and decide. Everybody reacts differently to every food.  She reminded me that I have diabetes, it’s okay to have high levels, better to be high than low.

I decided to dose 15 minutes after the meal when I saw the upward trend and took ½ a unit less than normal. My blood sugar spiked. I survived.

It’s morning now and the sun is shining. The monster firmly back in its cage. I am in awe of the women I reached out to and their instant support. I know they have had soul crushing lows and impossible highs and just like me make it through. Without those who have gone before us, how would we know the path to tread? How would we tame the monsters under the bed?

If there is one lesson, this low has taught me it’s to reach out and keep reaching out. Ask for help. Know you are not alone. Yes, ultimately, we have to make our own decisions when it comes to how to manage our diabetes. But for every potential choice there is a person with lived experience out there willing to support you, you need only ask.  

With great respect…

rachel
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A. accept what is and B. protect this absolute precious life

When I first travelled to Japan to teach I would walk into my yoga classes and see some of the students wearing masks. My translator explained that the mask was worn when someone was feeling unwell, living with a condition that required them to avoid colds and flu or as an ounce of prevention. I remember being in awe of their ability to

a. put themselves and their health first and
b. think of others

When I was diagnosed with diabetes I realised straight away how important it was not to get sick. Being sick meant uncontrollable blood sugars for a sustained period of time. Add to that the stress, trauma and tension of feeling doubly unwell.  

My job as a global yoga teacher required lots of air travel so I donned a mask while flying and where it was acceptable, wore my mask in public places. When someone was sick I wouldn’t come over to visit and when my partner fell ill I would do my best to bolster my immune system and keep my distance.

When Covid hit, the directions from the government felt sensible. As there was no vaccine, no understanding of the disease and a variety of outcomes from no symptoms to loss of life, why not wear a mask to

a. protect myself and
b. help others.

I assumed that everyone felt the same way. Nine months later I have come to the realisation that people don’t.

I am living in South Africa right now. I have been here for a year. I am unable to return to Australia for many reasons. I look with envy at my friends enjoying maskless beach walks, parties with friends, their latest bookstore purchase or whatever.

I have not been shopping, partying or socialising for nine months. The few times I have gone out it’s been for doctors visits, a quick trip to an almost empty beach or a drive through the countryside where I don’t even leave the car.

People might think I’m paranoid, overreacting or have been brainwashed. I mean why not just give up and get it? Isn’t freedom and the enjoyment of life and all it has to offer more important than my personal fears? What comes to mind is that ‘people’ have never lived with Type 1 diabetes.

From the moment I was diagnosed I knew that freedom would have to be a compromise. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week tethered to medication that has no definitive outcome. Each injection could be a life or death sentence. Traumatic to say the least, living a ‘normal free’ life with diabetes is possible, but at the same time impossible.

Every outing requires careful planning, supplies, contingencies, every meal requires math skills, and a thought-out strategy. Every walk, yoga practice, garden foray requires something different. There is no room for error or spontaneity and yet you see people living with diabetes seamlessly. Why? Because they don’t talk to you about what it’s really like. And why would they? You will never understand.

Just like how you can’t understand why a person living with chronic illness might expect you to consider them when you make the choice to either maskup or be an avid antimasker.

I won’t go into details, but the details matter. When I come across a person on the path to the beach or in the forest without their mask, in a known hotspot, where I have been told the cases have risen 41% in one day… I can’t help thinking,” Wouldn’t it be smart for them to wear a mask? Or even turn around and walk away?”

Nope, guess not…instead they happily pass me by even waving and almost breathing on me, looking at me a little funny and perhaps thinking to themselves ‘brainwashed moron’. While I, the chronically compromised mask wearer, walks past in fear of my life. Not quite able to shrug off the incident because

a. I know people who’ve had Covid and
b. they’ve died!

I can rant and rave all I want, I’m still going to have people tell me, ” it’s a conspiracy, they’re denying us our freedoms, you can’t catch it in the open air. If I don’t wear a mask and you want to fine that’s your choice. Lockdowns don’t work.”

Duh? They do!

Look at Australia and New Zealand. Almost no cases, people enjoying backyard barbies, in person yoga classes, toilet paper available everywhere!

The next time you tell me it’s about freedom and my basic human rights, remember even YOU are conditioned to believe in an ‘idea’ called freedom.

Living with diabetes has taught  me to let go of my ideas and instead I have learned to

a. accept what is and
b.protect this absolute precious life.

with great respect…

rachel
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I can’t eat that because…

I never considered myself a foodie until I changed my diet.  Now, thoughts about vegan pizza don’t seem so far-fetched. Nor does any kind of pasta or polenta adventure. Every day I incorporate more foods into my diet and every day I get a handle on how my body responds.

My biggest insight so far is that what I eat isn’t the problem, it is my relationship to food that I need to unpack.

My whole life ‘food’ has been a bumpy ride.

I’ve shared before that I was my own food police as a dancer. Watching my weight was critical to how I performed. I can remember being adamant that 2 lettuce leaves were plenty for lunch. I was never anorexic or bulimic, but I definitely had a pattern of starving myself followed by enjoying butter and sugar sandwiches. Luckily this pattern of behaviour didn’t last and by the time I was in my 20’s I had visited a sensible naturopath who explained to me the importance of eating a well-balanced diet.

Yoga, meditation, breathwork and a simple vegetarian diet were my mainstay for many years. I didn’t have the best digestion, but I certainly enjoyed a wide variety of foods and I cherished growing and eating home grown vegetables and trying out new recipes.

Then things got worse.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes there wasn’t much information about the connection between type 1 diabetes and the microbiome. My endo insisted I start eating meat, my GP suggested a keto diet. When I complained that my tummy was burning, or that I was constantly moving between diarrhoea and constipation, I was told it was parasites, leaky gut, candida overgrowth, IBS, gluten intolerance and so many more ailments.

Many alternative health practitioners later, I had narrowed the corridor of foods so much that I was literally starving myself.

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My mind was like a fortress. If anyone contested what I was doing. I.e. restricting my diet, I would defend myself by saying, “I can’t eat that because I’ll have to take too much insulin. I have bad digestion because of diabetes. I don’t want to go low! I have perfect control so what’s the problem?”

Now, after radically changing my diet (I’m doing a whole food plant-based vegan diet with up to 250 carbs a day) and learning how diet, exercise and insulin really work, I can see that I was in denial about my disordered eating. The package may have been different, but it was just as detrimental as those 2 lettuce leaf dancing days.

Coming out of a pattern of disordered eating is not easy. It’s easier to stress about food. Worrying about what I eat was giving me some semblance of control. Releasing the reigns has meant I’ve had to face how scary it is to try new foods, bigger doses of insulin and to trust my body.

My Diabetes Coach and I have been meeting about once a month to try and fine tune how my body responds to different types of carbs. In one of our most recent sessions he encouraged me to be more intuitive with how I dosed. If I feel like having more of a starchy meal, like with sourdough or sweet potato, or oats. Why not pre-bolus, split the dose or take 20% more insulin? I could even take less insulin on more physical days and switch up my dose of long acting insulin.

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At first his suggestions felt scary. If I could just eat the same meals every day I could get the same results, right? Trying different combinations feels way scarier. Like flying a plane solo.

This is what letting go is all about, letting go of should’s, expectations, assumptions, feelings of inadequacy and doubt. All things that led to my disordered eating in the first place. ‘I should be able to control my diabetes. I won’t be able to unless I do such and such. Even if I try I’ll fail.’

I am finally understanding that knowledge is power. When we know how to resolve a problem and have the right tools, anything is possible.

I wish my endo and health team had told me that diabetes is a subject that requires in depth study.  Instead I’ve gone through years of ups and downs to discover that:

  1. Managing overall health is tied to individual constitution; the way I learn and my emotional mental behaviours and patterns.
  2. Seventy percent of the immune system is in the gut. What I eat, when I eat, how I eat and my relationship with food affects EVERYTHING.
  3. Stress reducing activities like yoga, meditation and breath work increase my sensitivity to insulin, improve my mood and mindset.

Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 1.36.07 PMObviously, nothing is perfect, and living with diabetes is never going to be a walk in the park, but if I knew then what I know now. O. M. G. I could have saved myself so much headache, heartache, denial and self-harm.

Recently friends with diabetes have been contacting me and asking me how I made the transition from a low carb restrictive diet to a high carb low fat diet. We’ve had some big heart to hearts in our chats.  I know first-hand how hard it is to wrap your head around eating 250 carbs a day when you’ve spent years thinking low carb was the only way to get decent management.

The main thing I share is how scared I was, how I definitely needed hand holding and how I haven’t looked back. Having the opportunity to share my experience around food has been a source of healing too. It hasn’t just healed how I approach living with diabetes its transformed how I relate to myself.

If you’d like to learn more about how to transition to a whole food plant based vegan diet with support, check out my diabetes coach,  Drew Harrisberg and the books Mastering Diabetes and Fiber Fueled.

with great respect….

rachel

This post may contain affiliate links to products I trust. Please read Disclaimer for more info

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The missing piece

This post may contain affiliate links to products I trust. Please read Disclaimer for more info

When I started writing my book, Yoga for Diabetes in 2015 I knew I wanted it to be something that would be a game changer when it came to diabetes management. If I couldn’t cure my diabetes at least I could use my lifelong passion and knowledge of yoga to manage it and share those life skills with others.

I was diagnosed in 2008 but didn’t start writing the book until starting insulin therapy in 2014. I wrote the book without having fully experimented on myself. Up to that point I didn’t need insulin, in fact I was in denial about my diabetes. However, I did have a deep understanding of yoga and Ayurveda and how potent this combination is in managing any health challenge. Especially in mitigating stress, balancing the nervous system, working with mental and emotional health and overall immune resilience.

How to put insulin into the mix was my personal nemesis, and even though I offered a chapter on insulin and exercise in my book. I was an “insulavirgin.”

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It was after launching my book and connecting with other Type 1’s that I popped my cherry. I decided that injecting once a day and having okay levels (my HbA1c at the time was around 7) wasn’t good enough. Why not at least try having some insulin with meals? Maybe it would make a difference?

Living with LADA ( Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) means diabetes has been a slow progression for me. I still produce some insulin. I had a lot of anxiety around increasing my insulin use and dosage and at the same time I kept questioning myself, “why stay stuck with what I felt was an “okay” HbA1c?” Surely, I could do better.

I took the plunge with some help from Gary Scheiner, author of “Think like a Pancreas”. Gary suggested I start small and take insulin after each meal. We worked out that I’d need about one unit of insulin to cover thirty carbs and that I should start with half units. I was already on a low carb diet sticking to around thirty carbs a day, so I wouldn’t need much insulin at all. Less insulin, less risk of lows.  My diet at the time consisted of eggs, green vegetables, pumpkin, carrot and avocado. I was so embarrassed to tell anyone that I only ate seven foods. I am not exaggerating S E V E N!

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Being on a full insulin regime even on such a restricted diet was amazing. I was able in a year to reach my goal of having an HbA1c of 5.5. I felt like a champion. There were other days though that I felt a sense of hopelessness. Was this my diet for the rest of my life? Living on seven foods because of gastric distress and food sensitivity? Being afraid to eat for fear of low or high blood sugars? Feeling a literal fear of food?

I’m nervous to share how defeated I felt around this aspect of my diabetes management. I had authored a book all about how to bring yoga into daily life, how to find the perfect practice, how to manage stress, how to live well with diabetes and here I was stopping myself in the one area that’s the foundation for everything.

Nutrition.

When people would ask me what sort of diet I was on I’d change the subject or suggest eating for their Ayurvedic constitution, but to be honest because I couldn’t or rather wouldn’t follow my own recommendations keeping quiet was the better option.

Everybody is different, every body is unique. We eat according to taste, conditioning, circumstance, and what we feel works best for us. Whether you are low carb, keto, paleo, AIP, high carb, standard American, or Australian Diet etc. there is no one size fits all. Or so I thought.

My breaking point happened on an innocent outing to our local farm stall for some Haloumi cheese. Something I indulged in every now and then because it was low carb/high fat and isn’t Haloumi the best taste ever?

I was in my car, cheese on the passenger seat, when I saw a newborn calf still covered in afterbirth being transported in a pickup truck. The mother cow was running after the truck trying to get close to her calf. She was obviously very distressed, her body still raw from giving birth. The farm handlers seemed completely unperturbed by what they were doing. It was just a normal part of farm life. The babies were separated, fed and then sold for veal, while the mother was kept for milking. I felt my heart ripping out of my chest. It was one thing to read about animal cruelty or factory farming, it was another to witness it with my own eyes. As I drove home, I made myself a promise, even if I am afraid of going low, afraid of getting sick from foods, afraid of trying something new, I couldn’t live this double life any longer.

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My will to align my lifestyle with my heart had to be my priority. It was time to step up and drop all animal products and embrace a whole food plant-based diet.

They say it takes seven different influences to make a change for the better. I think of that moment at the farm stall as number seven. I had already heard about going high carb/low fat/plant based from a fellow T1D yoga teacher, I’d seen a fellow T1D fitness and nutrition coach document his journey transitioning from keto to vegan, I’d watched several different webinars and documentaries with the founders of the Mastering Diabetes Program and I had started to struggle with my levels after almost every meal, needing more and more insulin to cover the same thirty carbs a day.

I think of the day I changed my diet as a crucial turning point in my life. Like the day I decided to move to Australia, or the decision to travel to India to meet my now beloved husband. There was a feeling in each of those moments. Something indescribable and deeply exciting.

Starting a plant-based diet hasn’t been a walk in the park, I’ve been lucky to have an expert diabetes and nutrition coach to walk me through some sinkholes and to cheer me on. I started by letting him know I was basically sensitive to every food imaginable and he started by saying “start with what you think you can tolerate.” Then when I had awful symptoms he’d commiserate and suggest they might go away as my body made the switch out of ketosis. “I believe in your metabolism, that it can kick back in and do its job. The more foods you can tolerate, the more diverse your diet, the more your body will thank you.”

Never were these words truer.

I don’t think I fully understood what he meant until I read Fiber Fueled by Dr. Will Bulsiewicz. This book is the bible for anyone wanting to go plant based. In just a few short chapters Dr. B makes the case for a diverse plant-based diet. Did you know that that out of the 400,000 plants on the planet, 300 of them are edible? And that we just eat a small percentage in our standard American diet? Or that there are 40 trillion microbes in our gut micro biome? We are more microbes than human. Did you know that these microbes feed on fiber? The more fiber we have the healthier our gut, our immune and nervous system. When we get into mono foods, or food restriction we deprive our microbes and that’s why we get gut dysbiosis. I.e. gut issues like leaky gut. He even explains how autoimmune disease and gut health are intrinsically linked.

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Since going 100% plant based I’ve noticed huge changes. My thyroid levels have normalised, I’m extremely sensitive to insulin, I’m eating up to 45 different plants in a day. My tolerance of foods has improved, my digestion has improved. My little arthritic aches and pains have disappeared. Besides all the physical changes, it’s my relationship to food that has excited me most.

I am finally loving cooking and creating meals again. Exploring recipes, trying new foods, incorporating miso, seaweed, legumes and grains. Nothing in excess with no restrictions. Managing my diabetes in the mix of eating this way takes dedication. I track my food in an app, I keep tweaking my insulin to carb ratios and checking in with my coach when things start to go awry. As I learn to feel my body in this new way I’m surprised at how easy it is to have steady levels and maintain a healthy Hba1c.

It took a long time, nearly 20 years for me find the answers I so desperately needed to get well. Now that I’m here it’s like the last few moments of finishing a puzzle.  There’s a sense of excitement and expectation and WOW that’s it, I finally found the missing piece!

If you’d like to find out more about Dr. B and his book you can go to his website or order the book here

With great respect…

rachel

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The Inner Smile

Happy Solstice! Today we woke up in the dark and marvelled at Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn all lined up in an ark across the dawn sky. We watched the sun rise as she blanketed the earth with her golden hues.

I built an altar to the hindu goddess Lakshmi who for me represents abundance in health. I invoked her for nourishment and as a prayer that we as a human race come out of this very challenging time with a new vision, where every human being is treated with fairness and dignity. Where we cherish the earth and its plants and animals. That we can forgive each other for our ignorance and find strength in common goals. That those of us who struggle daily with illness find acceptance and strength.

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These prayers fill my heart daily. As much as I can contribute through my actions to worthy causes like supporting our local village here in South Africa to have food during this humanitarian crisis. I also find that daily offerings and prayers allow me to humble myself to what is out of my control.

This week I shared a meditation in my online yoga class which was taught to me by my mentor Alan Finger. It’s called the Inner Smile meditation and it’s a beautiful way to reset the nervous system simply by placing a smile in different parts of your body. The meditation includes relaxation in Savasana ( lying down) at the end.

Enjoy!

with great respect…

rachel

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Matters of the Heart: a yoga sequence

Like everyone else I am grappling with the new normal. Never ending self-quarantine, Covid19, watching the US meltdown and most recently with the incredible frustration and fury of police brutality and the murder of George Floyd. “I can’t breathe!!!”

Yes, I am white and yes, I am speaking from a place of privilege and yes, I could have done more and educated myself more. As a yoga teacher, I’ve often felt it’s better not to take sides in politics. This however is an issue that cannot be justified by my vocation. I acknowledge that not saying anything is a form of racism.

Black lives matter, they more than matter. Living in South Africa for the past six months I am painfully aware of the divide between black and white, rich and poor. We do what we can, give where we can, share where we can. Anyone who shows black people anything less than dignity and respect is abhorrent and inhumane.

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photo credit: Renza Scibilia

I have cried a lot over the last week. My heart breaking with the weight of our collective ignorance and lack of humanity. How can one human even hurt another in deed, word or thought? Are we not all inseparably part of creation?

I know I’m not alone in these thoughts and feelings. In fact, this article by my friend Ali Psuik puts things into perspective and poses some excellent questions.

While educating myself and doing what I can during this very turbulent time, I’ve been focusing on being kind to myself and others. For me it always comes back to yoga, whether dealing with my diabetes or not, yoga affords me a moment to reflect and remember what’s good and beautiful.

This week I’ve been practicing and teaching gentle heart opening postures. If you’re feeling the need to destress, reset and transmute difficult emotions. You’ll love this 55 minute practice. The class finishes with a beautiful meditation which includes, sound, (mantra), visualisation (yantra) and gesture(mudra).

P.s This class comes from my weekly Zoom yoga room class.

Enjoy!

rachel

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15 minutes I can do

I’ve been setting the timer on my phone to 15 minutes a lot lately. 15 minutes to pre-bolus, 15 minutes to wait out a hypo, 15 minutes of yoga and meditation practices no matter what.

Before I was diagnosed I absolutely hated time. I never wore a watch or even looked at my phone. Even as a kid I never wanted to learn to tell the time. Why be constrained by a limitation like that?

Everything had more validity to me when time wasn’t involved. Why does anything ever have to end? Like a yummy meal, or time with a beloved or friend, a day at the beach. Maybe my abhorrence of time has to do with losing my mother at a young age. Having to face endings for me was complicated and traumatic. Being forced to rush through something felt unnerving. As a dancer I was bound by time and timing, but it never bothered me, because the timing of the music, or the timing of the movements to the music uplifted me, reminding me that all creative endeavours are happening in the presence of timelessness. Not that I could put that into words when I was dancing. It was something that touched me and made me cry with inexplicable joy.

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By the time I was nine my grandfather insisted I learn to tell the time. He bought me a Timex with a red strap. We went painstakingly through the details of the big hand and the little hand, what all the numbers meant and what each part of the day represented. My mum bought me a digital clock which rolled over numbers like cards. And then I got a clock radio, even cooler because I could wake up to music.

After I met and started traveling with my husband we would wander through international airports looking at expensive watches. He’d point out all the brands. I knew nothing about Panerai and Patek Philipe. I didn’t even know the difference between a Swatch and a Tissot. When I would badger my husband to tell me what time it was he would say, “you need a watch darling” and I’d reply, “my smartphone is good thanks.”

Then one day when I was stuck in an airport on my own, I decided to splurge. If I was going to buy a watch it would have to be the purchase of a lifetime. I decided on a gold Tissot with Roman numerals and a simple link band. I’ve only taken it off a handful of times since then. When I point at my watch to tell my husband, “it’s dinner time, lunch time, time to go, time to clean, time to ‘whatever’” he likes to chide and say, “I wish I’d never mentioned you needed a watch”.

Watches aside, time has changed my life.

Recently I’ve been navigating some soul crushing lows. Waiting for my blood sugar to come up sends me into a wild panic. What if it doesn’t come up? What if I run out of low snacks? What if…

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Initially I set the timer on my phone to 15 minutes so that I would know when to check again. But when the lows are scarier, in the low 3’s (below 70 mg/dl) watching the minutes tick down is a lifeline. If I can stay focussed for just 15 minutes, I’ll be okay. If it levels out at the end of those 15 minutes I can relax. If it still goes down after those 15 minutes, I can take more glucose, dates etc and start again. As long as I can watch the clock I know eventually I’ll be back to compos mentis.

Knowing I have a tool to support me during a low blood sugar has absolutely changed everything. I have a deep-seated fear of lows. It’s why I insisted on sticking to a regimented low carb diet for 7 years. It’s why I timed every single part of my day to avoid any deviation, and I why I would restrict my social activities.

My goal for 2020 was all about opening up to life, food and freedom. It’s been interesting to be stuck in one place while I navigate this new perspective. Asking myself…what do I want to eat?  What do I want to do today?

If I want to eat heaven in a bowl (a fruit smoothie bowl with crushed seeds and dates) I can. If I want to garden, go for a walk, do a strong yoga practice, I can. If I flub the ratios, don’t reduce my insulin enough or take too much, I’ll be okay.

15 minutes is easy. 15 minutes I can do.

with great respect…

rachel

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