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!

The Book is Here!

Ok… here goes…. this is my first ever shameless self- promotion post.

My book, Yoga for Diabetes How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda is in stock on Amazon and right now it’s on sale for $20.70 US that means $7 off the list price.

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This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! A chance to learn first hand how yoga can support you in living your best with diabetes. It doesn’t matter what sort of diabetes you have, your age or level of fitness you will love this easy to implement approach which includes the perfect tools to manage stress, reduce cortisol levels and increase insulin sensitivity. Find the right postural practice for you and your type of diabetes and learn basic breathing and concentration techniques to enhance happiness.

As I am currently in the US to promote the book you can also catch me live in stereo at an event in a city near you. Head to the events page to find out more

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And If you’re in or near Los Angeles why not come and join me for the official launch party at Mystic Journey Bookstore 6.30-8.30 pm in Venice.

I’ll also be talking about the book and my personal journey with diabetes on KTLA on Wednesday, October 11 at 9.45 am PST.  Tune in and be part of the virtual celebrations!

Besides all the exciting stuff to do with the book, my blood sugars have been misbehaving. My body craves routine, so early starts and late night flights are playing absolute havoc. Luckily I do practice what I preach so my twice daily yoga practice has been an absolute lifesaver. As I write, I’m back in range, but the reading below (on my way to the book launch at Book Passage in Corte Madera) was not ideal.

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I guess I just wanted to share that like anyone living with diabetes this is the reality.  Trying to think like a pancreas is no picnic.

And as I share in the book,

Throughout my life, I have always wanted to help others, but simultaneously found it difficult to take responsibility for helping myself. Taking up a yoga practice, eating wholesome and nurturing foods, living life with devotion and reverence are just some of the ways I consciously give back to myself on a day-to-day basis. My life as a yogi is not a fad. And having a disease like diabetes, I can’t afford to be part of a trend anyway. That’s why I feel strongly that the simplicity and discipline of yoga, plus the lifestyle guidelines from Ayurveda are the perfect starting point no matter what type of diabetes you have. The postural sequences, breathing and meditation techniques, thoughts on yoga and its deeper meaning, and the Ayurvedic lifestyle suggestions are there to support you in facing some of the challenges that come with the disease. And top of that list, of course, are stress and burnout. I am confident that like me you will discover that yoga is a life-changing and life-enhancing system. And a great friend and companion that will hold your hand through all the ups and downs you are bound to experience.”

With great respect,

rachel

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

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.  

 

 

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

Obviously I love Yoga

Blogging about Diabetes isn’t always easy. Sometimes I find my momentum waning. Like this week, when my email crashed and my camera wouldn’t load data onto my computer and my blood sugars decided to go up for no known reason.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that even though I want to quit… diabetes never does!

I find it fascinating to think that this disease has been with us for who knows how long. In India, they’ve been treating diabetes for over 5000 years!

When I went to India, just after my diagnosis (literally 3 days after) the cook at the retreat center where I was staying worked diligently with me to keep my blood sugar in range. Back then we didn’t know it was type 1, but the things she did worked. I ate something called Bitter Gourd every day, drank potions, modified my diet and massaged myself daily with sesame oil, Abhyanga, to relax my nervous system.

One of the most challenging things for anyone who has to mimic the action of their own pancreas is to keep stress to a minimum. Those initial days in India helped me to establish a daily routine with food and exercise…Yoga being the biggest support.

Like everyone else, it’s not easy to stay motivated, I find that when I step onto my mat it takes a few moves before I’m in the zone. I can’t say I directly notice an instant effect on my blood sugars from the practice but I do believe it trickles down. Overall my levels are stable and manageable because the practices of yoga enable to me to relax and be myself.

Obviously, I love yoga!

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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

 

Diabetes Awareness Week

This week it’s National Diabetes Awareness Week in Australia #NDW2017 and I couldn’t resist posting this V-Log because it seems some things are still missing in how Diabetes Australia chooses to spread awareness through their campaign #itsabouttime. Yes, it’s important to know the #4t’s, the warning signs of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but my big question is… what if you don’t have those symptoms? And why don’t we share more about the people who live well with Diabetes?

 

Letting go and relaxing in

I’d been dreading my visit to the Diabetes Educator ever since I decided to split my basal dose over three months ago. When the day came I was so tense that I must have gone to the restroom about 5 times. Every time I washed my hands and looked at myself in the mirror I told myself, “it’s going to be fine and even if your A1c isn’t perfect it’s not the end of the earth.”

As soon as I sat down in her office I burst into tears.

Handing me a tissue she asked me to talk about it. I explained how terrifying it was to split my basal, how I couldn’t seem to get the ratios right and that I couldn’t stand seeing higher readings on my meter. I admitted that I felt like a failure and added that when I read everyone’s posts on my diabetes facebook groups it made me feel even worse. “People seem to achieve such balance and even with everything I know it feels crazy that I should be struggling.”

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She listened compassionately and reminded me that people always put their best face forward on Facebook. She said that in reality, I had no idea how those people were achieving their awesome A1c’s and besides it’s not a competition. She suggested we look at the cold hard facts before we passed judgment on how I was managing my health.

When she had loaded up all my data she pointed to the flat line on the screen and said, “see that? You’re flat lining, no peaks and valleys, this means you have a high protective factor. Even though overall your levels are higher than we’d like they don’t fluctuate much, a sign that your body isn’t under constant stress from crashes and peaks.”

She added that the yoga practices, low carb diet and simple daily regimes are doing wonders to keep me balanced.  “It takes time for the body to adjust to a new regimen. Let’s give it another three months to see what happens before we adjust things further.”

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I felt so much lighter when I left the clinic and lucky to be able to work with someone open and progressive. She didn’t tell me to eat more, inject more or change my approach. Instead, she encouraged me not to give myself such a hard time and to trust the process.

As a yoga teacher, I’ve always encouraged my students to learn to relax. Some postures facilitate opening and others force us to work harder. If someone has a tendency to overdo things I always give them practices to chill down whereas if I can see a student finds it hard to get motivated I push them and cheer them on.

The practice I am going to share with you today is all about relaxing and letting go. I find that hip opening and inner thigh stretches are perfect for this. This sequence takes 4 minutes and definitely stretches and frees up the hips. I’m pretty open in the hips so just be aware you might find your body might not go as far as what you see in the practice.

I also filmed it spontaneously so yeah.. it was a wild hair day… But rather than get my self all made up and look glam. I thought better to show the real deal. I was doing my practice that day to cheer myself up after some hectic highs…. forcing myself to chill down and release my frustrations.

As always I’d love to know how it feels so drop me a comment below…

With great respect… Rachel

Dancing with Diabetes

This last month has been all about my obsession with Ballet. It started when I was in the airport on my way back to Australia and Misty Copeland’s, Life in Motion miraculously leaped off the shelf and into my hands for the long flight ahead. Reading about her incredible talent and rise to stardom amidst a very unstable home life and her detailed descriptions of a life in Ballet, brought back vivid memories of what it was like to live and study dance in New York City during the early 80’s.

Back then I was an aspiring Ballerina and spent every spare minute either attending dance classes or watching the greats in American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. My own career in dance lasted well into my 30’s. I never made it to a big company, ( I danced with a regional dance in education company in Tasmania), but I did get to taste what it’s like to perform day in and day out.

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Don’t let anyone tell you that dancing is glamorous. It takes grit, hard work, and guts to do all that graceful stuff and nerves of steel…not only to face external criticism but one’s own nagging self-doubt, fear of failure and much more.

Initially, when I was diagnosed with diabetes, I tried to dance down my blood sugar levels. I’d wake up, head to my yoga room, blast out music and thrash about for 20 minutes hoping for the best.  It worked quite well in the beginning stages when I was still producing quite a bit of insulin but later, not so much. After a while, any kind of exercise raised my levels and depleted my adrenals and sadly I stopped dancing.

Reading Misty’s book made me wonder. Are there other dancers out there who live with Type 1 Diabetes?

Enter, Zippora Karz, a former ballerina with the New York City Ballet who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just as her career was taking off within the company. Lucky for me she is also a writer so to continue my passion for all things Ballet I couldn’t help devouring her book, The Sugarless Plum. It’s such a great read and perfect for anyone living with type 1 diabetes who also loves all the intrigue of the Ballet. I soared along with Zippora as she realised her dream of joining the company, and then crashed when she was diagnosed, misdiagnosed and re-diagnosed again. Her journey to health and wellbeing is remarkable, her courage unshakable and her persistence in living her dream in spite of the many challenges and unknowns awe inspiring. Can you tell I love this book!

So after a month of watching videos of Ballet, reading about Ballet and thinking seriously about attending an Adult Ballet class, I decided it was time to digress from my usual yoga for diabetes topic and share with you a short interpretive dance about what it feels like sometimes to live with diabetes.

I’d love to know how you find creative ways to manage the many emotions that arise in a life with diabetes so feel free to comment below…

With great respect…

Rachel

How I live beyond

It’s been quite a week of sharing, reading and commenting for Diabetes Blog Week and I just want to give a big shout out to Karen Graffeo for spearheading this wonderful project.

Lets wrap up the week by sharing a little more about ourselves, beyond the chronic illness we or our loved ones live with.  Share an interest, hobby, passion, something that is YOU.  If you want to explore how it relates to or helps with diabetes you can.   Or let it be a part of you that is completely separate from diabetes, because there is more to life than just diabetes!

Yes there is definitely more to me than diabetes! I’ve worn many hats throughout the last 51 years. As a young girl, teenager and young adult I was a disciplined dancer with a heart set on being a professional one. I studied ballet and modern dance and spent hours and hours in studios refining my craft.

Eventually I  became a choreographer, danced professionally with companies in Queensland, Sydney and Tasmania and was the head of dance at a small dance college in NSW.  While all that dancing was going on I also took up yoga. I took my first yoga class at 17. And started getting serious when I was 23. I’ve been teaching and practicing yoga for over 30 years. Phew! When I look at that number I can’t believe it.

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Besides my absolute passion for yoga and movement, I am also a musician. In fact a singer songwriter. I kind of keep that part of me on the QT. But I have produced three CD’s of devotional music. If you want to check out a music video I made of one of my songs I’ve posted it below. In it I share another passion; creating geometrical patterns out of flowers. In yoga they are called yantras and I have travelled all over the world facilitating workshops for people to create these.

Besides yoga, dance and music?

I’ve taught in the Steiner education system (Waldorf schools) in Australia and NYC, made kids yoga videos and been a performance poet.

I’m also a mother to a 23 year old son who lives in Melbourne and married to a yogi, South African who makes my heart melt.

I also live between South Africa and Australia…which means lots of travel, time zones etc. which does play havoc with a life with diabetes but somehow I’m still standing. Must be the yoga!

Oh and I am also a total nature freak! I try and spend every day in the forest, by the beach whatever I can manage.

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So that’s me in a nutshell… most people don’t know me as someone who lives with diabetes. They pretty much forget most of the time because for 6 years I didn’t really let anyone know I had it. The last three years I have become way more public and involved and have started advocating for diabetes and sharing how  yoga has supported me personally to manage my health and how I am convinced it can help others. I’ve spent the last two years writing a book which will be published in the U.S on October 10, 2017.

So I am also a writer.

With my life so very full of all the different hats I wear to express myself creatively I have to work hard to chillax (thats what my Italian friend Carlo Alberto calls taking a chill pill) and that’s exactly what I plan to do once this week of diabetes blogging is over.

In the mean time i hope to read everyone else’s blog today so I can find out more about what you love and who you are beyond your life with diabetes!

Have a great weekend!

Rachel

If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here