You Are That

The other day I was scrolling through Facebook and I was captivated by a song. Within minutes my toes were tapping, my body was swaying and I was humming along. Listening was pure bliss and total happiness. At that moment I forgot myself, my life with diabetes or anything else for that matter.

The benefits of yoga are many, however, the benefits are not just the product of targeted exercise or the marrying of mind, breath, and body.

They are the direct result of choosing to immerse yourself in a focussed activity that momentarily suspends the idea you have of yourself. That idea is a conglomeration of a lifetime of experiences, conditioning, and beliefs. In psychological terms, it is referred to as your identity.  When our identity is suspended and we are no longer identified we feel blissful, Ananda, because we are the bliss.

Bliss is not a state-it’s the nature of awareness and who you are.

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So what is your bliss? Is it music, dancing, cooking, laughing, being outdoors, playing with friends? Whatever is blissful is only blissful because of you.

Let that sink in for a moment.

It’s easy with this condition to focus on what isn’t bliss.

Like daily finger pricks, site fails, too many lows and highs, carb guesses, medical costs the never-ending 24/7 vigilance of a condition we didn’t ask for and can’t get away from that leads to burnout, depression, and anxiety

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But that kind of focus, the one where we naturally go isn’t doing anyone any favors

I’ll say it again.

Whatever you see as blissful is only blissful because of YOU. Without you, there is no bliss.

The next time you do something you love, and you find yourself forgetting everything and you are swept up in the magic of just being.

Stop and remember yourself.  YOU ARE THAT.

with great respect…

rachel

Want to bliss out? Check out my yoga playlist on Spotify curated especially for you. Click the image below or head here

I’ve come a long way baby

Today is my Diaversary. Ten years of living with diabetes and baby, I’ve come a long way. When I was diagnosed, neither I nor my health care providers knew a lot about the type of diabetes I had. Type 1 LADA has such a slow onset that it can appear as prediabetes or even type 2.

Ten years ago I had no idea the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) existed either so I never reached out for support. Besides my motto was, “Yoga teachers don’t get diabetes or if they do, yoga fixes it.” Thinking this way was wrong on every count. Looking back I’m glad I hit rock bottom because it took a crisis to wake me up.

Even though it was tough and took a while, the path I’ve gone on has made me more compassionate and inspired my mission to support others living with this condition to thrive.

This morning I jumped on Instagram to tell my story. Check it out below.

With great respect…

rachel

 

How Do You Plan to Mark World Diabetes Day?

Today is November 14, World Diabetes Day. A day to shed light on what it means to live with this condition. And this year the build-up to “the day” has been more intense than ever. Friends in the blogosphere have been writing daily blogs, sharing memes, hashtags and so much more. I’ve been contributing too through daily Instagram and Facebook posts with the hashtag #makediabetesvisible and #diabetesawarenessmonth.

As I explore the different aspects of my life with diabetes I can’t help thinking…

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How lucky I am to be alive.

How before 1921 and the discovery of Insulin my condition would have been a death sentence.

How living with diabetes has widened my community and connected me with people who are making a difference in the lives of others.

How it’s humbled me, made me more compassionate, sensitive and taught me to put myself first.

How it has made me healthier, more resilient and courageous.

How it has inspired me to be honest with myself.

How its deepened my connection with my husband, son, parents, and friends.

How I’ve experienced vulnerability as strength.

How yoga has helped me cope, been my anchor and helped preserve my immune system.

How western medicine and medications which manage diabetes are life-saving and non-negotiables that everyone should have access to.

How charities and organizations that raise money for diabetes and do so tirelessly should be given the recognition and financial support they deserve.

And how even though there are no days off with diabetes, one can go beyond diagnosis to live a happy, adventurous and fulfilled life.

How do you plan to mark #WorldDiabetesDay?

with great respect…

rachel

Idaho Graffiti 2008
Photo by Matthias Boettrich

 

One step closer

I’m back and so is the blog. Thanks to everyone who participated in our Diayogi Dialogue Summit. The feedback was phenomenal and even though I created and launched the summit I felt like I was a student along with everyone else.

I now have more yoga management tools under my belt to help me with the highs and lows. The Summit will be listed in the menu tab of the blog until the end of November to coincide with Diabetes Awareness Month so if you haven’t had a chance to watch all the episodes yet just go here and scroll down to find them all.

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Today marks the start of Diabetes Awareness Month and this is also the month that I was diagnosed 10 years ago. I feel like I have grown in leaps and bounds since then. From sitting in my endo’s office in total denial to being on a full insulin regime and getting my A1c into the normal range.

If you live with diabetes you know this isn’t easy. For me, yoga has been the key ingredient and learning to trust my body and life itself. As I’ve been upping my fast acting insulin doses, introducing more foods and finding the right balance between rest, work and home life, I finally feel in control of how I manage my daily life with this condition.

At my last doctor’s appointment, my doctor was encouraging. He celebrated my A1c results with me while offering a different kind of goal for my next visit. He said his aim is to help me normalize my life with diabetes so that injecting and checking my levels is a seamless experience.  He compared it to the everyday routine of brushing my teeth. I had to smile when he said this. I mean who can compare 7 injections a day to the painless swish swish of tooth brushing? But still, I get the gist.

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As I get used to fine-tuning my doses and the timing of the shots it gets easier and easier to get on with the day and the enjoyment of this precious life. I may not be a pro just yet but I’m definitely one step closer.

with great respect…

rachel

 

Hypo Hot Mess

You’d think I’d be used to being on the razor’s edge but I’m not.  Like a mother who forgets the pain of childbirth, I keep forgetting what a fine line it is to live with diabetes. Maybe it’s because my memory is selective, or that I still find myself going into denial. More likely it’s because I’m burnt out from all the nitty gritty stuff I have to do to stay alive.

Hypos are the worst. Every time a low comes on I think, “Sh…t  I’m going low. What time is it? Can I wait 15 minutes and then eat lunch. Nope? Ok, just take ½ a tab. That’s probably not enough. Wait 15 min. Sh…t still going low take another ½… No, strike that, take 1 tab. Wait 15 more minutes (by now I actually feel low… sensation of ants crawling all over my body, mind like a wobbly wet piece of jelly). Ok, just take another tab and be done with it. (check my blood sugar 10 times in 15 minutes). Crap my fingers hurt.

After it comes back up I cry a lot. Later I think about adjusting my basal but worry that if I do I’ll go high. Eventually, I adjust my basal, wait to see what happens and tell myself, “Next time I’m going to take ¼ tab. Next time I’ll trust my body and my intuition. Next time I’ll take less insulin.”

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My last big hypo happened right before I was supposed to teach a yoga workshop on mudras ( yogic hand gestures). I was sitting in front of 15 experienced yoga teachers while furiously checking my blood sugar. The trend arrow on my mySugr app wasn’t looking good.

I freaked out! I’d driven all that way, spent weeks preparing had gathered an awesome group of yogis, only to have the whole thing crumble because of my broken pancreas and stupid carb to insulin miscalculation. I kept telling myself, “Push through you’re stronger than this maybe it won’t keep plummeting. Start teaching you’ll be fine.” But no matter how strong I thought I was, I couldn’t fight reality. My body wasn’t going to kick in and save the day. I had to share through my vulnerability. It was either that or bale.

Stepping up meant sharing with the group that I was in the middle of a hypo, that I’d taken some glucose tabs and had to wait 15 minutes before I could teach. I felt awkward, my brain wasn’t clear enough to communicate, but the smiling and compassionate faces of the group gave me heart.

“Living yoga is about being with what is,” I continued, “and sometimes ‘what is’ sucks.”

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Luckily within a few minutes, I could feel the glucose bringing my brain back online. The class flew by and was loads of fun, but later I felt drained, weak and really emotional.

Before my diagnosis, I would get tired after teaching, but it was a good tired. The kind where you knew you had worked hard enough to deserve a rest. Hypo fatigue is something else. 24 hours later I still find it hard to focus, my nervous system is overly sensitive and I’m prone to panic attacks. In a way, it’s akin to burning oneself accidentally. At contact, it burns sharp and hot, but that’s not the problem. It’s the lingering throbbing pain that’s tough to withstand. Plus Hypos aren’t always just a one-off thing. When a Hypo, builds on another Hypo it takes days to recover. It’s a challenge not to lose heart or worry that I’ll never get on top of things.

As I mention continuously in my blog posts I really have to take my hat off to yoga. The physical practices of posture and breathing definitely help. Lately, I have been using the deeper practices like mudra (gesture) and mantra (sound) too. Holding my hands in certain positions really calms my emotions and repeating a mantra like OM is soothing for all the systems in the body. In fact, so soothing that chanting lowers my blood sugar.

In honor of being a Hypo Hot Mess, this weeks offering is a simple 5 element mudra sequence. As you go through each mudra feel harmony coming into the body, relax and breathe. You can do this anywhere anytime, focusing on one element for your practice or including all five.

With great respect…

Rachel

 

Back on track with yoga

A few days ago I hurt my back. I was overzealous and lifted a couch and twisted slightly the wrong way. Immediately my back went into spasm and I had to lie down. Never mind the fact that I had to teach two classes the next day, or that I hadn’t even landed in our new home or unpacked my bags.

I don’t hurt myself often but when I do I get annoyed. The frustration is in the fact that I could see it coming. I am a compulsive over-doer, overachiever and I have been working for years to curb my enthusiasm. My husband calls me “Squirrel”. He says it’s because I never stop moving.

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In yoga, the ones who love to do are called Pitta types. Pitta is composed of fire and a small amount of water. We are literally on fire, passionate, hot and often don’t stop until it’s too late.

With all the excitement of the last 9 months, I am so glad I live and breathe yoga. Without my practice, I’d probably have done more damage than strain my back for a day or two. No matter what goes on in my life, no matter how tough things get having a variety of yoga practices in my toolkit means I never hit empty.

My first stop is always the breath. Whether it’s waiting for my levels to come up from a low, or dealing with a dreaded hot flush ( yep… I am post-menopausal) or just feeling like it’s all getting too much. Stopping, dropping and taking ten slow breaths are my kind of pushups.

And it’s not just any kind of breaths it’s ten full complete breaths. I wrote about it a while back in this post and video practice. You’ll love it!

Next, I get my stretch on. Stretching is much more than just a feel-good exercise. It super connects you to the highway of your nervous system. The nervous system is designed to be your ally. When you need energy it ignites you so you have the fuel you need to get stuff done. It’s also your ultimate chill pill, enabling you to move through life without ‘sweating the small stuff”. The nervous system takes quite a beating when you live with diabetes. All the fluctuating blood sugars wreak havoc throwing you into the fight or flight response. Most of us, diabetes or not spend about 80% of our time in flight or flight. It should be the reverse. Stretching signals the nervous system to relax. Clasping your hands and reaching your arms up overhead and leaning from side to side is enough to bring you back to the relaxed part of your nervous system.

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My last and most favorite practice is to work with Mudra. Mudras are hand gestures which also work with the nervous system. Bringing the hands into specific positions concentrates the mind and calms the emotions. Learning to do yoga with your hands is the easiest and best kind because you don’t have to be fit or flexible to practice. Recently I shared a mudra sequence with patients recovering from various forms of cancer. Most had limited mobility and energy. Being able to bring the hands into a shape was blissfully relaxing and restorative. Here’s a short mudra practice I posted on the blog if you’d like to try it.

With some deep breath work, stretching and my mudra practice I’m no longer flat on my back. Phew, it feels good to be pain-free again.

I love how Yoga always gets me back on track!

with great respect…

rachelIMG_3616

I am lucky to be alive

I’ve waited all week to write this post because it’s about time. Time, I threw my hat in the ring for National Diabetes Week to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes.

My personal diagnosis story started long before my actual diagnosis. It began with a sense that something wasn’t quite right with my body. I had always been a frequent visitor to the toilet and had a tendency to be on the thin side. I told people I had an overactive bladder and yoga kept me fit. It took a total exhaustive collapse for me to sit up and take notice. But even then I refused to take action. It was my husband who took me to the doctor and suggested I have some blood tests.

My doctor at diagnosis didn’t have a clue. He shouted the word “diabetes” at me and shoved a few pamphlets in my direction. I remember leaving his office dumbstruck. How could this be happening? Was he for real?

Luckily I was able to see an endocrinologist a few days later. He looked over all my blood work and scratched his head. I don’t think he’d ever met someone in their 40’s as healthy as me with any kind of diabetes. He advised me to get a glucometer and to keep testing. We were to keep on eye on things before drawing conclusions.

With a stricter diet and lots of yoga, I managed to keep my levels in check for at least a year. But I wasn’t out of the woods. A GAD antibody test revealed Islet cell antibodies. That meant the source of my diabetes was autoimmune. I remember asking my doctor if I could reverse it. The slow nod of his head said it all. “As long as your levels stay in range you won’t need medication. But eventually, you will.”

I played the waiting game for 6 more years… waiting for the symptoms to worsen, for the levels to rise. With every blood test, I battled to get my levels down. Then I burnt out. I stopped going to the doctor telling myself I had everything under control.

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in 2014 at 46 kg, 6 months before I started Insulin and 6 years post-diagnosis

In 2014, I broke down. I started peeing several times a night, I was down to 46 kilos, I’d stopped eating and increased my exercise. Nothing worked but I didn’t give up. As long as I had energy I assumed diabetes hadn’t got me.

Man, was I wrong.

Diabetes had held me in its grip from day one. If only I’d known sooner the ramifications of delaying insulin. How I might have preserved more beta cells. If only I’d understood how much damage high blood sugar causes to the nervous system, cells, and organs. Then I wouldn’t have mild neuropathy or such trouble with my digestion.

It took a crisis to get my attention and a community to bring me back to vibrant health. The moment I started insulin was the day my life changed for the better. I found a thriving community of people living with Type 1 in the blogosphere and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I reached out, asked questions and informed myself about my condition. As I grew in knowledge, I realized that with better information, more resources and awareness around type 1 diabetes I might have taken action sooner.

My biggest message for anyone out there is to be aware of the 4 T’s  ( Tired, Thirsty, Thinner and Toilet) which can affect anyone with any type of diabetes. If you live with type 2 catching these symptoms early is key. Some people living with type 2 can go up to 7 years before detection. Early detection of type 1 saves lives.

I wish I could say I believe there is a cure around the corner. I am hopeful for sure. but hoping doesn’t change the present moment. For now, cure or no cure. I live with diabetes. I have come to terms with my diagnosis and gone on to live my best, happiest most positive life.

I tell myself every day. I am lucky to be alive!

with great respect….

rachel

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Striving for gold

It’s been a long road. From my initial diagnosis in 2008, starting long-acting insulin in 2014, to finally biting the bullet by adding short-acting this past January,  I’ve reached a milestone. A thumbs up from my diabetes HCP.

I have never put so much hard work into anything in my life. Counting carbs, measuring up minute insulin doses, Intermittent fasting, diligently sticking to my twice daily yoga practice. Staying hydrated, sleeping 8 hours a night and doing everything I can in the middle of a non-stop book launch tour to avoid stress.

It’s been a marathon!

Hearing, “Your diabetes is under control.” didn’t make me hoot and holler or give me permission to drop the ball. Instead, I feel apprehensive. What if I can’t keep it up? What if it was a fluke? Even more pressing is the thought,  “I can do better.”

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But then what? Getting my levels in the ideal range is a worthy goal. As hard as I’ve worked in the last 6 months I know I’d have to work even harder.  The big question right now is; am I up for it? Or… is it okay to paddle for a while?

I’m ready to pause. Pause perfection, pushing, expectation, assumption, hope, striving.  Ready to receive, let love, reflection, acceptance and guidance flood in.

When I was studying ballet in my early teens and starting pointe work  I assumed that the elegance of balancing on the end of my toes would be the ultimate pinnacle. In reality, it was unglamorous. My toes were often bloodied and bruised. I developed bunions and callouses and would wince and limp for days and weeks after practice. I learned over time to distance myself from the physical pain and to shut down any feelings of inadequacy around the shape and strength of my feet. It was in the depersonalization that I mastered the ability to balance and turn. It wasn’t easy but I did it.

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I feel the same about living day in and day out with diabetes. Taking a few steps back, a breath, a moment of stillness when I feel everything backing up on me means I can pause and begin again.

Even though I’ve spent the last 6 months striving for the gold standard and achieved it. I’m ready to create and adjust.

That’s the essence of what it means to be flexible in yoga practice. When a posture feels insurmountable, you don’t push to your edge. Instead, you back off, warm up the surrounding muscles and work up to the pose over days, weeks, even months. A slow build yields lasting results.

So instead of cutting back more on my carbs, increasing my insulin doses and watching every mouthful. I’ve got a plan. I’m going to be like the tortoise in Aesop’s fable, the Tortoise, and the Hare.

Slow and steady wins the race.

with great respect…

rachel

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The Power of Choice

Last week I was invited to an information day in preparation for the launch of the Ypsomed Insulin pump in Australia.

Full disclosure: Ypsomed paid for my hotel accommodation and transportation to attend the info day without any expectation that I would write about their product. Any of the opinions expressed here are my own and come fully locked and loaded.

From the onset, meeting the folks from Ypsomed was a sheer pleasure. The company is born and bred in Switzerland. Everything in Switzerland is nicely organized, the people are extremely polite and the scenery is stunning.

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The motto of the company is, “to make life easier and simpler with diabetes” Customer care is the forefront of their focus. Hence the reason for gathering a room full of diabetes bloggers to tell them about the pump and to garner opinions about the product.

I was impressed by the opening statements from Eberhard Bauer, the senior vice president in marketing and sales. Ypsomed is a family business making high-quality products. Pumps are manufactured in Switzerland and local customer support centers are in every country.

The look and feel of this pump is stunning. Lightweight with an easy touch screen, it’s discreet and easily tucked away in a pocket or bra. The inserter for the infusion set is similar to the freestyle libre inserter in that at the press of a button, it’s in. The glue used to secure the set is skin friendly too. The infusion set also has a 360 spin for the free flow of movement.

I haven’t tried a pump yet, but I am certainly interested in learning more about it. I’d have to change the insulin I’m on, which knowing me would require more bravery (I find it really hard to make changes to my diabetes management due to fear rather than just not liking a change in routine). In spite of my frustrating phobia, I am super curious to see how it would affect my diabetes management and even more interested as to how it would work with my active yoga practice.

Even though I am not a pumper I think everyone in Australia should have options to choose how they want to manage their diabetes. Ypsomed is definitely providing that freedom of choice.

If you’d like to know more about the product some of my fellow Aussie Diabetes Bloggers have written some great in-depth posts not only detailing the pros but the cons as well.

Check out Mel’s experiences hereAsh’s hereFrank’s here  David’s here and Renza’s here    

I came away from the event not only feeling inspired by the company and their mission but by my friends and fellow bloggers. They weren’t shy about asking questions or giving their opinions. As I continue to wade in deeper into a life with diabetes I am finding incredible value in peer support, trusting that my way of management is perfect for me and that we all deserve to have simple and effective management tools at our disposal.

photo for blog on ypsomed

with great respect…

rachel

 Go here to find out more about the Ypsomed pump.

When Gratitude Steps In

About two weeks ago I had my worst low ever. We were on the road driving. Luckily I wasn’t at the wheel but being somewhere between Jugiong and Gundagai (yes those are names of Aussie towns) it was still scary.

As it was happening I kept racking my brain trying to figure out the why. I hadn’t over injected for lunch or had I? Did I take an extra unit of basal insulin in the rush to leave that morning? I’d already had a near low the day before. Was I just that little bit more sensitive to Insulin from our sunset walk the evening before?

Whatever the reason, the one and a half tabs I popped weren’t working fast enough.

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I had to play the waiting game. We stopped at a fancy pub and I made an obligatory visit to the loo. Every time I go low I might as well have a tiger chasing me. The feeling is exactly the same. While in the lavatory I kept a close eye on my levels but sadly the numbers weren’t looking good. I couldn’t make my trusty mySugr app lie. The numbers surrounded in color-coded circles kept going lower. Orange had been replaced by red.

I popped another tab while my body began to shake. Everything looked blurry, I felt blurry and at the same time, my thoughts were like sharp bubbles that I could catch and get lost in. I made my way back to my husband who was waiting for me at a lone picnic table and told him I was still low. He held me and we waited. I kept testing and finally ten minutes later it came up a few points. We got back in the car. Disaster averted.

The rest of the day I felt fragile like I’d been poked with a stick. The days that followed were filled with unmanageable high readings. And I was scared to take insulin. I took it but I was still scared. I went to sleep at a higher level just to be on the safe side. And when I woke up higher I didn’t correct. Instead, I waited for it to gradually coast down by midday. Every time I tried to gather the courage to be a bit more accurate with my dosing I couldn’t do it.

And it dawned on me. This is what burnout looks and feels like.

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It’s taken me two weeks to find my confidence again. Gratitude has been the first step. In the depth of the low, I remember thinking quite clearly how grateful I was that I could still think clearly enough to test my blood sugar, that I had glucose tabs on hand, that my partner would come find me if I hadn’t come out. I felt grateful for my breath which I began to watch rising and falling in my chest. As the next two weeks unfolded, I was even more grateful for my daily yoga practice.

The ability to step on the mat and feel peace, calmness, stillness. The reminder that the experiencer, the seer, the one having the highs and lows is unaffected. As much as I want to believe I am my body, I cannot be my body. My body is something I have. As much as I think I am my thoughts about my disease. My thoughts are something I have. As much as I want to think that I am the disease, diabetes is something I have.

The depth of gratitude cannot be underestimated. I know it is a way of being that works in any situation, any crisis. I believe it is an essential yoga practice.

If you want to know more about gratitude and how it shapes my life with diabetes I recently sat down with my good friend Lauren Tober the creator of A Daily Dose of Bliss and A Grateful Life Podcast to share about Yoga, Diabetes and why I practice in my P.J’s.  Listen to the podcast and if you’d like to join us on a Daily Dose of Bliss registrations are open now.

Podcast on Gratitude with Rachel Zinman

with great respect…

rachel