Sweetness, beauty, and love

Today I offer you a guest post from my friend Sarah Tomlinson. Sarah and I met when I was planning the NYC leg of my book launch. We discovered that we both had a passion for yoga, yantras and all the wonderful tools that promote health and wellbeing. Sarah also lives with Type 1 Diabetes. I asked her to share how she has come to terms with her diagnosis and how she supports others to live well through working with the power and beauty of yantras.

Take it away Sarah!

sarahpainting

Venus is the planet of love, it is also known as the planet of Art and Beauty. Being an astrological ayurvedic counselor I am very much involved with the significance of the planets. I have been living with type one diabetes since I was 21years old. It struck in the middle of many years of healthy eating and yoga and meditation.

Type one is an interesting auto-immune disorder and the stress reduction technique I craved with this diagnosis was to do with soothing my emotions. I had the physical practices in place, as a longtime yogini and mindful nutritionist but I longed for something that would soothe my emotional unrest and allow me to, for a while, forget about the physical body. Could I be transported into a spiritual practice that was not focused on the physical body?

A few years later I met a renaissance man, his name was Harish Johari, not only was he at the forefront of bringing Eastern teachings of mysticism to the West, he also brought the knowledge of sacred geometric shapes, known as Yantras to us. Once I discovered that drawing and coloring these was a form of prayer I was hooked.

He gave me twenty-four Yantras to work with. Each one induces a calm yet specific vibration within the viewer. As I studied these, embracing each one fully, I started to notice that as my Yantra practice deepened, my blood sugar levels became more stable. By not focusing all of the time on the physical aspect of well-being I filled up my well of emotions, which had become somewhat of a destitute wasteland and regained some mental and emotional balance.

yantrabliss_coloringpic1_calendar_hr

Venus is the planet of sweetness. The sweet taste is associated with Venus. I wonder if there is something here, love, sweetness, beauty, and Art. Something that I felt was lacking when I became diabetic, and maybe even was the source of my imbalance when I developed this condition, was becoming fulfilled with this Venusian practice of creating Yantras.

And this spectacular practice draws me in daily. I draw, I color, for maybe 10 minutes and maybe two hours, each day. It is the time when I find the bliss of the present moment, I get to focus on me, the real me, the me that is happy, soothed and contented. From this place, I can move out into my day with grace. I am more in tune with the beauty and positive things around me.

I teach Yantra Painting to bring this practice to others and to continue to learn about the qualities each of the twenty-four Yantras has. This is an incredible practice that comes from the ancient tantrics, the mystics from northern India, and yet it has helpful implications for today.

Last year I created the book “Coloring Yantras” to teach more people than I can reach in my workshops, about the healing power of the twenty-four Yantras, their meaning, and benefit, and to invite people to pick up a colored pencil or pen and start to color.

Try it, maybe it will fill you up with sweetness, beauty, and love too.

sarah.insta

Sarah Tomlinson is an internationally acclaimed Yantrika (Yantra teacher and practitioner), yoga teacher and artist, with renowned fans across the globe including Elena Brower and Sharon Gannon, co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga. Sarah worked extensively with her mentor Harish Johari in India, he initiated her into the spiritual practice of painting Yantras. She leads retreats and Yantra workshops around the world and enjoys lots of time by the ocean with her husband and two young boys.

You can find out more about Sarah @ www.sarahyantra.com  and order her books here

 

Thanks-Giving

I haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving since 2003. I was 37, living in NYC, raising two children, working as a group and private yoga instructor, teaching teachers and doing everything I could to make ends meet. I remember gathering around the table with my family that Thanksgiving and feeling exhausted and vulnerable. I was allergic to just about everything, including the cat and I was embarrassed that I was picking at my food.

As we went around the table to express our gratitude I muttered something about being grateful for family and friends. I meant it at the time, but looking back my words were hollow. I didn’t know that I was already in the throws of diabetes, or that in a matter of years my whole life would be turned upside down.

Rachy-26Coming home for Thanksgiving nearly 14 years later I’m nostalgic for my childhood. Days where I heaped cranberries on Turkey and ate four slices of pumpkin pie.

Of course, I can enjoy Thanksgiving food with all the trimmings but it’s taken me days to get my levels back to normal after weeks of flying and book launch events and I’d rather celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving in another way…

With a focus on thankfulness

In my daily life, I devote time each day to focus on what I am grateful and thankful for. It’s usually something I do at the end of my morning meditation. When my mind is quiet and my breath is still I think of all the good things that are happening in my life.

Lifestyle. Beautiful girl during yoga exerciseWhen I eat a meal I think about the magic of the seed, the person that planted the seed, the person that plowed the field and watered the plant, the one who harvested the fruit or vegetable, the driver who drove that vegetable to the grocery store, the person who stocked the shelf, the checkout person, the person who made the car so I could drive there in the first place. I think about my mother who taught me to cook and set the table. I even think about the people that made the table, the placemats, the pots and the cutlery.

From seed to table and in between a chain of people helped me to eat my dinner.

To me, Thanksgiving is so much more than gratitude it’s acknowledging how the whole of creation has facilitated that moment where the enjoyer and enjoyment are one.

Wishing each and every one of you a joyous Thanksgiving!

With great respect…

rachel

Be the Sweetness You Are

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about loving kindness. We are told by countless self-help gurus that in order to move forward on ‘the path’ we have to love ourselves. I can remember way back in the 90’s having a counselling session where I was told that unless I learned to love myself I’d never find a way to move forward in my life. Looking back all I can say is, hogwash! I’ve realized through trial and error that loving oneself isn’t an action. We can’t do loving because we are the love itself.

Rachel Portraits 2015-6 copyBut what exactly does that mean?

Love is such a powerful feeling. Think about how it feels when you hug someone. Tingles and warm shoo-shoo feelings in the heart and a sense of safety and completion flooding every ounce of your being. Feeling love for someone is so powerful that somehow we are convinced that that’s what self love should feel like too. But what if love isn’t a feeling. What if love isn’t tangible and what if… we are loving ourselves 24/7 and the only thing standing in our way is that no one has ever told us that love is not an action.

Put simply, love is being yourself. And how hard is it to be yourself? It’s easy… you’re doing it every single day.

As a reminder I often think about when my son was born. Just a few minutes after his birth I understood something I couldn’t have possibly understood before. Babies are pure love. They ooze love, exude love just by simply existing. So what’s the difference between a baby and you? Absolutely nothing. That love baby is still looking out of your own eyes how ever many years later. If there is anything that separates you from the baby it’s the ideas, beliefs and conditions you’ve innocently absorbed and taken on. Sometimes it’s described as the layering affect. You identify with emotions, feelings, situations as yourself and then you believe you are the shame, guilt, depression, misery etc. But you can never be those things…they are just things you have.

IMG_8952It’s easier to drop what you have than what you are. Try dropping your awareness? I dare you. Try to be unconscious right now! Unless you hit yourself over the head with a hammer it’s impossible.

So being love is a no-brainer and loving yourself is effortless. What’s effortful is clinging to your concepts about love, about what love should look like and what it takes to love yourself. Think about how many times you’ve berated yourself for not taking care of yourself, for not going that extra mile, for not getting it “right’. Whose imposed those expectations? Where are those ideas about what self love should look like coming from? Un-peeling the layers is not some psychological process it’s not even about letting go, it’s actually the opposite of that.

By being you and and simply existing in the creation you are enough. In fact, you’re more than enough.

Think about it. What do you take with you when you drop your body? Do you take an emotion? An object? A relationship? Money? An idea or belief? At the moment of death, quite naturally you let go of everything. And imagine understanding that by simply existing, you are enough. How loving would you feel? Where would you need to direct love? What work would you have to put in to love yourself?

Absolutely none!

IMG_4490Love is already gained; like a drop in the vast ocean of water. No matter how much the drop thinks it’s a drop it can only ever be water. No matter how separate you feel from love the truth is, love is all there is.

So being sweet to yourself is easy because without trying, without even knowing it you are the sweetness itself.

I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below or send me a message and if you’d like a free copy of the first chapter of my new book click here …. with great respect, Rachel

I’m a real person

Hey everyone it’s been a while…We’ve been travelling all over Europe for the last month. Spending four days on average in one place and by the time we’ve landed, practiced, checked our emails, cooked, slept and taught there’s honestly not much time to roll out a blog.

A few days ago we stopped and my body tanked. I broke out in shingles, stubbed my toe and almost lost my voice. Everything’s on the mend now and thank god for yoga practice. I know I say this all the time, but this time I really mean it. I’ve been rolling out my mat twice a day and absolutely treasuring every stretch, every breath, every minute that I have to take my mind out of its usual and habitual preoccupations.

IMG_8603

Having diabetes means I often get carried away in the general freak outs about my blood sugar levels, why it’s going up or down, how much insulin is the right amount of insulin and what the heck am I going to eat next.

When I am not bogged down in the details I’m thinking about advocacy and how to get more people excited about the benefits of yoga for diabetes and then I remember, I didn’t always live like this. I have to be careful not to let the disease define me. I’m still the same enthusiastic person I was before my diagnosis.

Do I ever forget that I live with diabetes?

No.

Every now and then I forget to check my blood sugar, which is par for the course. And sometimes I lash out with my diet and wear the consequences. But so far living with diabetes is my new normal and I’m okay with that.

IMG_8568

I still burnout at times, but I do it quietly. Kind of like one of those bathroom candles that fizzles out when nobody’s watching. I say this because on the outside no one would know how frustrated I am. It always takes people by surprise when I casually mention that I have diabetes. And something that I’ve noticed, here in Europe especially, is that there seems to be a certain taboo around taking the conversation further. Like it would be impolite to pry. But I also think it makes people uncomfortable. I remember being absolutely clueless about the disease even when I knew a few people who had it. I wouldn’t dare ask more because I didn’t want to upset the person, or have to deal with some emotional outburst.

As a person who lives with diabetes I can honestly say it feels good to be open about it and to educate people. I actually feel really heartened when someone comes away from a conversation inspired to take action in some way.

In my own small way, I try and spread the word and donate to organizations like insulin4allbeyondtype1 and a sweet life.  I also enjoy making personal connections with the founders and organizers. What I love most about the T1D community is that we are real people living with this disease. When you send out an email, people respond and want you to get involved. It’s so different to other types of businesses where you have to be somebody, or know somebody. This is the kind of club that no one really wants to be in but everyone can join. (If you know what I mean)

IMG_8757

My other deepest and most passionate offering is Yoga. It’s the one thing I can rely on to support me when my pancreas doesn’t.

Yoga is not one size fits all and you do have to shop around a bit to find something that works for you. Sometimes a practice can be too intense for your constitution. Maybe you have adrenal burnout, or more than one autoimmune disease. Maybe you are dealing with insulin resistance or hormonal changes. No matter what’s going on there is a practice that’s perfect for you. It just takes a bit of research and trial and error to find what works. A bit like calculating the right insulin dose.

As this is a blog about yoga and yoga practices the one thing I do every day to slow down and recharge is full complete breathing. It’s a beautiful practice and very simple.

Check out this excerpt below from my upcoming book. I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below or send me a message and if you’d like a free copy of the first chapter of my new book click here …. with great respect, Rachel

breathing 1 abreathing 2 a

Yoga is the bridge that works

Konichiwa! I just landed in Japan for a 21 day yoga teaching tour and I am truly excited to dive in to teaching again. Travelling and teaching means I won’t be able to write as much so I wanted to share this uber cool guest post from Bella Girovich who is an inspiring type 1 yogini and blogger. Here’s her story AND her personal insights on the value of yoga for  diabetes. Take it away Bella…. 

FullSizeRender

This all started in the winter of 2012. It was just around New Year’s Eve, and my family and I were getting a head-start on those New Year’s resolutions by taking a two week sabbatical (can you call it that in college!?) from life at a beautiful yoga center in Tulum, Mexico. The resort we were staying at is essentially a yogi’s paradise, complete with 2+ yoga practices per day, an unlimited supply of juices and smoothies, and sunshine and ocean to soothe the soul. The perfect set up for anyone to reboot and feel in the best shape of his/her life… right?

Well, for some of us, this was right. My mother, brother, and even my father (who was reluctant to try yoga but we eventually convinced him because he felt left out by day two) felt amazing. Me, on the other hand, is another story entirely. I woke up every morning at 7:30 for our 8 AM practice feeling tired, groggy, and lethargic, even though I had gotten plenty of sleep. For some reason, I had the strangest craving for bananas that I could not shake, and disturbed every morning practice by walking in late like a chimp with three bananas in tow. So why did I feel so awful? I was on vacation on the beach in Mexico, after all! My family poked fun at me because going on a yoga retreat was my idea in the first place, and I was the one complaining!

I blew this off as nothing, perhaps my body just reacting to a lot of physical practice in a short amount of time. Back at college in Washington, D.C., one of my friends and I decided to try out eating a raw food diet. We were both marginally interested in nutrition, and had started working at a local juice bar. How hard could it be, we thought? Well, I thought I would have it easy, being that my friend doing the diet with me was about a foot taller, 30 pounds heavier, and a male. For the first few days, we struggled through it together, laughing our way through the college dining hall with our huge bowls of spinach and raw veggies as people cast sideways glances our way. After about three days, my friend woke up and texted me how amazing he felt, and I could barely keep my eyes open. I had just joined a sorority at my university, and I attributed my lethargy to having hundreds of conversations with peppy strangers.

After about a week of feeling “off,” I was putting on mascara in my friend’s room on Friday morning, and my hand was shaking so much that I ended up looking more like a raccoon than the smoky eye I had intended. My friends looked at me anxiously, but I was too busy trying to steady my hand that I did not even notice.

“We are taking you to the health center,” they asserted, as if I did not have a choice.

“No way!” I exclaimed. “I have class in 20 minutes. Besides, they’re going to tell me I’m pregnant or have cancer,” I joked, mostly to ease my own nerves.

Being 1/3 the size of my friends, there was no fighting it- they physically dragged me across our small campus to the health center. The walk was probably only under a mile, but felt like it took an eternity.

We arrived at the health center at 8:45, 15 minutes before opening. After begging someone to see me, a nurse came in and barely looked me in the eyes as she took all of my vitals. Eventually, she went to prick my finger and check my blood glucose levels.

“Umm… can you skip that part?” I anxiously joked. I was always in Chicago, with my mom, when I had to go to the doctor’s office, and was a little squeamish around blood.

The nurse laughed at me as if I had said something hilarious, and proceeded to prick my finger. “I’ll be back in two minutes,” she stated, as if I was a nuisance.

She didn’t come back for twenty.

I could go through the gory details of my week spent in the hospital, but this was essentially how I found out I am a type one diabetic. At 18 years old, I was already an established “human” in the world, with my own diet, lifestyle habits, and yoga practice. I had already completed a teacher training and had a fairly regular practice.

After diagnosis, I had no idea how to effectively manage my blood glucose levels. Starting on insulin caused me to gain 20 pounds in a few short months, which made me even less inclined to make it to the studio, let alone even put on yoga pants.

10171916_10152725705815351_5361433889218845227_n        1381577_10151918357165351_840188889_n

It took almost an entire year and the accumulation of a solid group of “yoga buddies” for me to feel comfortable walking into a studio again. However, as soon as I did, my mind remembered what my body had been missing the entire time.

Asana is incredibly effective for controlling blood glucose levels, in diabetics and non-diabetics alike. However, to me, yoga is so much more than twisting my body in this and that way. If my diagnosis with diabetes was the severing of my mind’s connection with my body, yoga was the bridge that worked (and is still working) to reconnect these two distant parts that make up “me.”

On more days than I would like to admit, I feel that my body is betraying me. Knowing that my beta cells are being blocked by my white blood cells every single day is pretty discouraging. However, every day, I come to my mat, and begin to feel again. I feel appreciation for my physical body; for my feet for carrying me into the studio, my hands for holding me in downward dog, my legs for holding me in warrior two, and my heart for opening up in my backbends more and more with each and every practice.

Without yoga, I would carry myself through the world filled with resentment and bitterness for the deck of cards I have been played. Instead, I can walk with my heart open and my head held high with gratitude for all that I do have, and for the practice of yoga that humbles me each and every day.

954890_10151676487775351_1875550028_n

Forever a student of the world, Bella is interested in the intersection of all forms of health, be it Western science, holistic nutrition, or ancient practices. Growing up in Chicago has shaped her yoga practice in that she found solace on her mat in the middle of a bustling city, and took this inner peace with her to D.C, Israel, India, and now to Atlanta where she is getting her Masters in Public Health at Emory University.  https://unsweetnlo.wordpress.com/

 

 

yoga for diabetes blog

Coming to terms with Diagnosis and Treatment

As part of the healing process I have made it my business to reach out to people like me who are passionate about yoga, and its ability to manage the emotions that surface when dealing with a chronic disease like diabetes.

Last week I featured a post by Michelle Sorensen. I  found her via a random facebook post which dealt with grief and diabetes. From there I reached out and we struck up a conversation. She urged me to write my story and approach the online magazine a sweet life, which is based in Canada.

The article I wrote for them was not an easy one to write. Especially as I absolutely believe in the power of yoga to energise, rejuvenate and heal the body. But I had to get real with myself and face some cold hard truths. Since coming to terms with my diagnosis, I use the yoga practices to keep the body running at its optimum and to manage any associated stress that comes from the inevitable daily ups and downs. Below is a small excerpt from the blog …..with great respect Rachel

yoga for diabetes blog

The Danger of Treating Diabetes with Alternative Medicine

Yoga was food for my mind, but it wasn’t food for my body. Throughout my many years of practice and teaching yoga, I suffered from chronic digestive issues. I kept them at bay with numerous alternative treatments until one day I fell down and couldn’t get up. My whole body was shaking. I knew something wasn’t right and I needed to rest. A week later my blood work came back from the lab.

My doctor prided himself on the fact that he combined holistic healing with allopathic medicine. His approach to my condition, however, was appalling. He blurted out that I was diabetic. He’d checked my A1c after noticing my fasting sugar was slightly high. He told me I would be responsible for healing myself. He said there was no cure. I was confused and tried to get him to slow down. I madly scribbled notes in my notebook and felt completely overwhelmed. I was supposed to fly to India in three days time to lead a yoga teachers’ training. The trip was set and I couldn’t cancel. The doctor wasn’t interested in my plans. He ignored my questions and concerns and shoved some pamphlets in my hands suggesting I take some brown rice protein for the trip and that I “google” diabetes….. Read more