Travel ain’t for sissies

It’s been a while so I’ll cut to the chase. I’ve been in South Africa for two weeks and besides the stunning landscape, incredibly pure air and peace and quiet, my body has been on strike. Within three days of arriving I had a head cold, outrageous levels and my internal plumbing backed up. I’m using a euphemism to save face but seriously, international travel ain’t for sissies.

Just to set your mind at ease my levels have returned to normal and my cold is gone. But my digestion has been slow to move. I’m chalking it up to the drier environment (we are in a Mediterranean climate here), the change in food and the fact that travel can rough things up quite a bit.

Now that I’ve totally exposed myself and the machinations of my digestion, I thought I’d share with you a sequence which has helped me to get things moving again. It’s fast paced and you will need some knowledge of yoga postures to move through it, but it definitely works. It’s also a great abdominal work out!

Check it out and let me know what you think

with great respect…Rachel

I can’t do it alone!

Why does it take crisis to realise we can’t do it alone? Even though we come here and leave here all by ourselves, the reality is, we can’t survive without the touch, love, friendship and support of others. It’s primal and it’s necessary.

Living with a chronic condition makes things even tougher. No-one can know the heart wrenching emotions, the frustration, the feelings of helplessness. Yet we soldier on, smiling, laughing even being there for our friends. People think we’re strong, amazing, they admire our resolve. They think we can do or be anything.

How many times have you gone home after a social outing and thought. “ This sucks, it’s hard, I’m so tired of having to be in control, when it’s so out of my control.”

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I’m writing this because this is how I felt for 6 years after my diagnosis. I was the only one I knew living with diabetes. I didn’t reach out once. I pretended I was normal and thought that if I tried hard enough I’d stop having diabetes. Heck it wasn’t even there. I fooled everyone else too. My friends and family saw me struggling but no-one thought I couldn’t beat it. Once my brother was brave enough to say, ‘Why don’t you just suck it up and go on insulin?’ My angry reply? ‘It’s complicated OKAY !’

Looking back I was misinformed, living in isolation and believing the stories I made up in my head.

Yoga definitely helped. It gave me breathing space. It calmed my nerves. It helped me to grieve. The minute I got on the mat and started stretching and bringing my mind to my breath. I came out of isolation. I felt connected, peaceful.

And yoga helped me to reach out. Surely there was someone else out there like me who was living with diabetes and loved yoga. My first attempts at connection were modest. I looked online and found someone. She looked like a nice person. I sent her a message. I waited for a reply.

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We made a connection, swapped stories and I followed the thread. When you try hard enough to thread an eye through a needle eventually it works. And in the process of stitching gradually all the little pieces of fabric come together into a fabulous garment. That’s the miracle of sewing, what appears seperate becomes whole.

With yoga it’s the opposite. The true purpose of the practice is not to stitch up all the little pieces till you reach a point of wholeness.  The practices of yoga are the reminder that you are nothing but wholeness, completeness with or without the practice.

What I had to come to terms with in my own life was that isolating myself wasn’t actually going to help me accept my diagnosis. I had to get that I couldn’t do it alone. I needed help and I needed to ask for it too.

And so here I am. I’ve spent over a year working on a book which shares the depth of my personal journey from diagnosis to acceptance with an in depth guide as to how yoga helped me do it.

A how to guide for anyone wanting to bring yoga into their daily diabetes management plan. To get the book published I need help, yours!

If you love yoga like I do and want other people with diabetes to benefit then I’d love you to come onboard and  pledge your support. You don’t have to have diabetes or even know someone with diabetes to get behind the project. Every little donation counts.

I truly can’t do it alone.

Want to know more? Check out the video below and visit www.pozi.be/yoga4diabetes

What are your non-negotiables ?

Hello 2016! I wish I could say the year started off all calm and cosy, but it’s taken me nearly two weeks to get my levels down after our christmas day celebrations. Don’t even asked me why…  sometimes I just have to give myself a break and be okay about swimming upstream. Amidst the pure frustration of looking at numbers I do not like I’ve realized there are some things that I can rely on.  These are my non-negotiables and I’m absolutely sure they keep me anchored amidst my personal version of diabetes distress.

non negotiable at the ebach

I’m a stickler for routine. According to ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, one of the best ways to stay balanced and grounded is to create a routine and stick to it. Go to bed around the same time each night and wake up around the same time each morning. I say around because we can’t always predict when we’ll wake up or get tired. What I have noticed though, is that once you tell the body to sleep and wake up at specific times it actually does it. If you show the body whose boss it will acquiesce.

Be prepared with food. Life is so busy that skipping a meal or not having something healthy on hand can either make or break you. Planning out your meals and being prepared means you can go anywhere, be anywhere and relax. I can’t think of anything more stressful then being out somewhere and there’s absolutely nothing I can eat. I’m talking road stop, in the middle of nowhere and carbs carbs carbs. My non-negotiable is to always have snacks on hand that I like and make me feel good. A few months ago I wrote up a recipe for Bliss balls during diabetes blog week. These babies go with me everywhere and are packed with protein and good fats.

Get into an exercise regime that works for you and do it every day. The whole exercise insulin thing is quite a mystery. It takes time to find out how exercise affects your levels. And there are so many factors at play. For some people exercise reduces levels drastically, for others it levels everything out and for some it pushes levels up. It’s not a one size fits all.  Checking your levels before and after exercise and testing how exercise affects you at different times of the day can really help to give you more assurance that you’re not going to go low or high. I do a breathing practice in the morning, take a walk late afternoon and then do a short twenty minute yoga practice before dinner. How do I find the time? I just do. It’s my non negotiable. Yoga brings my mind and body together into a continuous stream of presence. Being present to what is happening in my body draws me out of fearful and distressing thoughts. If I didn’t give myself that luxury every day I don’t think I’d cope as well as I do.

My last non- negotiable is making as much time available as possible for fun. Fun could be anything. Right now it’s my addiction to watching the TV series, Nashville. I never thought I’d be a country music fan, but I’m having so much fun. I’m also loving summers here in Australia and a little afternoon walk through a rainforest to the beach. A simple swim and laugh with my beloved is priceless.

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With all the hype around the start of the year, new years intentions and all that jazz, we know that there’s nothing new about managing diabetes. But what you can do is make a fresh start and decide to add something new, creative and supportive to your daily management plan. That’s where Yoga comes in.  Yoga is so much more than a practice, its meaning and purpose is to bring you home. Home to your body, your breath and the simplicity of being. Being yourself.

So did I mention that yoga is my biggest non negotiable? That’s why I’ve spent the last year writing a book about how yoga can be the perfect compliment to your daily diabetes management plan. I’m in the final stages of production and I’d love you to be involved. I’m launching a crowdfunding campaign in late January so that you can pre-order copies of the book . I’d be thrilled if you would help me help people with all types of diabetes to get on top of their game.

If you’re interested in getting in on all the prelaunch excitement, I’ll be sending out emails to let you know when and how you can be involved.  Sign up here to find out more.

In the mean time. I’d love to know… what are your non-negotiables?

with great respect… Rachel

Do You Love a Challenge?

I’m in Switzerland to teach Yoga at the moment. I’ve travelled for most of my life and have always enjoyed the different experiences that travel engenders. I even secretly enjoy the packing and unpacking. But since my diagnosis in 2008 travel has forced me to go way beyond my comfort zone.

At first I had to watch my blood sugar like a hawk.  It was like walking on the edge of a slip stream. I didn’t have the help of Insulin, so all I knew was that If I stayed on a strict diet I could keep things in range.

Now imagine you’re a yoga teacher, you teach on weekends and are hosted by a variety of studios, some of whom you’ve never been to before. Not only do you teach in western countries like Australia and Europe you travel to India and Bali flying between 12- 24 hrs to get there. The diabetic meals on planes suck, so you travel with pre-cooked food and as soon as you hit the ground, you head to the nearest supermarket to stock up. And you hope and pray that the apartment you went to extra trouble to rent has decent cookware and a working fridge.

It’s not the ideal scenario for anyone, let alone a clean living, healthy yogini whose diabetic to boot!

I used to  tell my students and hosts that I had “ blood sugar “ issues. Then a bit later I admitted I was pre diabetic, emphasising that I had high hopes that it could be reversed. It was hard not to feel ashamed or guilty every time I taught.

But now thats all changed.

8 months on Insulin and I feel liberated! It’s like I’ve taken my top off and gone braless. I feel completely shameless in my classes sharing that I am an Insulin dependant Type 1 diabetic. And further to that it’s been incredible to have energy again. For the last 6 years I was practicing on empty. Trying to cultivate energy I didn’t have. Dragging my suitcase on and off train platforms and feeling somewhat of a fraud while I touted the benefits of Yoga.

Recently I had a really great conversation with Dr. Jody Stanislaw, an american naturopathic doctor who also happens to be a Type 1 diabetic. She has had profound results in supporting people to achieve optimum A1c levels. “ You know Insulin is your friend, because it preserves and protects your beta cells,” she shared while we were discussing the topic of exercise and diabetes, “ If you’ve got them you might as well hang onto them.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Once I started on long acting Insulin, my blood sugar levels changed dramatically. I felt like my cells did a happy dance and went back to business. I’ve become more sensitive in my practice again and I can feel how food, exercise and sleep are affecting my system. Before I was sensitive to my detriment. Everything I did felt like an attack on my immune system. Even the thought of trying to change was exhausting.

It’s been quite a learning curve keeping up my commitments as a traveling yoga teacher and educating myself on the ins and outs of managing blood sugars while on insulin.

But hey I Love it!

It’s why I chose to focus on challenging yoga postures and practices for this current tour.  I mean, how fun is it to master a tricky arm balance or handstand when you never thought you could. Or for beginners finally being able to stay in down dog for more than a few seconds without collapsing in a heap.

If you feel like joining me for a more challenging practice this week head over to AirYoga’s online studio and try the Kapha Balancing Practice…. with great respect Rachel

kapha Balancing yoga practice with Rachel Zinman

Rachel Zinman Yoga

Your Body as Perfectly Imperfect

It’s so easy to forget the absolute miracle that we are when facing the daily onslaught of Diabetes. While most people are taking their bodies for granted we wage war. Well…let me speak for myself, at the worst of times I do.

War for me has to do with self doubt and uncertainty and the feeling like nothing is ever enough. Even with the tools of Yoga and Meditation under my belt I forget that the body has an intelligence, a living awareness that keeps everything going regardless of what my pancreas is doing.

To remember the preciousness of the body I think about my son and when he was a newborn. I marvelled at his perfection and innocence. I remember thinking what if I do something wrong? What if he breaks. But I learned fast that he was way more resilient than that. While I was freaking out about this, that or the other he was just being himself which included a perfectly functioning immune system

In Yoga when we want to describe the quality of immunity we call it Ojas. Ojas comes from the densest tissue in the body, reproductive fluid. It’s the densest tissue because it carries the seed of life. Without reproductive fluid? No propagation of the species. That some of us are born with less immunity then others or develop immune system problems as we age has to do with the loss of Ojas. In Ayurveda it’s believed that everyone is born with just 12 drops. It’s easy to lose Ojas and very hard to build once its lost.

So how do we lose Ojas?

Stress! It’s a no brainer. Stress can be physical, mental, environmental, seasonal, time specific and deeply emotional. You name it, just about everything is stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. When your Ojas is strong the stresses might come knocking but they can’t come in.

So how do we build Ojas?

As a Diabetic it’s impossible to change the stressor, we can’t snap our fingers and be un-diabetic. We can change our diets, use medications, do all sorts of things to manage the disease but we are living in imperfect perfection.

Our mental attitudes, environmental conditions, exposure to toxins even our relationships all play a part in depleting Ojas. But what’s important to acknowledge is it’s our reaction to the disease that matters. Not the disease itself.

Rachel Zinman Yoga

Yoga offers a brilliant solution. Because purely as a physical practice it teaches us to respond rather than react. It takes the mind and focusses it on one thing, YOU. YOU expressing yourself in the practice as the breath, as movement, as flow. And stretching the muscles and activating them releases excess toxins and takes glucose out of the blood stream. It’s a win win situation.

If Yoga isn’t for you. Then any physical activity has the same ability. But Yoga is a great place to start because it works so specifically with breath and movement.

For todays blog I’ve put together a simple breathing exercise via YOUTUBE that you can do anywhere anytime. It’s called Vinyasa- movement on the breath

All you need is enough room to raise and lower your arms. You can do the exercise seated in a chair, standing or sitting on the floor. Just a few minutes a day will calm the mind and enable you to be with yourself…. with great respect Rachel

ARE YOU CREATING THE BEST POSSIBLE START TO YOUR DAY ?

A Guest blog from Yogi and Ayurvedic Chef, Jody Vassallo

I believe that mornings are the foundation of our day, it is when our feet first come in contact with the earth and we can consciously set our intentions for the day ahead. Taking time out to sit and really take in the morning is so important, this is when I make decisions about the food that I will prepare and eat and how I will approach my day. I check in with my body and allow myself to notice how it is feeling, not comparing it to yesterday but giving its own voice on this day. I look outside and see what the weather is doing as this really forms the basis of the choices I make for my day, if it’s hot I will have a cooling breakfast, perhaps a salad or two that day, if it’s cooler, a cooked breakfast is a must, then a warming soup for lunch and something spicy and satisfying for dinner.

Reading a passage from a book and meditating are habits that now come naturally to me though this has not always been the case, when I was in a crazy, busy, overworked Vata phase of my life I resisted settling and being still as this was too confronting for me, my driven ambitious pitta brain was more focused on result based living and unless things instantly made me feel better they were tossed aside.

Because I was so busy I often skipped breakfast or quickly fed myself but there wasn’t a lot of nourishment in the meal, there may have been nutrients but the whole meal was eaten without awareness or appreciation. After years of doing this, my head just got crazier, the seat of Vata is in the head and in the gut so too much rushing, skipping or mindlessly eating meals will eventually cause a life riddled with anxiety, fear and gut problems.

These days more and more people are experiencing digestive issues – coeliac disease, food allergies or diabetes. All of these diseases mean that food becomes the focus of ones life which can be stressful and overwhelming. There is so much info out there on what not to have. I think the most important thing for anyone to keep in mind is that simplicity is the key.

Certain food nourish us without needing the help of too many other ingredients. I am a huge fan of eggs because they provide me with fat and protein and they leave me feeling satisfied and nourished, if I want to jazz them up  I throw in some herbs or ricotta cheese or scramble them with some spring onions and black sesame seeds, eggs are both warming and grounding in nature so they are the perfect breakfast choice on windy cooler mornings. In summer I like to start my day with a coconut based breakfast, it is cooling and really satisfying.

So I encourage you to slow your mornings down, take time out to create a calmer approach to the ritual of breaking your fast. If it is a cool morning  put on the appropriate clothes,  make yourself a warm cup of ginger tea or if the morning is hotter have a refreshing mint tea. And then lovingly prepare yourself a nourishing meal that will  provide you with the fuel that takes you up to your next meal. I avoid high carbohydrate breakfast as they cause my blood sugar to spike and I find myself hungry again soon after breakfast.

I would like to share a cooling recipe with you a low carb, high fat brekkie which is very simple to prepare and great for those warmer mornings.

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Raspberries chia pots with maple coconut tops

500 g (1 lb) frozen raspberries, thawed

3 tablespoons white chia seeds

1/2 cup (125 ml/ 4 fl oz) coconut cream

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons white chia seeds

Use a fork to crush the raspberries. Stir in the chia seeds and mix to combine. Divide the mixture between four 1/2 cup capacity ramekins, cover and chill for 4 hours or until just set.

Put the coconut cream, maple syrup and chia seeds into a bowl and mix to combine. Spoon over the raspberry mixture cover and chill for 2 hours or until set.

Serves 4

My approach to food and life is based on the traditional Indian medical system of Ayurveda which encourages people to live a holistic way of life based on their body type and the five elements.

There are 3 body types Vata – a combination of air and space, Pitta – a mixture of fire and water and Kapha – earth and water. These body types influence or body shape and our personalities and behaviours. For more info on this you can purchase my book Beautiful Food

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www.jodyvassallo.com

Jody Vassallo is a passionate foodie who believes in the power of food to heal and transform ones life. She dedicates her life to sharing her message with the world.

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