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!

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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.

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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.

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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

Diabetes and Mindset

Diabetes is tough! Especially right now while I am on the road spreading the word about how Yoga is a lifesaver when it comes to the day to day management of diabetes. I’m using test strips like there’s no tomorrow while navigating unexpected lows, raging highs and doing my best to stick to daily routines amidst early morning flights and media calls.

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the opportunities but like anyone, there are good days and not so good days.

In the end, it comes down to mindset. How I respond to my life with diabetes is more important than the number on my meter, the daily grind of counting carbs or the overall physical drain from a week of higher levels or too many lows.

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What gives me the mental strength to weather the storm? YOGA

More specifically the art of meditation.

I started meditating when I was 23. It wasn’t something I had heard about or even planned to do. It was my best friend and my first yoga teacher who convinced me to try it. She suggested we head to a three-day meditation intensive with a former Buddhist monk. When I asked her what we would actually be doing she just smiled.

After sitting and watching my breath for three days straight and walking in slow meditative circles I soon discovered that meditation isn’t something that can be described. It’s intangible like space. Have you ever tried to describe space? Words like open, vast, infinite can’t really explain a feeling which has no words.

The feeling of meditating is very different to the act of practicing meditation which in yoga is called “concentration” or dharana. Dharana is described in the Miriam-Webster dictionary as “fixed attention; especiallya state of mental concentration on an object without wavering”

So what does that actually mean? Think about what it feels like when you do anything you love; it could be a physical activity like running, reading a book, performing a creative task like painting or writing, you couldn’t do that activity if it didn’t have your full attention. That’s exactly what’s happening when you practice dharana (concentration). You place your full attention on the breath, or an image or even a posture and immediately there is an opportunity for your mind to be in “the zone.”

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Ok…so when you are in the middle of a low is it appropriate to try and practice dharana? Let’s get real. It’s friggin impossible. Your brain is starving for glucose and you want to consume everything in sight.

Once you’ve treated the low you can make a start.  The more we teach the mind to focus in on one point the quicker the nervous system comes back into balance. Like training a dog, positive reinforcement and reminders enable the nervous system to find its feet faster and faster after a stressful event.

We are designed to be relaxed 80% of the time and to be ready to run from a tiger 20% of the time. In this day and age, we live the other way around. Put diabetes in the mix and it amps up the volume. Having simple tools to destress are super important.

But first, we have to want to relax. We need to know what relaxation feels like and understand how beneficial it is. Not only does it support the nervous system. We sleep, digest and feel better emotionally and mentally. Less stress means less cortisol circulating through the system and overall better blood glucose management.

I know for myself after years and years of being uptight, overly sensitive and riddled with anxiety, yoga was the only thing that gave me some respite. It’s taken years of mind over just about everything to get on top of myself. I’m convinced that if I hadn’t learned to meditate at a young age I’d be a basket case.

Knowing that meditation/concentration happens naturally helps to put the mind at ease. Anyone can meditate because anyone can relax. It’s about understanding what meditation is and what it is not.

Meditation is not a state or something that only happens when you are calm or peaceful. It is not a moment, place or goal to be attained.

The word meditation is interchangeable with the word peace, contentment, bliss, wholeness.

You being whole and complete…are the meditation itself.

You might not get what I’m saying right now but rest assured…nothing beats the feeling you get from taking time to slow down and be still.  Learning to concentrate is just the beginning.

For this week’s blog, I’ve included an excerpt from the chapter on contemplation from my new book Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda

151210_DAV6241The Soham meditation for pitta

As a fiery type, the act of trying to concentrate can often incite frustration. To balance that Pitta, we need to counteract that fire. And what counteracts fire? Water.

The sound of the ocean is like the sound of the breath when you cover your ears and listen carefully. To balance Pitta, you’ll be using sound (mantra) to focus your mind. One of the most profound mantras is the natural sound the breath makes as we breathe in and out. This is happening automatically 24,600 or so times a day. If you place your hands over your ears and breathe in, you’ll hear the sound So. Keeping your hands over your ears when you breathe out, you’ll hear the sound Ham.

The Soham Meditation is an ancient technique that works effectively to calm and cool the nervous system and mind.

Set an intention for your practice. It could be anything, something simple like “I want to feel relaxed at the end of the practice” or more personal like “I dedicate this practice to accepting things as they are”.

Technique

Engage ujjayi breath. Long slow inhalation, long slow exhalation.

Feel the breath become even. Even count for inhalation, even count for exhalation. Continue counting the breath.

Move the awareness to the pelvic floor, sensing the space between the pubic bone and the tailbone.

On your next inhalation, for an even count, visualise the breath flowing up the centre of the spine to the middle of the brain.

On the next exhalation, for an even count, visualise the breath flowing down the centre of the spine. Continue like this for as long as is comfortable.

Add the sound (mantra) So on the inhalation and Ham on the exhalation.

Chant the mantra internally to yourself.

Keep breathing in the sound So and breathing out the sound Ham for about 3 to 5 minutes or as comfortable.

Want to know more about how yoga can help you manage your life with diabetes? Order your very own copy of my book here and if you love it I would be so grateful for a review 🙂

With great respect…

rachel

 

If you can breathe you can do yoga

I’ve just returned from The Diabetes Sisters Weekend for Women conference in Virginia which was jam-packed with inspirational seminars on all things diabetes. It was both moving and motivating and gave me a sense of how big our diabetes community is and how events like these nurture and support us in ways that online connections can’t.

I came away feeling deeply fulfilled especially because I got to hang out with so many of my diabetes heroes. Seeing them in real life shining and full of passion made my day.

I was assigned the task of sharing yoga at the conference. People came from all walks of life and all abilities and I wanted to make sure that everyone felt comfortable.

I truly believe that Yoga is for everybody. If you can breathe you can do yoga and you don’t need to be fit or flexible either. Yoga is an integrated system that includes every aspect of wellbeing from breathing to meditation, voice and hand gestures, creativity and more to remember your true nature, oneness, wholeness, whatever you want to call that feeling where time seems to stop and you just can’t get unhappy about anything.

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Postural practice is important because when you gently move and open the body the fascia (the sheath of tissue around the muscles) is stretched and directly accesses the nervous system. But postures are just one limb on a multifaceted tree.

I came to understand this for myself when I practiced a more vigorous form of yoga called Ashtanga.  No matter how much I stretched and opened myself, the bigger questions like why am I here, who am I and what is life about remained unanswered. And after being diagnosed with diabetes I had to admit that even the “physical” aspect of yoga could not fix me.

But that didn’t mean I gave up on yoga. I just had to view it through a different lens.

Yoga is not designed to fix anything, it’s a reminder that completeness is our birthright. We only need to remember this and yoga is that reminder. So whether you take a moment to stop and breathe, take the time to be mindful or whisper a silent prayer of gratitude that you’ve made it through another night. That’s yoga!

with great respect…

rachel

And speaking of introducing everyone to yoga I appeared on KTLA just the other day and had the anchor Frank Buckley down on the floor doing some postures.  So much fun!

Don’t ignore the Signposts

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Nuffnang and Priceline Pharmacy

I’ve thought a lot lately about the events that led up to my diagnosis. There were signposts but I’d ignored them. Like the fact that my great-grandfather, great uncle and grandmother all had type 2 diabetes. My great-grandfather died from diabetes before there was insulin and my great uncle controlled his blood sugars with diet. My grandmother was diagnosed in her 80’s not long after, she passed away.

As a young child I remember thinking that out of all the diseases, diabetes seemed like the worst.

In Australia 1.7 million people have diabetes. It is the leading cause of preventable blindness and kidney failure requiring dialysis. Heart attack and stroke increase by up to four times with diabetes and there are up to 4,400 amputations every year. 500,000 cases of type 2 diabetes go undiagnosed and 280 people develop diabetes every single day!

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The statistics are not only staggering they’re frightening and make me want to run a mile. Before my own diagnosis, it was easy for me to think that that could never be me.  I was super healthy and fit. I never had to think that my lifestyle might be putting me at risk.

Initially, the doctors thought I had prediabetes. I was told to switch to a low glycemic diet and to make sure my exercise was more cardio based. After three months of hard work, I expected good results. Instead, my levels didn’t comply. Further testing revealed the source of my diabetes was autoimmune and that I had LADA. Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults.

Back then I didn’t bother finding out more about diabetes. As long as I didn’t have symptoms I told myself I’d be fine. What I didn’t know is that symptoms aren’t the only marker and symptoms don’t appear straight away. The complications of diabetes can appear much much later.

If I had been able to get blood tests and health checks at my local pharmacy, I am sure I would have been better informed and more prepared for my diagnosis. Most of us don’t go to the doctor until something’s really wrong and then it could be too late!

iStock_000038440118_FullWhen I heard about Priceline Pharmacy’s new incentive to have trained diabetes advisors in their stores to evaluate people’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes and provide handy tips to avoid it, I was heartened. The first time I had to pick up test strips at my local pharmacy. I was mortified. The person behind the counter knew nothing about my condition. As someone who lives with diabetes 24/7, I want to know that the people in the pharmacy are trained to know the signs, symptoms, and needs of someone who lives with diabetes.  To me, Priceline Pharmacy’s new initiative fits the bill. Their mission is to help people manage their diabetes, be it type 1 or type 2, through being experts in the field, providing education, support and the sale of diabetes consumables.

I love that they asked me to get behind this initiative and to share how important it is to screen for diabetes. I’ve often shared on the blog about my ups and downs. I’m a real person just like you trying to do my best to live with this condition. Any kind of professional support that’s easy to access in my opinion is a bonus.

If you live in Australia I urge you to head over to your local Priceline Pharmacy from 29th September – 25th October to get your FREE diabetes consultation at priceline.com.au/mission-health. Available in store.

with great respect…

.rachel

What brings me to my knees

When I was pregnant and about 6 years into my yoga practice I was asked to start a prenatal yoga class in my local town.  Looking back, I am amazed that everyone survived. I was inexperienced, teaching from a book and making grand claims about how the pain we were experiencing while stretching our legs was exactly like childbirth.

Then I gave birth. The pain was unimaginable and nothing like a hamstring stretch. How could I have been so blind!

Today after my second low blood sugar in two weeks, I feel like that.

Up until three weeks ago, I was a novice. Sure I’d had a few numbers teetering on the edge, but like a graceful dancer about to fall in her first performance, I’d somehow catch myself just in time and leap away with the perfect smile.

But yesterday brought me to my knees.

I’d woken up at 3.30 am with a perfect 5.5 mmol (in diabetes land we call that a Unicorn). I knew it would be better to get up, make myself a snack and get into the day than toss and turn and worry about a low.

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After completing a few administrative tasks and enjoying the efficacy of working before dawn, I took my morning basal dose (long-acting insulin). I’d been working the different spots on my tummy to avoid potential pitfalls. I.e. popping a blood vessel and injecting straight into a vein, and was trying a new technique to spread the skin rather than pinch so the needle didn’t go in too deep.

The needle went in without a hitch, I depressed the plunger and then waited for a count of 10. When I pulled the needle out there was a huge drop of blood and I could see a hard bubble forming under the skin.

Instead of panicking I decided that eating consistently all day would help to keep my levels on track. I enjoyed having a bigger lunch and a few extra snacks. Things were looking good. I’d stayed balanced for most of the day.

Then I took my 2nd Basal shot

I prodded my belly again for the perfect spot. Primed the needle, sunk it in and then… oh… no… ANOTHER BLEEDER! I stayed calm. This time there was no bubble and no mark. It was going to be fine

I happily made my dinner, ate my desert and headed to the computer to do a few tasks before a scheduled online evening meeting with one of my yoga students. I felt a strange itchy sensation on the right hip and just to make sure I wasn’t going low, checked my level.

2.6!!!!!!

Two friggin . 6

The shock of it was worse than the feeling. In fact, I felt absolutely ZERO, nada, nothing! I felt totally normal…I screamed, and my husband came running. We were on repeat (see my last blog). He’s telling me to breathe, stay calm and I’m chugging juice. He reminds me (like he did the last time) I really don’t need to drink the whole 250 ml.

2.6? I’m drinking it!

Then I sit on the couch and wait. My heart has stopped pounding and everything feels surreal.

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I feel sad. I’m sad for babies diagnosed at birth, for the mothers and fathers who get up all through the night to make sure they stay alive. For all the people in the world without insulin. For the adults like me who are diagnosed after a full life who now have to grapple with their new circumstances. For the lack of awareness and understanding that accompanies this disease. For the injustice from pharmaceutical companies who use diabetes for profit. I want to strangle someone, scream and pound the wall. But I’m actually too spaced out. I check my blood sugar every 5 minutes and gratefully watch the numbers on my meter rise in slow steady increments. When I hit 5.5 I relax.

I had no idea, I don’t know what I was thinking…. but I had no idea

Slow steady breaths definitely helped. Stretching out on my mat the next day also helped. Putting my hands together at my heart at the end of my practice just that little bit longer to acknowledge the absolute precious gift of life… that’s helped as well.

But really I don’t know how we can ever recover from the circumstances we find ourselves in until there is a cure. As someone said recently ” Insulin does not solve the problem”

So what does?

Knowing I am not in this alone and that there are millions just like me, doing their best to meet the challenges every day with courage, strength, and grace!

If you’d like to make a difference in the life of someone living with diabetes please consider donating to any one of these amazing charities.

Beyondtype1,  We are Diabetes,  The Betes,  T1international,  Diabetes Sisters

That Mysterious low

It finally happened! I’d heard about it, read about it, feared it, even dreaded it. But one can’t stave off the inevitable. At some point, if you live with diabetes and take insulin you’re going to have a mysterious low. Today it was my turn.

It would have made sense if I’d had lower levels when I woke up or hadn’t thought I’d seen the number 8 mmol just 20 minutes before. I’m not someone who ever crashes fast. In fact most of the time I’m a big flat line. Being a LADA ( Someone who lives with Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) I still produce some insulin and use a low carb diet with moderate protein and fats to keep things balanced. I take a small dose of long acting insulin and time my walks and yoga practice around the time my insulin begins to wear off. Usually, if I am heading towards a low, I feel hungry. So I’ll grab a high protein, hi fat snack to keep things in check. Plus I check my blood sugar all the time. I mean, I use test strips like Candy!

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So what the heck happened?

I have no idea! I noticed my hands were shaking when I sat down at my computer around 6.45 am. I checked my blood sugar levels, had my morning injection, (which had burst a small capillary, but I’d made sure there was no bubble or bruising under the skin) and decided that I should eat something to get grounded. I chose a small avocado which had a bit of a bitter taste, didn’t think much of it until I started feeling like I was itchy under my skin.  I never feel like that… usually, if I’m itchy it’s on my skin and I can see hives or something… but this was like a slow skin crawl… and I was shaking… I cooked an egg to have with the avocado and sat down to eat it and offhandedly remarked to my husband that I was shaking while I was eating which was weird. I didn’t think to check my blood sugar. Instead, I went to the bathroom ( probably too much information here but anyway…) and had a panic attack. Heart racing out of my chest, feeling even weirder I called out to my husband… “I’m feeling weird and now I’m having a panic attack.!”

My husband says, “Let’s go outside and sit in the sun.” So we sit down and he asks me what I’m worried about? I say, “I don’t feel worried it feels physical”…then I lift up my shirt to examine my imaginary hives…the skin keep crawling and I keep feeling weird. But the panic has subsided…we sit in the sun for about 10 minutes and then I think about checking my blood sugar.

My husband is standing right there when we get the results 4.1 mmol…I panic. My husband says, “Check again.” I pull out my other meter, it says 3.8 mmol…I panic more… my husband says, “Check one more time just to be sure.” I check again on my first meter…3.9 mmol.

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I RUN TO THE FRIDGE

My husband is trailing behind saying, “Stay calm don’t panic.”

I don’t listen, I open the fridge find my juice popper ( we have our juice in small bags here in Australia) The straw is missing! URGH!!! I get the scissors and cut the bag open and drink a big gulp. My husband says, “Okay stop there, it will be enough.” I’m like, ” NO! I can drink the whole thing.” I guzzle down the entire 200 gms of juice in about 1 minute. Then I lean against the counter, wild eyed.

I’m thinking to myself… and how long do I have to wait for my blood sugar level to come up?

I carry another juice bag and my meter back to the living room and sit on the couch… trying to figure out what happened. I was sure that the last time I’d checked my level was right before I ate. So I went through the log on my meter. I was shocked! I checked at 6.45 am… and then checked at 8.07 which was when I saw the low.

I’d started having breakfast at 7.30 am… so couldn’t have checked just before I ate. Had I imagined the whole thing?

I’ve heard people say that when you’re low you don’t think like you normally do. But I had no idea what that meant. I remember feeling completely aware of everything that was going on. So it seemed super weird that I didn’t do the one thing I was supposed to do…

CHECK MY BLOOD SUGAR!

And my husband used to me reacting to foods or having panic attacks in the loo didn’t think to ask me to check either.

Once my levels had returned to normal… (well not quite I did overshoot with the 200 gms of juice and am now running at about 9 mmol)  I’ve had a chance to reflect on what worked for me during the mystery low.

  1. I didn’t freak about the skin crawling sensation. I stayed calm and tried to figure out what it was
  2. When I started having the panic attack the first thing I did was calm down and breathe deeply, Then I called my husband
  3. I went outside into nature and put my bare feet on the earth
  4. When I finally did check my blood sugar level, I checked a few times just to make sure it wasn’t a mistake on the meter
  5. I knew exactly where to go to get what I needed, took the remedy and managed not to eat everything in site
  6.  I waited calmly for my levels to return to normal, watched my breath and trusted my body
  7. I decided to do a yoga practice to support my adrenals and to bring more circulation and blood to my brain to help stabilize my levels after the low
  8. I drank quite a bit of water knowing that I would go a bit higher than I liked from the juice to flush excess sugar out of my system
  9.  Lastly, I hugged my husband and counted my blessings for all of the above!

Being a force for positive change

For most of my life, I’ve wanted to be a force for positive change. Instilled in me by my grandfather, he would often remind us how important it was to speak our minds and to question. He taught me to be respectful, thoughtful and to give back and never ever take privilege for granted. Everything can change in a heartbeat.

Last night, when I was sharing with a fellow type 1 friend about my upcoming online yoga challenge, she said: “this challenge is so needed in the world!” It was a sweet compliment but it made me think.

I’ve always seen yoga and yoga practices as life changing, transformative and something that anyone can benefit from. In fact, I can remember when I started teaching teachers I had this goal of training enough people so that everybody in the whole world would do yoga. Nearly 17 years later just about everyone in the world does do yoga.

Well almost.

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So besides all the hype, how can yoga make a difference? Why is it so needed? Because whether we live with a chronic disease or not. We are all suffering from stress and burnout. Everywhere we turn we are bombarded. Bombarded with must do’s and have’s. Sometimes trying to decide where to put my energy, money and time is enough to make me want to sit down, cover my ears and scream, “Enough!”

In my personal experience if yoga can offer one thing it’s simplification

When I keep things simple and eliminate the complications it gives me breathing space. Instead of long drawn out yoga postures which include bending into pretzel shapes. I do the same easy routine every day. It’s nice to add in a more complex move every now and then but I’ve learned it’s not necessary. Some forward bends before dinner and a few moments of quiet reflection prepare me for a good night’s sleep.

Living with diabetes means it’s even more important to stay calm and balanced.

As a yogi and yoga teacher, I’ve learned that understanding how the mind works is key in handling stress and achieving balance. When I first started practicing I learned to meditate and observe my thoughts. Later I learned that watching my thoughts (mindfulness) is just the beginning.

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Even more powerful is knowing who is having the thoughts. Knowing the thinker. No matter how big the thought, the thinker has to be there. Without the thinker what thought?

When life gets overwhelming reminding myself that I am the thinker of the thoughts, puts everything in perspective.

We spend our whole lives obsessed with our thoughts, trying to banish them or tame them. And when we can’t resolve the thoughts our mental health suffers. I can sometimes spend way too long obsessing about my thoughts about diabetes. The quicker I catch myself going off the rails the better. I like to think of it as fishing for thoughts. If a thought starts to swim away I catch it and hold it close. When you try to hang on to a thought it quickly dissipates. Thoughts are ephemeral like that. But when you try not to think about something all you do is think about it more.

Yoga is so powerful in meeting the mind head on. Instead of trying to squash thoughts we can focus on something like the breath, or a sound, or a posture or even work with hand gestures. There are so many ways to bring the mind into a one pointed focus. And the cool thing is that these practices are for everybody.

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When I tell people that I teach yoga I can get a variety of responses but the most common one is Yoga? I’m not good at that. I love sharing that yoga is so much more than the physical practice.

In general, the physical practice is designed to:

  • detoxify and purify the physical body bringing it back to its natural state.
  • help the mind to slow down

On a deeper level, yoga practice suspends for a moment all the ideas, thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves. That’s why we feel so good when we finish the practice. All the thoughts we’ve been getting lost in seem to disappear and we feel calm and peaceful.

Once the nervous system gets the hint that we don’t always need to be in the stress response (fight or flight) we spend more time in the relaxed part of our nervous system.  This means our tendency to habitually react to stressful thoughts, events and experiences also relaxes. This is so helpful when we live with diabetes. The more I can look at the numbers on my meter and stay calm. The less I react to my feelings about diabetes and the better I feel no matter what’s happening.

When I was putting together my upcoming yoga challenge, Better Diabetes Management in 7 steps with Yoga, I thought about what sorts of things I wanted to share. Rather than making each step about a physical postural practice I wanted to focus on the core of what yoga actually does, balance and calm the nervous system.

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In the challenge I’ll be sharing:

About Ayurveda and how to discover your ayurvedic type

A short physical practice to improve circulation

Mudras (hand gestures) for balancing the emotions

How sound (mantra) works to heal the nervous system

A calming breathing practice that you can do anywhere anytime

How to give yourself a nurturing foot massage that promotes deep sleep

And a creative mandala (yantra) exercise to inspire gratitude and devotion

These are the practices I do every day to be a positive force for change in my own life with diabetes and I am so excited to share them with you too.

If you’d like to join the challenge its free and you can sign up here.  

 

 

Why prick when your can scan?

Disclosure: I’ve just returned from the two-day #dx2Melbourne blogging event hosted by Abbot, the makers of the Freestyle libre, a flash glucose monitoring technology which has the tag line, “Why prick when you can scan?” I was sponsored by Abbott to participate in the program. They paid for my flight to Melbourne, put me up in a hotel, gave me two free sensors, a reader, and a goodie bag. I am in no way obligated to write about my experience at the event and the opinions and views expressed here are my own.

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I was first introduced to the freestyle libre flash glucose monitoring system last year by my CDE and Endo. They thought, that being a LADA and still producing some insulin, that it would be interesting to see what sort of data they could glean from seeing my levels plotted on a graph over time. They were also curious to see how my yoga practice and low carb diet would affect things.

The two-week trial went like a dream. My levels stayed in range, I hardly knew the sensor was there and for the first time since being diagnosed I slept through the night. When I went back for the evaluation they asked why I thought my levels had been so good? (because truly they’ve NEVER been that good)

All I could think of was that my fear of going low had been taken out of the equation. Overall I was less stressed and more confident.

After going through quite a few sensors and having a range of experiences, both great and not so great since the initial trial, I was excited to attend the #dx2Melbourne event and hear more about the product. I was also very curious to meet other bloggers who live with type 1 diabetes. In fact, I was so excited that I felt like one of those kids who are about to meet their pen pals for the first time at camp.

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I think I might need to devote a whole other blog to what it felt like to meet some of my diabetes heroes for the first time but in a nut shell… it was inspiring, intense, reassuring and heartfelt. Each person manages their life with diabetes in a unique way. Our discussions were robust (a word that everyone used to describe our passionate feelings) and there was definitely a lot of strong opinions. What I loved most was that none of us shied away from expressing different viewpoints on any given topic.

Being new to the discussion (most of the bloggers were at the #dx2Sydney event when the freestyle libre launched last year) I found myself stepping back, taking a breath and pondering.

One thing that stood out strongly was that because we are bloggers in the diabetes space we have to be aware of what’s happening with diabetes not only in Australia but globally.

That awareness inspires advocacy.

Most people living with diabetes aren’t going beyond what doctors are telling them or seeking out communities and or more information.  It certainly didn’t occur to me when I was first diagnosed. In fact, I remember one doctor telling me NOT to google diabetes and that I could live normally as long as I took insulin, ate well and exercised.

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When Greg Johnson the CEO of Diabetes Australia spoke during the event he disclosed that the issues at the founding of the organization in 1957 are the issues we are still dealing with today, “Insulin does NOT solve the problem.”

That’s why gatherings, support groups and events like these are so important. I can’t begin to express what it feels like to sit at lunch with people who casually check their blood sugar, and then take their shot. No one judges or questions because what we do to manage our diabetes is part of our every day lives.

So besides making lots of new dia-buddies and normalizing my life with diabetes, this event did have great takeaways that I’d love to share.

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First up was Mahmood Kazemi, senior director of Abbott global medical & scientific affairs. I’m not really a statistics gal but I was impressed when he shared that after gathering unidentifiable data from over 55,343 readers (the device you scan over the sensor to find out your BG level) an average of 16.3 scans a day affords better glucose control and lower A1c’s.

He also mentioned that things like ingesting large amounts of vitamin C, exposing the sensor to sunlight, or fast changes in environment like going from a dark to light space can throw off sensor readings. Abbott takes sensor faults seriously and sometimes they even reverse engineer a faulty sensor.

There were some questions from the group about scar tissue build up around the sensors, allergic reactions and whether Abbot will be recommending other sites, besides the backs of the arms.  Apparently, they haven’t tested accuracy “officially” beyond the arm sites but anecdotal evidence suggests that the accuracy remains consistent wherever you put it.

One of our Bloggers, Matt was keen to know when the sensor would have an alarm Mahmood reminded us that the device is not designed to be CGM, it’s a different technology with a different purpose.

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As a group we discussed the pro’s and cons of blogging…and later we talked more with guest speaker Isabelle Skinner about online personas and how the digital community can bring people together to create change. We had another robust discussion about the difference between coercion and saying things like, “this worked for me to help me manage my diabetes.” And what it means to be a trustworthy genuine source of information online.

A highlight of the event was heading into the Melbourne CBD to learn how to create great images for our blogs as was the live webcast on the emotional side of living with diabetes with Lisa Robins who specializes in diabetes clinical psychology.

The big question?

Did we think it would be useful to have professional psychological support on diagnosis (YES!) and what are ways that we stay positive with diabetes.

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Something I shared was how gratitude had really helped me. Focusing on what’s working rather than what’s not and giving myself a break…

Which included not being offended when the planned yoga for diabetes class with the group early Sunday morning was canceled.  I didn’t get a chance to ask but am curious to know why no one wanted to attend the free class. The lack of attendance has sparked a determination in me to address the issue of ignorance around this word YOGA and what people feel it represents.

More food for that in blogs to come….

In the meantime, I would highly recommend checking out what my fellow bloggers had to say about their experience of the event.

Renza of Diabetogenic

Frank of Type 1 Writes

Matt of Afrezza Down Under

Drew of Drew’s Daily Dose

Georgie of Lazy Pancreas

Kim of 1 Type 1 and Oz Diabetes Online Community

Melinda of Twice Diabetes

Tanya of The Leveled Life

Helen of Diabetes Can’t Stop Me

Alana of The Enlightened Diabetic

With great respect… Rachel

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P.S.  What if there was an easy way to feel better, have extra confidence and be more relaxed about managing your diabetes?

Yoga absolutely helped me and I’m convinced it can help you too

Join me on September 1, 2017 for my free yoga challenge

“Better Diabetes Management in 7 steps with Yoga”

Grateful I am alive in spite of diabetes

Yesterday I did my first presentation for Yoga teachers on how to meet the needs of someone living with diabetes in a yoga class. It was a long and carefully thought out presentation. I wanted to cover a landscape which is unknown, often treacherous and has, to be brutally honest, no happy endings. At the end of the session, I opened it up to the audience for questions.

The first one?

Do you see what’s happened to you as a blessing?

I am sure the look on my face said it all.

Having a baby was a blessing
Meeting my husband was a blessing
Discovering yoga… a blessing

Type 1 diabetes? Not so much…

Later when everyone else had left she stayed behind. She was curious to know how I had come to terms with a condition that obviously was not something I chose or even wanted?

I shared that when I finally comprehended that I had type 1 diabetes, (it took me 6 years to find out that that was what I had) I felt relieved. Finally, I had an answer to the varied and confusing symptoms that not one health practitioner or medical doctor seemed to understand. But understanding what was wrong with me didn’t mean that relief translated into silver linings and rainbows.

It reminded me of when I was little and my mom used to try to get me to swallow a pill. I used to hunker down, screw up my face and flat out refuse. I’d rather die than swallow one of those damn things. So instead I’d take medicine in liquid form, or a suppository or even a skin cream.

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Eventually, though that damn pill didn’t come in any other form and I had to face my fears and swallow. It took guts, willpower and a lot of love and encouragement from my mom to take that pill.

Now I swallow like a pro.

That’s how it felt when I finally let go and accepted my diagnosis. I swallowed it whole.

And I still do….

Every day I wake up and roll with the punches…

Like today when my reading is higher than I’d like it to be and I know that it’s better to accept than fight. So I do my yoga practice…and smile at my husband because he has my back

…and take as much time as I need to be grateful…

Grateful I am alive in spite of diabetes

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What if there was an easy way to feel better, have extra confidence and be more relaxed about managing your diabetes?

Yoga absolutely helped me and I’m convinced it can help you too

Join me on September 1, 2017 for my free yoga challenge

”  Better Diabetes Management in 7 steps with Yoga”

With great respect…Rachel