I don’t think anyone expected to go through what we are going through right now. Who could imagine a situation so beyond our understanding and control. I have been holding back from writing anything here on the blog mainly because I have been spending the majority of my time getting grounded and taking practical steps to be able to self-isolate for an extended period of time.
As someone living with a compromised immune system it’s important that I look after myself. This is a hard one for me. I love ‘being there’ for others. I’ve been reminding myself that ‘being there’ doesn’t have to look how I think it should look. It could be as simple as reaching out to a friend to check in or sharing a positive post, cool recipe, fun activity or what I shared yesterday on Instagram and facebook, a dance on the beach.
Because yoga is my lifeline you can absolutely assume I have stepped up my personal asana practice and am spending even more time working with breathing and meditation. Taking time out to balance mind, body and immune system is essential.
I’ve seen many yoga teachers rushing online to teach yoga. For me it’s not about joining the fray. It’s about doing things that help me to slow down, breathe and be still. I can’t teach when I’m stressed out. I learned this the hard way.
The only comparable experience was when I was in 9/11. On that day and subsequent days, I was a bundle of nerves. The shock that ran through my body was worse than any anxiety I’d ever experienced before. Instead of being able to stop, rest and restore I dove straight back into teaching. I was quaking on the inside while appearing ‘strong’ for my students. Suppressing my fear, shock and many other feelings led to a collapse which affected my immune system, my digestion, my marriage and my ability to parent. It has taken me years to recover and integrate the lessons from that time. Now that humanity is being faced with its biggest challenge yet I’ve been asking myself; how do I want to show up? How can I last the distance? How can I be a leader?
Stop, rest, restore, get creative, take my time, dream, reach out for support. Find beauty in simplicity and make sure to play. Then when my cup runneth over teach and share.
So that’s what I’m doing. Being gentle with myself. Not pushing into anything. Not expecting anything of myself.
For anyone wanting a little glimpse into one of my daily practices, here’s a simple joint and mobility warm-up series I shared yesterday in our facebook group.
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My blood sugar hit 11.7 mmol today. It’s been a while. I mean a long while. Since starting Insulin in 2014 and simultaneously going low carb I’ve had excellent control. A high for me was about 9 mmol. In the last two years, even that was pretty rare.
The control I’ve had over my numbers has been directly related to a huge amount of food restriction. A.K.A living on eggs, non-starchy vegetables and avocados and olive oil for the last 6 years. When my husband would ask, “How is your dinner?” my standard reply was, “the same.” I could make breakfast, lunch or dinner in 15 minutes tops. Eating to live, and fine with that. Worth the sacrifice if it meant staying healthy.
Don’t get me wrong low carb works. It totally works. The question is… is it healthy and sustainable? I have been low carb for 6 years so it’s doable but healthy?Healthy is having a rainbow in your diet. Healthy is as much emotional satisfaction as physical satiation. Healthy is enjoying food, being social, being able to go out and pick something off the menu without guilt or fear. Healthy is putting the meal together and then trusting that what you inject will do the job. I’m not talking eat whatever you want and cover, rather eat whole foods that please the eye and the pallet. Know you are taking in life sustaining nutrients and that your body can take it in, digest it and distribute the energy accordingly.
This is the basis of a yoga practice, absorbing prana from food, the atmosphere, anything you consume. If our own energy is scattered, stuck or overly dogmatic, we can’t absorb prana which in turn builds Ojas, the basis of our immune system.
In Ayurveda diet should be mitahari, which means balanced. Eating whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables etc. Everything according to your type incorporating the six tastes of sour, salty, sweet, bitter, pungent and astringent.Before my diagnosis I was able to follow an Ayurvedic vegetarian diet ad infinitum. After diagnosis I found myself narrowing my diet according to what I felt sensitive to or what I thought wouldn’t cause a high blood sugar. Eventually I was so afraid of going low I stopped trying. I told myself I couldn’t have mung beans or quinoa because it was too confusing to dose for. I couldn’t have fruit because I would spike. My list of excuses was long. My openness and availability to try something new was zero.
In the last few years I’ve started each year with a diabetes goal. In 2018 it was braving meal time insulin (up until then I managed on a split dose of basal with severe carb restriction). In 2019 I worked on healing my gut. My 2020 goal came out of months of feeling helpless around the situation we are facing on the planet and watching two documentaries Cowspiracy and The Game Changers. Discovering that animal agriculture is one of the main contributing factors to climate change and seeing how athletes were able to maintain a vegan diet and increase their performance, made me question what I was eating and why.
To be honest wanting to go vegan was a total heart longing. I’ve never liked the feeling of eating animals (as a kid, I used to pretend to eat my pork chop and when no one was looking I’d push it into a napkin and then excuse myself and flush it down the toilet) so it made sense to stop.The big question for me was how. How could I make the transition from keto to vegan smoothly? Was it even possible? While I was mulling over the what and how, a T1D friend sent me a PM about a new program she was on which was high carb, low fat and and how successful it had been. She suggested I try it.
I balked at the idea. Then another T1D I follow on Instagram shared his story of going from keto to vegan. His story was inspiring and confronting. I had to ask myself, what was my excuse really? Was I going to be terrified of carbs and insulin for the rest of my life? What was holding me back?
Doing some deep soul searching around these fundamental questions forced me to take stock of the times in my life where I’d faced a seemingly insurmountable hurdle. I reflected on giving birth. That was terrifying, yet I did it. I thought about how I managed during 9/11. How when I thought I couldn’t handle the shock I actually rose above it and made it through. Even after my diagnosis I was able to eventually find a way to acceptance. I also thought about the beach. Here in South Africa the water is beyond cold. Going in takes a certain kind of bravado.That’s how I decided to approach this new and exciting chapter in my diabetes management. If I didn’t jump in, I might regret it. If I did, hopefully I’d feel refreshed and invigorated.
Five weeks on from transitioning to a plant-based diet. I’ve introduced a huge range of foods, with hardly a hitch in my digestion. The big challenge has been to experiment with insulin to carb ratios to find what works best when. I’ve also had way more highs and lows then before. I’ve had to be courageous while watching that straight down arrow on my freestyle libre. Patient when I see a spike.
My insulin needs have completely changed. I need less basal; more bolus and I am becoming more and more sensitive to insulin. I’ve also had to slowly build my daily carb intake working my way up to about 250 carbs per day. That’s been hard, but I’m getting there. I’ve also rekindled my passion for creating recipes. I’ve made hummus, nori rolls, veggie burgers. I’ve been eating heaven in a bowl for breakfast. Smoothie bowls with dates and figs, bananas and papaya. I now look forward to eating and cooking. I’m excited to try things like beets, leeks, peppers again. I feel like every meal is a party. One I get to have for myself.
The best side effect of my new diet is increased energy and decreased aches and pains. When I step on my mat I feel open, balanced and clean from the inside out. It feels like I’m back.If you’d like to find out more about a plant based whole food diet check out this brilliant new book, Mastering Diabetes
If you’d like to have more one on one support to make the transition I highly recommend Drew Harrisberg from www.drewsdailydose.com
I’m absolutely struck dumb by what’s happening at the moment. New year is usually about setting goals in my diabetes management, upping my personal yoga practice and setting out a plan for the year. With my newsfeed and mind consumed with the unbearable tragedy of the bushfire crisis in Australia, the craziness of the presidency in the US and the spectre of the Climate Crisis, yoga is my rock of support.
It was in the aftermath of 9/11 that I learned that having a committed yoga practice could make a difference to how I responded to the crisis at hand. Yes, I made donations and did what I could to help others, but I also recognised I needed to care for myself. As the stress and tension mounted in the weeks and months after 9/11 we had the anthrax scare, the Iraq war and the very real destruction at ground zero. I remember feeling terrified to head out into the throng of NYC to teach. I forced myself to face my fears because I knew that teaching yoga and attending classes would bring me back to set point.
Since that time, I have learned through the deeper teachings of yoga called Atma Vidya that the nature of self is peace. Peace doesn’t disappear. I do. I’m the one identifying with the fear, uncertainty and shock. Yoga helps me to calm down and direct my energy towards what I can do to make a difference. It might be to share on my FB feed an article or story to spread awareness, a physical donation to an organisation, or something as simple and personal as nurturing a seedling in my garden.
Whatever I can do, I need to be calm and grounded to do it. Making decisions out of fear doesn’t work. When everything feels completely out of control, and there is no one to turn to for comfort because everyone is in the same circumstances, there is great support in taking responsibility for what can be done.
“God Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”-serenity prayer
I consider prayer one of those responsibilities, and it’s something I work with daily in the form of Bhakti yoga, the yoga of surrender and devotion. Another way I take responsibility is to catch myself in the act of reacting to a situation, thought or circumstance.
This is what enabled me to act in the chaos of 9/11. Instead of dissolving into a puddle I took practical steps to cope with the feeling of overwhelm and devastation. What could I do to get our family home and safe? At the time walking over the 59th street bridge was the answer. Now in the midst of an obvious climate and ecological crisis, with Australia in the limelight, I am determined to do my best to take practical steps to be part of a global shift.
When I got married in the 90’s we built our house on an intentional yoga community out of mud bricks. I also built my own composting toilet. We had solar power, rainwater and huge veggie gardens. I had a home birth in water and brought my son up on organic food and a minimum of TV and tech. We spent hours outside in all types of weather. I read to him constantly. We baked and sang and lived very simply.
Looking back, everything I did in my 20’s and 30’s was a blessing. I was healthy, grounded and idealistic. Little by little though my idealistic bubble began to burst. We needed to use pesticides to poison alien trees on the property, our solar batteries crashed. It was easier to run our new computer and other electrics on mains power. It was more convenient to have an indoor toilet. Cell phones came into being and we all know how things have changed in the last 20 years.
Our advancement seems to have been our undoing.
Going back to basics, starting a garden again, looking at how we can be more self-sufficient, recycling, reusing, reducing and travelling less are all good places to begin. However, there are still millions and millions of people out there who refuse to change their habits. It’s hard not to feel frustrated and helpless. I refuse to let it get me down. Instead I have added them into my responsibility prayers.
“Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.” – Serenity prayer
With great respect….
Please watch this very sad yet beautiful tribute to whats happening in Australia at the moment. You can find out more about how you can help the bushfire crisis here
I’ve been low lately. Low in glucose levels, energy and motivation. Motivation to write this blog and be active on social media. Other than wanting to share through my channels what we can do as individuals to make a better world, I can’t watch the endless stories on Instagram anymore, even when I like the people who share them. I’ve got no time for superficial nonsense and I could give two hoots about how to live a better me. This is it baby, I AM me.
My inbox is crammed with junk mail and there’s no end in sight. The weather is way too hot, too cold, and here just up the road 21 homes have been destroyed due to raging bush fires. Last night we went to see the Joker. I came out with a headache. This movie is all about the making of a villain. No superheroes in sight.
But who is the villain?
As far as I see it, we have been complacent too long (me included). If we don’t do something, say something and change our behaviour not only towards the planet but each other we are all ‘the villain’. I don’t care which way you lean. Be a decent human being. Those people putting themselves on the line deserve our support. Better yet put yourself on the line. Start with your own home, reduce your carbon footprint.
And all of us dealing with the high cost of Insulin, crap insurance and lack of money for medication, devices etc, the situation isn’t looking up. I had a meltdown the other day realising that if I am somewhere where access to medication becomes impossible for whatever reason, I and countless others seriously wouldn’t have long to live!
If you’ve been reading my blog for the last 4 years, you’ll know I am super positive. I always try and see the good in things. I use my yoga practice to support my mental and emotional health and absolutely believe yoga and knowing its true meaning can solve all our problems.
So even though I have been feeling disheartened I’m also excited. Excited that things have finally got to the point where there is a possibility that we can breakthrough our complacency and come together. I truly wish for this with all my heart and I believe it can happen. Being part of the diabetes community has taught me that.
When I’ve needed an extra sensor, syringes or a shoulder to cry on someone’s been there. It feels natural to help others when it comes to chronic illness. It’s not our fault and if we can’t turn to the people who understand, life would be bleak. I trust that even though crisis is the worst and impossible to face, it also calls out the best in us.
When I was in 9/11 in NYC and walking through the streets to make my way home, I walked along the 59th street bridge with 7,000 people shoulder to shoulder. We held each other in that embrace. Nobody was arguing, complaining or attacking. We were one breath, one body, helping each other home.
This post today is a clarion call. What small act of kindness can you do today to make a difference? It could be something personal or planetary. This is what is meant by the practice of Karma Yoga, Selfless service. The yoga of action.
Recently my friend and mentor Eve Grzybowski started a group on Facebook called Climate Yoga. Asking Yoga teachers to find ways in which they could act off the mat to support the climate movement. The group grew from 10 to 200 or so in a matter of days. This shows how yoga can be a springboard for anything we care deeply about.
Why? Because during your yoga practice you learn to cultivate compassion for yourself. A posture may not be easy, your breath may be inhibited, you may feel too tired to stretch or hold a pose. Being kind to yourself is the first step in learning compassion. I often talk gently to myself on the days I don’t want to do anything. Reminding myself that if I just do two or three poses it’s enough.
The same goes for how we can contribute to this huge behemoth of climate change. Think about two things you could do today and every day to reduce your carbon footprint. It might be something as simple as walking somewhere you would normally drive. ( p.s also great for blood sugar management) Going meatless on Mondays. Bringing your own bag to the supermarket. In fact if you’d like a list I’ve found this one to be really cool.
And if you’d like to get inspired to ‘be the change’ you wish to see in the world. Try this simple loving kindness meditation.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Sit comfortably or lie down.
Bring your awareness to the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils.
Remember the happiest moment in your life and feel yourself happy and smiling.
Visualise sending yourself feelings of love, kindness and joy.
Think of 3 things that you love about yourself.
Think about ways in which you are kind to yourself.
Then say to yourself. May I remember myself as pure loving kindness. May I remember my natural strength, peace and joy.
Next think of someone you love and extend that loving kindness to them. Wish peace, strength, happiness and joy for them. Feel yourself sending them love and imagine them sending love back to you. Think of the things you love about that person.
Repeat the same loving kindness words for someone that you don’t know so well. A neutral individual.
Now repeat the same process with someone or something you feel is hostile towards you or you feel hostile towards. This could even be directed at the anger and frustration you feel towards your diabetes
Go back to step one. Direct loving kindness back towards yourself. Feel yourself as love, peace and joy. Feel how love peace and joy is the nature of every human being. Feel your compassion extending out from your heart to every single creature of the earth. Feel it like a giant heart pulsing through the whole of creation….
Finish by bringing your awareness back to your breath taking some slow deep belly breaths.
Today, I’m hooked on the news. Instead of scouring through my feed and picking up the latest info on diabetes, i.e. tech innovations, cure explorations or people thriving in the DOC (diabetes online community) I’m absorbing the enormity of an issue that goes way beyond personal health and wellbeing.
Our planet is broken, and the impassioned speech delivered by Greta Thunberg to the UN climate summit says it all, “This is all wrong, I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! … For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight?”
And she’s right.
I will never forget the day, at 16 when my much older boyfriend sat me down to let me know that the planet and our environment was headed for disaster. He elucidated the perils of hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gasses and the delicate nature of our ozone layer. He told me to steel myself for the road ahead. I felt helpless, terrified and had nightmares for weeks afterwards. But somehow, I got used to ignoring my anxiety around the issue. In the 90’s the hole in the ozone layer was just a fact. Living through 9/11 and the horrors of chemical and environmental exposure, the breakdown of my immune system and the continued fight to feel better physically in spite of the increase in pesticides in the food and water was a given. Wasn’t everybody dealing with some sort of compromise?
In the early 90’s I tried to do my part. I built an eco-friendly mud brick home, used a composting loo, solar power and rainwater. We ate home grown veggies, supported local farmers markets and grassroots initiatives. Leaving the safety of our sustainable principles for a life in NYC in my mid 30’s was scary. I told myself it wouldn’t be forever, and I could go back my gentle connection with the earth when the timing was right.
When I did eventually return to Australia in 2004 my health had deteriorated so much that I didn’t have the energy to live so sustainably anymore. And then my diabetes diagnosis forced me to focus on my personal needs above a broader vision.
But Greta’s speech to the UN has broken the dam. No matter what’s happening to me personally I need to act. Even if it’s just to make the yoga for diabetes community aware that this is the biggest issue of our times.
And yes, yoga and practicing yoga is supportive but it’s not going to solve the issue. The issue will turnaround when we make changes in our personal lives and come together as a whole to make a change.
As Greta concludes in her speech, “You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
To find out more about the climate crisis and what you can do
Todays blog doesn’t go into the nitty gritty of gripes or issues I have with my health care team rather I wanted to celebrate what’s working and how my team has helped me heal and thrive. Here’s my Diabetes Blog Week story for Health Care Thursday
Most people who live with a chronic illness end up with a lot of experience when it comes to dealing with healthcare. How would you improve or change your healthcare experience? What would you like to see happening during medical visits with your healthcare team? How about when dealing with your health insurance companies? What’s your Healthcare Wish List or Biggest Frustration? Today is the day to share it all!
When I was first diagnosed I was shocked. I’d been doing Yoga since I was 17, it was my career and I’d always been health conscious. So at first, because I thought there was some mistake. I didn’t bother to find out more about my condition. In effect shutting out my medical support team. I’m loathe to admit it but that moment of disbelief, defiance and downright denial took me down a path I do regret.
After 6 years of criss-crossing continents to find alternatives, I landed back in my doctor’s office literally begging him to put me on insulin. The first step, he said, was to get educated and that I’d have to see a CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator). I was excited to start my journey but totally freaked at the same time. Would she grill me about my diet, my inability to maintain my levels or demand discipline without room for error?
I had worked my self up into such a frenzy that by the time I was sitting in the CDE’s office actually having my appointment, I was balling my eyes out like a little kid. She asked if I knew why I was so upset. I admitted that I felt like a failure, that I didn’t know why I was there or even why I had diabetes. It all felt so wrong. She sat quietly and listened as the pain and anxiety poured out.
What she said next floored me.
“Rachel, you’ve done nothing wrong to get this and it’s not your fault.”
My jaw dropped. After nearly 6 years of being absolutely sure of a million reasons why I had diabetes, like eating too many lollies as a kid, or smoking way too many unfiltered cigarettes between the ages of 11 and 21. Or just being an untogether person in general. To actually consider it wasn’t my fault felt like putting on a rubber suit, in the middle of the desert in summer. I was used to taking the blame for just about everything. It was always my fault!
She mentioned that usually type 1 diabetes is triggered during a stressful event. Did I recall any such event?
My whole life clicked into place in that instant. I’d been living in New York City during 9/11. I’d walked into the ash that was screaming up the avenues as the towers collapsed.
I never felt well after that day. Not emotionally or physically. I became more sensitive to foods, surroundings and I developed multiple chemical syndrome. My marriage suffered due to the fact that everything had to fit around me and my specific health needs. In the end we moved home to Australia in the hopes that a less polluted and more holistic environment would support me towards wellness. We never thought it could be something as serious as diabetes because none of the symptoms were there.
Being able to share my story with the diabetes educator and to feel her total compassion and understanding made a huge difference in coming to terms with my diagnosis. Up until that point and even with my doctor I’d been battling to accept it. Understanding that something had triggered it and that it wasn’t my fault allowed me to be compassionate with myself.
It’s been nearly two years since I came out of denial and began insulin. Since then rather than seeing the medical establishment as something to shun or fear I have huge respect and admiration for the people that are supporting me on this journey. I know the system, isn’t perfect and doctors, nurses and even CDE’s could do better. I get angry that insurance companies in Australia don’t cover CGM’s or that the government keeps changing how we access our supplies.
But in spite of all that there are real people out there who have studied their butts off to help people like me and I couldn’t be more grateful!
with great respect…Rachel
P.S Want to know more about my passion for yoga and diabetes? I’m offering the first chapter of my new book on Yoga for Diabetes for free. Find the right practice for your type by learning all about Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga.
I used to play the blame game when it came to having diabetes. But all that came to a halt on my first visit to the Diabetes educator. “ You know you’ve done nothing wrong, “ she shared, “some people just have the marker in their genes and it gets triggered by a stressful event. Can you think of a time in your life where you could have triggered the gene?”
9/11,thats when everything shifted.
That day was terrible, terrible for everyone.
We were in Manhattan waiting for my mentor and Yoga teacher Alan Finger to teach hisyoga class when the planes hit the trade towers. As soon as I realised what had happened, I felt like I’d been shot in the chest, my legs buckling underneath me.After a few minutes I had to get out of there. My son and stepson were at school a few blocks away and I wanted to be with them. Dazed and feeling sick to my stomach I walked out onto the street. It was quiet; ghost like, people with ashen faces walked beside me. The sky was a crisp blue and I wondered, how could everyone just keep going?
By the time I arrived at the school I was feeling faint. I wanted someone to hold me and look after me, but I wasn’t the only one in shock. I had to pull myself together. It was a relief to have both boys with me. The only way home to Brooklyn was to walk across the 59th Street Bridge. I could feel fear stuck in my throat, dry and hard. Gripping my sons’ hands, we walked.
Nearly seven hours after the towers had fallen I fell into my husband arms, but it was no consolation for the shock that numbed my body. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t even think because my whole world had turned upside down.
I don’t think I ever really recovered emotionally or physically from that day. And although I can’t specifically pinpoint the day my beta cells started collapsing I started experiencing a lot of strange physical symptoms about a year later. Tingling up and down my body, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, a feeling of being overly expanded, frequent urination, hives and skin rashes, racing heartbeat, difficulty digesting and many more things which turned my life into a living hell.
Recently I read an article that stated that those exposed to the debris from the falling towers are only now showing an array ofsymptoms and illnesses.
There was nothing I could have done to avoid that day. When the unexpected happens it happens. Right now somewhere in the world some terrifying event is taking place and someone is exposed to something they didn’t expect and could never predict. How does anyone cope? How do we move forward? I imagine a lot of us are reflecting on that today.
A friend of mine posts the same story every year on her facebook page. She says she does it so she never forgets how lucky she is. I also feel lucky, An odd thing to say when one has an incurable disease. Being diabetic is an opportunity to thrive against all odds. In my opinion that’s always the way forward. Keep doing your best, keep loving what is, no matter what.