dialling up the dose

I’m getting braver when it comes to taking fast-acting Insulin. My insulin to carb ratio has been 1:30 for the last year but that seems to be shifting. Either that or I’ve upped my carbs enough to need more. After nearly 6 years of nothing but greens, I’ve added butternut pumpkin, carrots, apples, and the occasional sweet potato.

My whole life I’ve been told that I need to eat sweet foods to stay balanced. Before my diagnosis, warm veggie root stew was my staple. The first 6 years post diagnosis I managed to keep my levels in range with a low carb diet. The first thing to go was bread, then pulses and eventually all grains. I got really good at making bread with sesame seed or almond flour until I overdid all the seed and nut flours too, ending up with even more tummy issues. Before I tried insulin, I had a very narrow corridor of foods that I could tolerate.

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Starting Insulin has made things easier but being sensitive I haven’t been able to leap back into pancakes even when they are made with low carb ingredients. It seems my body wants simplicity when it comes to food. So, in spite of my desire to go wild, eat whatever and cover I’ve been building back my gut flora and adding foods in and out in cycles to see if I can tolerate them. Some things have worked, like butternut pumpkin and carrots while other things like cabbage, kale and brussel sprouts haven’t.

It’s been frustrating and disheartening at times, knowing that in choosing to ignore my diabetes I damaged my digestion.

My husband, who has very simple needs when it comes to food always shares that the body needs food, it doesn’t need a particular type of food. It’s only me, the one eating the food that has a desire for something special.

Food is a language and I’ve become conditioned into that language developing a taste for the foods I like. In reality, food is sustenance.

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Part of what the deeper teachings of yoga have brought to me is a way to be with my condition with compassion. The other day we walked into a health food store with rows and rows of delicious things. Things I know my body will react to if I eat them. Rather than get despondent or feel angry I felt a quiet acceptance. Reminding myself that I had 42 years of eating whatever I wanted. If I needed to avoid those foods so I have a more relaxed tummy so be it.

In the words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.”

As my journey into my 11th year with diabetes continues I am still coming to terms with this condition. I’ve shared before on the blog that my endo wants me to get to the point where managing my diabetes is so ordinary that it’s as easy as brushing my teeth and that I no longer panic about changing the amounts of insulin I need, that I trust my body and its ability to work with the medication.

I agree that I need to have a healthy attitude towards insulin, but I also feel I need to stay alert, check my blood sugar regularly and be sensitive to the timing of doses, exercise, and changes in my routine. I like to think of my life with diabetes as an adventure but at the same time have a good back up plan. For me, that’s the winning combo.

with great respect…

rachel

P.S I’d love to know your winning combo…comment below. It’s beautiful to learn and grow together.

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Subscribing to the Unsubscribe

It’s tragic, that moment when my inbox flags that someone’s unsubscribed from my newsletter. I know it’s not personal, but it is.

Feeling the inevitable gut punch when I post a newsletter is something I’m getting used to. It’s why I find it harder and harder to send them out and truth be told I’m a little envious of my unsubscribers. I’d like to do some unsubscribing myself

Like unsubscribing from Type 1 diabetes.

IMAGINE

It’s 6 am. I roll out of bed and pad to the computer, As I watch the myriad of newsletters come in the subject, “LOW BLOOD SUGAR” is staring me down. I click through the dropping numbers and glucose tabs to the fine print. Who wants low blood sugar in their inbox anyway? Not me. With a quick click, I’m done. PHEW!

One less newsletter to worry about until breakfast.

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The inevitable ping reminds me my next newsletter has arrived. This time the subject line reads, “BOLUS for BREAKFAST”. Again I scroll down to the teeny-weeny lettering and click the unsubscribe link, only to be led to a page which offers me numerous other ways to resubscribe

Bolus for Lunch ✅

Bolus for Dinner ✅

Basal for Bed ✅

Inject for a High ✅

I go through the process of unchecking all the boxes and BOOM no more bolusing for anything!

I feel an incredible sense of relief until I realize, I’ve got another mail. That annoying one where I have to manually write to the person and ask them to personally unsubscribe me. The subject reads, “Unknown Reason for High”.

As I write a diatribe to the person for not taking me off the list I find myself confessing, “Don’t you know I’ve tried everything already? Why can’t you just make sense? It’s no use showing up if you’re just going to be irrational.”

Blah Blah Blah

While I’m at it I rage unsubscribe to everything.

A bird flies overhead, the Sun rises and sets. The wind blows through evergreen trees and I feel calm again. I’ve tamed the beast and lived to tell the tale.

Now wouldn’t that be nice…

With great respect…

rachel 

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P.S if you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter go here 

Tips to help people with diabetes sleep well

Today I am sharing a guest post from Alicia Potts the founder of The Deep Sleep Co.  I reached out to Alicia because as someone living with diabetes the biggest challenge I have is managing my sleep. I love her doable tips and I hope you will too.

Take it away Alicia…

Beautiful Afro American Woman

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

There is no doubt that good sleep is vital for good health.  It is generally believed that a human can go longer without food than they can without sleep.  Although, I’m pretty sure they haven’t tested that on someone living with diabetes!

Recent research by the Australian Sleep Foundation found that 33% to 45% of adults are either not getting enough sleep, or getting a poor quality of sleep.  This means that more than a third of us are going about our day feeling exhausted not performing at our peak.

If you are one of the millions of Australians who aren’t waking up refreshed and ready to conquer the day, then read on.

Diabetes and Sleep

The relationship between diabetes and sleep is complicated and multifaceted.  Both insomnia and lethargy can be related to blood sugar control.  According to Diabetes.co.uk “Sleep can affect your blood sugar levels and your blood glucose control can also affect your sleep.”  The symptoms of diabetes can make it harder to sleep and lack of sleep can make diabetes symptoms worse.

Unfortunately, sleep problems are more common in people with diabetes than people without diabetes.  Having diabetes raises the risk of sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.  In turn, sleep deprivation can increase the likelihood of developing diabetes or intensify the symptoms in someone who already has diabetes.

Your sleep can be affected by a variety of things from hypos at night, to high blood sugars to painful neuropathy.  Waking up during the night to check blood sugar levels or frequent bathroom trips, cause broken sleep which can leave you feeling tired in the morning.  Having techniques to get back to sleep quickly and promote deep restorative sleep can make all the difference.

sleeping-girl-in-the-bed_t20_PQJ9g8Tips to promote better sleep

Maintain proper blood sugar levels. This one goes without saying, but keeping your blood glucose levels under control, as much as possible, will help you sleep better at night.

Keep the room cool. Sweating and hot flushes can be a problem during the night.  Keeping the room cool can help to prevent these and allow you to react to them quickly by removing layers.  Experts suggest a bedroom temperature of around 18°

Make your room as dark and quiet as possible. If your environment is unavoidably bright or noisy, invest in a sleep mask and earplugs.

Eat right and get some exercise each day. Obvious? Maybe. Important? Definitely! Diet and exercise have a profound effect on your quality of sleep.  Try not to eat or exercise just before bed, though.

Cut out the afternoon coffee. Studies have shown that consuming caffeine late in the day stimulates your nervous system which prevents you from relaxing at night.  The actual amount of time caffeine stays in your system varies from person to person.  However, sleep experts will tell you not to have coffee after about 3pm if you don’t want it to affect your sleep.

Have a tech-free time before bed. Working late on your computer or scrolling through your phone in bed sends light cues to your brain telling it that it is time to be awake.  Try cutting out technology an hour before bed to see what a difference it can make.  It might be time to pick up that book you keep meaning to read.

Use relaxation techniques to help you fall asleep or go back to sleep after waking during the night. This is the part where we suggest yoga to help you sleep.  Yoga Nidra is a relaxation tool that helps calm the mind and body and is great for assisting sleep.  Other techniques to try are meditation, hypnosis, visualisation and controlled breathing.  I like the 4-7-8 breathing technique, but there are lots of other good ones, so do what works for you.

Don’t be a clock watcher. You know that moment at 3am when you think ‘even if I went to sleep right now, I’d only get 3 ½ hours sleep’.  Watching the time as you are trying to sleep makes you anxious about not being asleep.  If possible, turn the clock face away from you at night to promote more relaxing thoughts.

Keep a regular routine. Last, but actually, the most important sleep tip is to have a sleep/wake routine. Sleep psychologists agree that the most powerful thing you can do for your sleep health is to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.  This trains your mind and body to expect sleep at certain times and preserves your natural circadian rhythm.

The tips above are meant as a guide only.  If you are worried that you may have a sleep condition, such as sleep apnea, see your doctor as soon as possible.

alicia-pottsAlicia Potts is the founder of The Deep Sleep Co.  She is a mum of two from Sydney, with a degree in Social Science. Alicia is passionate about helping people find the value of quality sleep.

 

 

Loving the new weighted blanket trend. Check this one out it has rave reviews 🙂
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That Low Blood Sugar

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

It started just like any other day. Well not quite. I still hadn’t experienced a low low blood sugar even though I’d been taking Insulin for almost two years. To be honest I was terrified of the unknown. I’d hear the horror stories. People fainting, not being able to talk, brains not functioning. If you’ve ever had a low blood sugar you know exactly what I’m talking about.

But here’s the thing; having never experienced a hypoglycemic event I actually had no idea what people were talking about. I mean I could imagine it being awful, but I had never actually felt it for myself. So my fears weren’t based in fact. But that didn’t mean I didn’t have them.

And then it happened!

So randomly and for no reason. It wasn’t about over injecting, it wasn’t about exercising too much. I just started to feel really anxious and shaky and itchy all over. I assumed I was having an overdue panic attack. Except I was just standing over the sink, lost in quite a pleasant thought so what the F…ck. What was there to freak out about? I went over to my husband and mentioned I was feeling a rush of panic. He suggested we go outside and talk it through.

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I didn’t think to check my blood glucose levels, forgot my glucometer, didn’t bring a juice box with me. NADA

For the next 15 minutes or so while my sweet husband talked me through my ‘anxiety’ nothing budged.

Luckily I decided to check my levels. Casually, well not that casually because I was shaking from the inside out, I pricked my finger. The number that stared back at me was nothing like I’d ever seen before.

2.7 mmol!

Seriously? 2.7?

The strange thing was even though mentally I knew that was way too low and I was itchy and shaky and wanting to eliminate everything from my body with a good trip to the loo, I wasn’t frightened. I felt frustrated and curious instead.

Even though I’m sure it was only a matter of seconds, the walk from the living room to the kitchen to get some juice, felt like a lifetime.

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Photo by Pâmela Lima on Unsplash

It was only while I was waiting for my levels to come back to normal that I started to feel the terror. Why didn’t I check my blood sugar sooner? Why did I think it was something else? Why didn’t I do the most obvious thing? Where was my rational mind?

Umm… yep, that’s a low blood sugar event. You don’t think properly.

After my blood sugar came back to normal and in the subsequent years, I’ve had so much gratitude for that first scary low blood sugar. It helped me to face my fear and to lessen my anxiety about my levels in general. I was able to watch my blood sugar rebound and to see that I was okay. I learned subsequently to test how many grams of glucose I need to bring my blood sugar back to a safe range.

As someone who lives with LADA ( Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) and still producing a tiny amount of insulin I can get away with ½ a glucose tab, sometimes even a ¼  when I am just below where I’d like to be. I love the idea of sugar surfing keeping my levels in range with a little bit of sugar and a little bit of insulin.

I’ve also become more vigilant about checking blood glucose levels regularly especially when I feel slightly off. I.e. itchy around my tummy or vague in my thinking. And I’ve learned to let go of expecting perfection with my blood sugar management.

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So if I’m about to teach a yoga class and my blood sugar is at 4.3 I don’t hesitate to treat it. I’d rather not be checking my levels in the middle of demonstrating down dog.

Another super cool tool I use for soothing anxiety and settling the nervous system during and after a low blood sugar event is mudra. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know how passionate I am about mudra for diabetes. A user-friendly tool which is literally at our fingertips.

In a recent interview with Lesley O’Brien from Ayurbotanicals, I go through mudras which help engender fearlessness, increase circulation and give pause for self-reflection.

Join me in the practice below

with great respect…

Rachel

P.s I’ve tried these gummies below and they work effectively to bring up my levels fast 🙂

Sex and Diabetes: the good news

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

Chocolate is sexy. Wearing red is sexy. Deep conversations…..sexy. Diabetes? Not so much.

When I was first diagnosed I wasn’t on insulin which meant no low blood sugars. In fact, a good romp meant lower blood sugars and time in range. I always felt better after, healthier and relaxed. It was also a respite. A moment where I was no longer obsessed with my meter. Although FYI I always tested before and after just in case.

After starting insulin, sex felt daring. Even risque. I never knew what the outcome would be. Would my liver kick in and dump more sugar or would my own insulin take over and plummet me to the depths? Sex felt like Russian roulette. Instead of gazing into the eyes of my beloved I was in full panic mode, making sure my glucose tabs were handy ‘just in case’.

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So how did I recover my mojo from those early diagnosis days?

Yoga, breath, and meditation.

Not quite sexy, but oh so satisfying. Yoga and its varied practices are the best way I know to regulate the nervous system and here’s why.

The system that’s responsible for the stress response and the sex response are located in the same part of your brain. They function at the same time and in response to each other. The center for learning, feeling good and motivation are also located in the same area. That means that the nervous system is intimately involved in all the different aspects of our sexual experience. I.e. anticipation, build up, orgasm and release.

Living with diabetes is a major stressor. We’re dealing with unpredictable blood sugars on top of everyday life. Stress also inhibits our sexual sensitivity and sensuality.

According to Artemis School and anatomy project founder, Lara Catone, “When the nervous system feels safe and can enter a state of relaxed downregulation the body can enter the processes it needs for both physical and emotional healing as well as the opportunity to experience more flow, pleasure and “better” sex. “

So how can we support the body to feel safe?

Starting with the breath. Breath regulates the nervous system. It’s easy to use and foolproof. There’s not one second that you’re not breathing right? And not only that you can use it during sex. The next time you’re at it in the boudoir try and catch how your breathing.

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Are you panting? Sighing? Holding your breath? See if you can consciously breathe evenly and slowly. Even dare to increase the length of your exhalation which deliberately calms the nervous system. You’re probably thinking, c’mon that’s crazy… Sex is all about letting go.

And yes it is! However, when you work consciously with your breath during sex you can actually enhance and increase your sexual pleasure. Especially at the moment of orgasm and just after. There is a whole area of modern yoga dedicated to the idea of sacred sexuality which borrows from eastern mysticism streams like the Tao.

The simple practice of controlling your breath is just the first step in teaching your body to relax. Immediately after orgasm is another opportune moment to pause.

Try this meditation for maximum post sex relaxation

You’ve just put your body through the paces building up to a burst of heady pleasure and connection with your lover. Instead of falling asleep in the afterglow sit upright and find your most comfortable seat. Begin to watch your breath. Notice the initial pace and speed slowing down to a steady rhythm. Not trying to control the breath you let it wash over and soothe you tuning in to the sensations all over your body. Perhaps you feel lighter, more tingly, perhaps there is a feeling of profound relaxation.

Bring your awareness to the center of your chest and imagine a light there no bigger than the size of your thumb. Feel it expanding on inhalation and drawing back to a pinprick on exhalation. Keep increasing the expansion of light on inhalation until you feel it surrounding you then draw it back on exhalation to the smallest dot. As you continue to do this notice how calm and present you feel. Working with the heart center enhances feelings of love, connection, and trust. On that note, it might even be something you and your partner would like to practice together.

You can work with this meditation practice for any length of time. It could be a few minutes or as long as a good soak in a tub. It’s up to you.

After finishing the practice sink back into your beloved’s arms and relax further. Then do what needs to be done for your diabetes knowing that the relaxed part of your nervous system is tuned in and switched on.

In my personal experience, the practices of yoga continue to enhance my sensitivity and ability to cope with diabetes in any situation. It has even made my diabetes, SEXY!

Check out my heart light meditation as a guided visualization and if you’d like to enhance your practice with mudra for diabetes I recommend checking out my favorite book, Yoga for the Hands by Gertrud Hirschi

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Warming up to warm-up

OMG, it’s Freezing in Queensland! We moved here because of the climate. Tropical breezes, diamond coastlines, a mix of liquid gum trees, rainforest and heavenly vistas of mountains, lakes, and rivers. Last month it was beyond hot, we were sweating it out in the ’30s (that’s Celsius for our northern hemisphere friends) and then from one day to the next. WHAM…icy winds, well not quite icy but COLD.

The houses here aren’t built for the cold so I’m wandering around in two layers, wooly socks and complaining. “It’s just too darn cold for my blood sugars and I swear I’m coming down with something.”

A few finger pricks reveal my blood sugars are just fine with the temperature. It’s me that has the issue. I guess it a bit like how I feel about the up and down swing of my levels. I prefer coasting on a flat line. A 27 ºC temperature suits me fine. Just like riding a unicorn at 100 mg/dl aka 5.5 mmol would be pretty cool.

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So what do I do when I’m freezing my socks off? ( love that expression which I learned from my Australian born step-mother when I was little)

YOGA!

I like to do something fast to get my fingers and toes warm. Then, I feel motivated to do a longer slower more focused practice. If you don’t have the time to devote an hour to yoga no problemo! I’ve created this super quick 3 pose practice to get you to feel warm and tingly all over.

Let me know what yoga poses you like to do to get motivated and warm in the comments below.

With great respect…

rachel 

Every day is a perfect day

One of my husband’s axioms is, “Every day is a perfect day. It just depends on what you do with it.” I love it. And it’s true, it’s up to me how I navigate this thing called life.

Take last week when we moved interstate. You might be thinking we packed a moving van, moved into a lovely house and spent the week unpacking all our stuff.

Nope.

We’ve been shacked up in an Airbnb fighting ant invasions while we house hunt, get to know the locals and continue our daily practice.

Before we moved everyone kept asking me if I was sad to be leaving where I’ve lived for 35 years. Trying to answer that is hard. John and I have been on the move for the last eight years. That’s eight years of living in Airbnb’s, sublets and house sits. As fun as it is to be a global yoga teacher, I’m ready to be in one place for long enough to teach weekly classes.

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I also get how I can’t make things happen just because I want them to.  It’s going to take time to find a place to live, to develop a reputation in the area and to find the right medical team as well. I can feel the tendency to want everything to be perfect right now. It’s tough facing my perfectionism. It follows me wherever I go.

Just before we moved I went to see my CDE to get my latest A1c. The results were even better than last time and a cause for celebration. But I didn’t celebrate. Not because I’m not proud of myself for smashing my goals, but because I can’t ignore how much work it takes to have a “normal” A1c.

A number is just that a number. It can’t reflect the sugar surfing, the micromanaging, sleepless glucose popping nights or the endless times I have to drag myself onto the mat and convince myself to practice because I know that if I don’t my levels will suffer.

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Being a yoga teacher doesn’t mean yoga comes naturally to me. Like everyone else, it takes discipline to keep it up. Even the most hardened practitioners admit they struggle. So how do I keep myself enthused?

I use my imagination and visualize myself going through my favorite postures, taking the time to slow my breath down.  Basking in the afterglow of meditation I imagine my day post-yoga. I picture my body strong and resilient.  I’m prepared knowing challenges will arise but trust I’ll be more accepting in my response.

As I visualize all these benefits from my practice I start to get excited about actually practicing and before I know it it’s happening. I’m on the mat making my dream a reality.

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So why not join me in a yoga for diabetes practice. We might not be able to outsmart our pancreas but we can sure as heck work on feeling our very best every day.

Because every day IS perfect…it’s all up to us!

with great respect…

rachel 

Stop the merry go round, I want to get off

Keeping up with social media, blogging, yoga teaching and just plain surviving is intense. As much as I love every single aspect of my life, I definitely get overwhelmed. Like today, after a night of surfing the edge of lows (6 glucose tabs later), I’m kind of a wreck.

I’ve always been good at “putting on a smile.” It comes from my dancer days when we were told that a smile is the best way to deal with a stuff up. i.e. falling on your butt.

I’m not sure smiling my way through frustration with diabetes is the answer. I should probably be doing more yoga. I do quite a bit, but I’m also teaching a lot at the moment so getting up early after a rough sleepless night means I’m sleeping in instead of groping my mat at dawn. If you don’t do yoga you’re probably thinking, jeepers Rachel give yourself a break.

And you’re right. I need a break….

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A break from diabetes would be awesome. A break from finger pricks and needle sticks. A break from counting carbs, guestimating doses, downing glucose tabs and the constant micromanagement that creates a dull ache in my brain that never ever goes away.

A break from getting letters from the DMV telling me I can’t drive without a medical assessment and the endless costs of this test and that test just to make sure I am not sliding backward. Which by the way I just found out I am. Hashimoto’s is now showing up even though ‘apparently’ my thyroid antibody count is down. ( Whatever that means…)

Like all good 21st century peeps I’ve signed up for endless free webinars and summits on thyroid and gut solutions. I’m seeing a neuroimmunologist, I’m drinking chicken bone broth, taking clean fish oil and probiotics, chlorella and I’m whole food plant based while having eggs.

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P.S If anyone gives me one more dietary guideline I’ll detonate!

And with all this endless frustration I’ve realised that I feel powerless. Powerless because chronic illness is not something that stops being chronic just because I want it to.

Chronic illness just is.

Even though I’m offloading my feelings, I also know that there are things I can do to alleviate my frustration.

Recently in a beautiful online women’s circle, the facilitator offered as an out for when we were wallowing in our emotions. Instead of saying yes to powerlessness, anger, or victimhood she reminded us to focus on going for what we loved.

When you focus on going for what you love your subconscious says yes to that.  So even if diabetes is a total downer, it doesn’t have to drag you under. A subtle shift in focus is all it takes.

Relax, I am guided and supported. My body will look after itself and find balance. You are LIGHT itself

In that spirit, I invite you to join me in this simple practice to stop the merry go round.

When you feel at your wits end with diabetes, when you feel fed up, burnt out, frustrated, spun out and overwhelmed imagine sloughing off those emotions like you would an old coat. Then step into a circle of light. In that circle are all the things you love, your creative desires, let the images come without effort. As you focus on what you love, feel yourself becoming lighter and light filled. Feel the delight and the freedom of you expressing your gifts. Then take a pen and paper and write down all the things that you felt and saw in your circle of light.

Once you’ve got it all down on paper get creative. Turn your words into a poem, a college, a song, a story. Put those words and the images in a place where you have your diabetes stuff so you are reminded to say yes to going for what you love.

Finally, trust that you are always guided and supported no matter what. Your existence is a blessing.

With great respect

rachel 

Making room for yourself

I’ve had to take a few steps back in the last few weeks from the blog. Not because I don’t have anything to say, but because there’s too much to say and I’ve needed to collect myself.

My passion is yoga and to share that in whatever form that takes. So in teaching regular classes I’ve come back to my rhythm. We all have a rhythm when we’re doing what we love. Some people like to call it flow.

For me, it’s a connection to words and images weaving together into a dance of postures. I love talking about the benefits of the poses, the power of the breath and the magic of stillness. What I love most about teaching is for most of that time I forget about diabetes. Sure I check my levels midway through class or sometimes take an injection, but mostly it’s not my focus.

Dance it out - The Photo Forest

Whenever we are doing something we love and completely immersed in that it’s YOGA. Yoga means wholeness, completeness. In reality, this is our natural state we just don’t know it.  Capturing that flow state when living with chronic illness, especially diabetes is a challenge. There is way too much micromanagement involved. I’m definitely guilty of that and to be honest sometimes even doing lots of yoga doesn’t help. It can just end up being another form of escape, control, whatever!

This is where receptivity comes in. Learning to just sit, be quiet and to receive what’s actually happening in that moment. To receive the simplicity of yourself warts and all.

There is a beautiful exercise I often share in class to allow the noise of the outside world to drop away and it relates to the 5 elements, Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space.

Click the image below and join me for this simple 5-minute practice to stop, breathe and receive the beauty of yourself and the moment simply as it is.

With great respect…

rachel

For the love of a body

I’ve never been someone to feel at home in my body. For as long as I can remember I’ve dealt with feelings of discomfort. The feeling that everything that’s supposed to work in the usual way doesn’t. Digestion, breathing, and vital organs. I’m pretty sure the whole shebang was caused by the sudden death of my mother when I was 11, but I also remember a time before that when my mom threatened to use an enema bag on me when I refused to go to the toilet. I was terrified that my body wouldn’t do what it was ‘supposed’ to do.

Feeling frustrated and disconnected from one’s body isn’t unusual. It seems to be a general trend especially now with autoimmune and chronic health conditions on the rise. When we are conditioned to be comfortable living through our smartphones and laptops. Where productivity and quantity matter more than quality of life. Where we’ve forgotten the vital ingredient for existence. A body.

Stop, take a breath, think. How would you be reading this blog if you didn’t have a body, how would you be able to eat your lunch, without a body? How could you do anything without your body!

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Photo by Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho on Unsplash

As a dancer from a young age, I grew up understanding that my body was an instrument to be pressed and moulded into shape, to be moved into submission. Starved and folded, propelled and pulled my body had to be perfect. In my eyes, this seemed impossible. There were so many imperfections from flat feet to short legs to rounded bits where there should have been bones. So as a teenager I went to war with my body. Expecting the impossible.

Learning to suppress my feelings about my body became the norm for me. As long as I didn’t pay attention it wasn’t there. I longed to feel more comfortable and healthy, but it always felt out of reach.

And then I found Yoga. Yoga changed my life and my relationship with my body. When I first tried the practice I felt awkward, embarrassed, it was nothing like a plie at the barre or a jump on center stage. It was precision, alignment, breath, extension. A feeling of swoosh and whoosh as organs came back to life. It was release and relaxation. Tension easing. And the biggest takeaway was the malleability of the muscles and ligaments. For the first time in my life, my body felt fluid, I literally changed the shape of my muscles.

When I went to an audition for a dance company the year after I started practicing yoga the choreographer mentioned how my dancing had changed. How I moved more gracefully and my physique was lithe. It was nice to be acknowledged but it also terrified me. What if I couldn’t keep it up or worse what if my body failed me altogether.

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Many years later it did. Type 1 diabetes takes no prisoners. I have never felt more let down by my body than on the day of my diagnosis. It hurt, it really did.

Climbing out of a hole is no easy feat. I know I’m not the only one who lives with a chronic illness or has had to face the reality of a body that isn’t functioning as it should. It takes courage to see things for what they are. To let go of blaming oneself or feeling ashamed of doing something that may have caused the breakdown.

I am reminded of a story told by W. Timothy Gallway

“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.” We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.

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Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

Learning to see the body for what it is, is the first step in coming back to body love. It’s your vehicle, your temple, the altar upon which you are able to experience the wonder of creation. It has given you 5 senses to enjoy your surroundings. It has given you a heart to love, lungs to breathe. The ability to experience pleasure, sensuality and the depth of connection. As a woman, you gestate and nurture life, as a man you help to create life. Everybody is unique, a love bomb exploding with passionate expression. Whether healthy or ill, you the enjoyer occupy the body, one of a kind and yet inexorably part of the whole. Take yourself out of creation and the whole creation is incomplete. Watching the dancer nothing gets added to the dancer in the dance.

Loving others comes easily, not loving ourselves can seem like the core issue. I truly believe that in a life with chronic illness trying to ‘love” ourselves can feel too much like a concept. So instead of beating yourself up about not loving yourself enough or that you lack self-love.  Try this simple visualisation practice below….

Rachel Portraits 2015-4

You can record this in your own voice so you can practice it without reading it.

Take a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Imagine that you are walking in a forest. In the middle of the forest, you see a clearing. Step into the clearing and just be present with all your senses alert. Notice what’s in the clearing. What do you see? How does it make you feel? Now gaze intently at the circle of trees surrounding the clearing and imagine that behind each tree is a role, a persona, something you tell yourself about your diabetes or chronic issue, something you tell yourself about your body. Imagine calling those identities, thoughts and roles to come out from behind the trees and call them back to you. As they come to you embrace them. Recognizing them for what they are thoughts, ideas, identities, beliefs, projections. Things that you’ve given energy to. Call them back and let them dissolve in your heart. You are not the beliefs, or ideas about your body. You can never be what you have. You have thoughts about your body. Your thoughts cannot be you. As you recall all these fractured parts of yourself notice how it feels to embrace them and integrate them. Keep calling out to the identities behind the trees until there are none left. Once each one has found its home in you. Imagine yourself filling from your toes to your crown with pure golden light. Pure gold, impenetrable light. Feel your body, strong, resilient, calm and centered. Notice how this makes you feel. Keep feeling the strength of this gold light feeding every cell, bringing you back to total body harmony. Take as long as you need to bask in this light. Then when you are ready. Gently open your eyes and come back to normal waking consciousness…

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Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

May the light of who you are be the reminder that gives you the courage to meet every day exactly as it is.

With great respect…

rachel