The missing piece

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When I started writing my book, Yoga for Diabetes in 2015 I knew I wanted it to be something that would be a game changer when it came to diabetes management. If I couldn’t cure my diabetes at least I could use my lifelong passion and knowledge of yoga to manage it and share those life skills with others.

I was diagnosed in 2008 but didn’t start writing the book until starting insulin therapy in 2014. I wrote the book without having fully experimented on myself. Up to that point I didn’t need insulin, in fact I was in denial about my diabetes. However, I did have a deep understanding of yoga and Ayurveda and how potent this combination is in managing any health challenge. Especially in mitigating stress, balancing the nervous system, working with mental and emotional health and overall immune resilience.

How to put insulin into the mix was my personal nemesis, and even though I offered a chapter on insulin and exercise in my book. I was an “insulavirgin.”

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It was after launching my book and connecting with other Type 1’s that I popped my cherry. I decided that injecting once a day and having okay levels (my HbA1c at the time was around 7) wasn’t good enough. Why not at least try having some insulin with meals? Maybe it would make a difference?

Living with LADA ( Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) means diabetes has been a slow progression for me. I still produce some insulin. I had a lot of anxiety around increasing my insulin use and dosage and at the same time I kept questioning myself, “why stay stuck with what I felt was an “okay” HbA1c?” Surely, I could do better.

I took the plunge with some help from Gary Scheiner, author of “Think like a Pancreas”. Gary suggested I start small and take insulin after each meal. We worked out that I’d need about one unit of insulin to cover thirty carbs and that I should start with half units. I was already on a low carb diet sticking to around thirty carbs a day, so I wouldn’t need much insulin at all. Less insulin, less risk of lows.  My diet at the time consisted of eggs, green vegetables, pumpkin, carrot and avocado. I was so embarrassed to tell anyone that I only ate seven foods. I am not exaggerating S E V E N!

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Being on a full insulin regime even on such a restricted diet was amazing. I was able in a year to reach my goal of having an HbA1c of 5.5. I felt like a champion. There were other days though that I felt a sense of hopelessness. Was this my diet for the rest of my life? Living on seven foods because of gastric distress and food sensitivity? Being afraid to eat for fear of low or high blood sugars? Feeling a literal fear of food?

I’m nervous to share how defeated I felt around this aspect of my diabetes management. I had authored a book all about how to bring yoga into daily life, how to find the perfect practice, how to manage stress, how to live well with diabetes and here I was stopping myself in the one area that’s the foundation for everything.

Nutrition.

When people would ask me what sort of diet I was on I’d change the subject or suggest eating for their Ayurvedic constitution, but to be honest because I couldn’t or rather wouldn’t follow my own recommendations keeping quiet was the better option.

Everybody is different, every body is unique. We eat according to taste, conditioning, circumstance, and what we feel works best for us. Whether you are low carb, keto, paleo, AIP, high carb, standard American, or Australian Diet etc. there is no one size fits all. Or so I thought.

My breaking point happened on an innocent outing to our local farm stall for some Haloumi cheese. Something I indulged in every now and then because it was low carb/high fat and isn’t Haloumi the best taste ever?

I was in my car, cheese on the passenger seat, when I saw a newborn calf still covered in afterbirth being transported in a pickup truck. The mother cow was running after the truck trying to get close to her calf. She was obviously very distressed, her body still raw from giving birth. The farm handlers seemed completely unperturbed by what they were doing. It was just a normal part of farm life. The babies were separated, fed and then sold for veal, while the mother was kept for milking. I felt my heart ripping out of my chest. It was one thing to read about animal cruelty or factory farming, it was another to witness it with my own eyes. As I drove home, I made myself a promise, even if I am afraid of going low, afraid of getting sick from foods, afraid of trying something new, I couldn’t live this double life any longer.

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My will to align my lifestyle with my heart had to be my priority. It was time to step up and drop all animal products and embrace a whole food plant-based diet.

They say it takes seven different influences to make a change for the better. I think of that moment at the farm stall as number seven. I had already heard about going high carb/low fat/plant based from a fellow T1D yoga teacher, I’d seen a fellow T1D fitness and nutrition coach document his journey transitioning from keto to vegan, I’d watched several different webinars and documentaries with the founders of the Mastering Diabetes Program and I had started to struggle with my levels after almost every meal, needing more and more insulin to cover the same thirty carbs a day.

I think of the day I changed my diet as a crucial turning point in my life. Like the day I decided to move to Australia, or the decision to travel to India to meet my now beloved husband. There was a feeling in each of those moments. Something indescribable and deeply exciting.

Starting a plant-based diet hasn’t been a walk in the park, I’ve been lucky to have an expert diabetes and nutrition coach to walk me through some sinkholes and to cheer me on. I started by letting him know I was basically sensitive to every food imaginable and he started by saying “start with what you think you can tolerate.” Then when I had awful symptoms he’d commiserate and suggest they might go away as my body made the switch out of ketosis. “I believe in your metabolism, that it can kick back in and do its job. The more foods you can tolerate, the more diverse your diet, the more your body will thank you.”

Never were these words truer.

I don’t think I fully understood what he meant until I read Fiber Fueled by Dr. Will Bulsiewicz. This book is the bible for anyone wanting to go plant based. In just a few short chapters Dr. B makes the case for a diverse plant-based diet. Did you know that that out of the 400,000 plants on the planet, 300 of them are edible? And that we just eat a small percentage in our standard American diet? Or that there are 40 trillion microbes in our gut micro biome? We are more microbes than human. Did you know that these microbes feed on fiber? The more fiber we have the healthier our gut, our immune and nervous system. When we get into mono foods, or food restriction we deprive our microbes and that’s why we get gut dysbiosis. I.e. gut issues like leaky gut. He even explains how autoimmune disease and gut health are intrinsically linked.

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Since going 100% plant based I’ve noticed huge changes. My thyroid levels have normalised, I’m extremely sensitive to insulin, I’m eating up to 45 different plants in a day. My tolerance of foods has improved, my digestion has improved. My little arthritic aches and pains have disappeared. Besides all the physical changes, it’s my relationship to food that has excited me most.

I am finally loving cooking and creating meals again. Exploring recipes, trying new foods, incorporating miso, seaweed, legumes and grains. Nothing in excess with no restrictions. Managing my diabetes in the mix of eating this way takes dedication. I track my food in an app, I keep tweaking my insulin to carb ratios and checking in with my coach when things start to go awry. As I learn to feel my body in this new way I’m surprised at how easy it is to have steady levels and maintain a healthy Hba1c.

It took a long time, nearly 20 years for me find the answers I so desperately needed to get well. Now that I’m here it’s like the last few moments of finishing a puzzle.  There’s a sense of excitement and expectation and WOW that’s it, I finally found the missing piece!

If you’d like to find out more about Dr. B and his book you can go to his website or order the book here

With great respect…

rachel

I’m back…

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My blood sugar hit 11.7 mmol today. It’s been a while. I mean a long while. Since starting Insulin in 2014 and simultaneously going low carb I’ve had excellent control. A high for me was about 9 mmol. In the last two years, even that was pretty rare.

The control I’ve had over my numbers has been directly related to a huge amount of food restriction. A.K.A living on eggs, non-starchy vegetables and avocados and olive oil for the last 6 years. When my husband would ask, “How is your dinner?” my standard reply was, “the same.” I could make breakfast, lunch or dinner in 15 minutes tops. Eating to live, and fine with that. Worth the sacrifice if it meant staying healthy.

Don’t get me wrong low carb works. It totally works. The question is… is it healthy and sustainable? I have been low carb for 6 years so it’s doable but healthy?anna-pelzer-IGfIGP5ONV0-unsplashHealthy is having a rainbow in your diet. Healthy is as much emotional satisfaction as physical satiation. Healthy is enjoying food, being social, being able to go out and pick something off the menu without guilt or fear. Healthy is putting the meal together and then trusting that what you inject will do the job. I’m not talking eat whatever you want and cover, rather eat whole foods that please the eye and the pallet. Know you are taking in life sustaining nutrients and that your body can take it in, digest it and distribute the energy accordingly.

This is the basis of a yoga practice, absorbing prana from food, the atmosphere, anything you consume. If our own energy is scattered, stuck or overly dogmatic, we can’t absorb prana which in turn builds Ojas, the basis of our immune system.

In Ayurveda diet should be mitahari, which means balanced. Eating whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables etc. Everything according to your type incorporating the six tastes of sour, salty, sweet, bitter, pungent and astringent.JMFO1826Before my diagnosis I was able to follow an Ayurvedic vegetarian diet ad infinitum. After diagnosis I found myself narrowing my diet according to what I felt sensitive to or what I thought wouldn’t cause a high blood sugar. Eventually I was so afraid of going low I stopped trying. I told myself I couldn’t have mung beans or quinoa because it was too confusing to dose for. I couldn’t have fruit because I would spike. My list of excuses was long. My openness and availability to try something new was zero.

In the last few years I’ve started each year with a diabetes goal. In 2018 it was braving meal time insulin (up until then I managed on a split dose of basal with severe carb restriction). In 2019 I worked on healing my gut. My 2020 goal came out of months of feeling helpless around the situation we are facing on the planet and watching two documentaries Cowspiracy and The Game Changers. Discovering that animal agriculture is one of the main contributing factors to climate change and seeing how athletes were able to maintain a vegan diet and increase their performance, made me question what I was eating and why.

To be honest wanting to go vegan was a total heart longing. I’ve never liked the feeling of eating animals (as a kid, I used to pretend to eat my pork chop and when no one was looking I’d push it into a napkin and then excuse myself and flush it down the toilet) so it made sense to stop.pexels-photo-3669638The big question for me was how. How could I make the transition from keto to vegan smoothly? Was it even possible? While I was mulling over the what and how, a T1D friend sent me a PM about a new program she was on which was high carb, low fat and and how successful it had been. She suggested I try it.

I balked at the idea. Then another T1D I follow on Instagram shared his story of going from keto to vegan.  His story was inspiring and confronting. I had to ask myself, what was my excuse really? Was I going to be terrified of carbs and insulin for the rest of my life? What was holding me back?

Doing some deep soul searching around these fundamental questions forced me to take stock of the times in my life where I’d faced a seemingly insurmountable hurdle. I reflected on giving birth. That was terrifying, yet I did it. I thought about how I managed during 9/11. How when I thought I couldn’t handle the shock I actually rose above it and made it through. Even after my diagnosis I was able to eventually find a way to acceptance. I also thought about the beach. Here in South Africa the water is beyond cold. Going in takes a certain kind of bravado.IMG_0674That’s how I decided to approach this new and exciting chapter in my diabetes management. If I didn’t jump in, I might regret it. If I did, hopefully I’d feel refreshed and invigorated.

Five weeks on from transitioning to a plant-based diet. I’ve introduced a huge range of foods, with hardly a hitch in my digestion. The big challenge has been to experiment with insulin to carb ratios to find what works best when. I’ve also had way more highs and lows then before. I’ve had to be courageous while watching that straight down arrow on my freestyle libre. Patient when I see a spike.

My insulin needs have completely changed. I need less basal; more bolus and I am becoming more and more sensitive to insulin. I’ve also had to slowly build my daily carb intake working my way up to about 250 carbs per day. That’s been hard, but I’m getting there. I’ve also rekindled my passion for creating recipes. I’ve made hummus, nori rolls, veggie burgers. I’ve been eating heaven in a bowl for breakfast. Smoothie bowls with dates and figs, bananas and papaya. I now look forward to eating and cooking. I’m excited to try things like beets, leeks, peppers again. I feel like every meal is a party. One I get to have for myself.

The best side effect of my new diet is increased energy and decreased aches and pains. When I step on my mat I feel open, balanced and clean from the inside out. It feels like I’m back.IMG_1095If you’d like to find out more about a plant based whole food diet check out this brilliant new book, Mastering Diabetes

If you’d like to have more one on one support to make the transition I highly recommend Drew Harrisberg from www.drewsdailydose.com

Yoga makes the difference

Diabetes sucks. I know I’ve said it before but this time I really really mean it. And it’s not just because of the endless needle pricks, the shaky blood sugars, the near-death episodes or dietary issues. It’s the financial side. Why does having diabetes cost so much? I get choked up when I hear about how people are rationing their insulin, how insurance companies change what type of rapid or long-acting you have insurance for against your best interests or that in some countries people walk miles to take just one shot a day because of lack of refrigeration in their homes.

Things I take for granted here in Australia like subsidized insulin and test strips are nonexistent in other parts of the world. So I know I should be grateful. And I am.

But sometimes I need to vent. Because diabetes comes with a price. Knowing I have to keep some funds aside each week to cover my test strips means keeping to a tight budget.  And that’s not accounting for a week of lows where I use test strips like candy. It often means saying no to something I’d love to do so I can live well another day.

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I’m a girl with a mission. Yoga is my lifeline. I am convinced it’s the reason why I have managed my health so well in spite of my diabetes.  It has given me a positive outlook and a wealth of stress management tools. Writing the book has been my way of giving back. But writing a book and having a mission doesn’t mean life is all rainbows and unicorns. It takes hard work, dedication, consistency and total conviction to bring a project like that to fruition.

And here’s the thing…

The more I push myself out there, the harder I work to share,  the more I am seeing that people living with any type of diabetes aren’t jumping up and down about yoga.  You know what they say in marketing? You find your ideal client by touching their deepest longing. The biggest faux pas is creating a product no one wants. Even worse is creating something they don’t even know they need.

Enter Yoga, the new kid on the block in diabetes management. Will medical institutions endorse it? Will the media expound it’s benefits? Will bloggers and podcasters rave about it?

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Eventually yoga for diabetes will go mainstream.

I know that a simple yoga practice makes the difference. I for one am going to keep creating quality content for you. Things you can do today that will make a difference to the numbers on your meter, to the way you feel about your diabetes and even more importantly how you relate to your health and wellbeing in general.

Even 5 minutes of a consistent yoga practice can make a huge difference to your day.

So… what’s on offer this week? A FREE 20 minute yoga practice designed to reduce stress.

All you have to do is click this link and you’ll get it in your inbox straight away.

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I can’t wait for you to join me

with great respect…

rachel

 

 

 

 

Fit with Diabetes: An e-book review

I’ll never forget how it felt to step on my yoga mat to practice the day after I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008. I was distraught, afraid and disillusioned. The tears flowed like a river and I couldn’t imagine the road ahead. My doctor had armed me with some pamphlets and told me to google diabetes. Back then I wasn’t on insulin and still had quite a bit of my beta cell function so worrying about insulin and exercise wasn’t an issue. My practice that day took me on a journey. With every pose, I felt myself calming down. The more I followed my breath the less my mind freaked out. By the end, I felt restored and ready. Ready to confront what lay ahead.

At diagnosis, I thought I had to tackle diabetes on my own,  I didn’t know there was a thriving community of people supporting each other with diabetes and I hadn’t met Christel Oerum the founder of Diabetes Strong.

Christel is a powerhouse who hasn’t let diabetes stop her. She’s tall, strong and looks like a warrior goddess.  After meeting her in person, I can attest to the fact that she’s a motivator of note. We met at the Diabetes Sisters Conference in October. I was in charge of leading the yoga classes and she was leading the morning fitness workout. Our approaches couldn’t be more different but our message is the same. Working with the body is a total buzz.

Recently Christel asked me to check out her new e-book, Fit with Diabetes which is all about how to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into your daily life with diabetes.

Having started fast-acting insulin just 7 weeks ago I am now much more concerned about how exercise impacts my blood sugar levels. Being someone who loves to walk, swim, dance and do yoga I’ve been concerned about having too much insulin on board. Christel’s book and her message couldn’t have come at a better time.

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The book begins with Christel’s personal story, not so much about her diagnosis but her discovery of how to work with insulin and exercise. She looked everywhere in the traditional medical and diabetes community for answers and no one could give her a precise formula so she decided to create her own.

What I love about Christel’s writing style and the format of this book is that everything is in easy to digest bytes.  The first chapter sets the scene for assessing our goals and motivation for getting fit with diabetes.

As she states clearly, “in order to start any new fitness regime you need, clear and realistic goals for what you want to achieve and the (positive) motivation that will allow you to work towards your goals on a daily basis”

She then heads into some real-life examples of how she’s helped her clients to set measurable goals. Throughout the book, she either refers to her own life experience or the experiences of others. As the reader it makes me feel like I can make the necessary changes to be fitter and healthier.

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The chapters that follow are about the different types of exercise and how diabetes might impact your blood sugar management. Topics like diabetes and cardio, diabetes and resistance training include relevant information like; how to manage each type of workout with a pump or MDI (multiple daily injections). She also covers how to reduce the risk of low blood sugar during and after exercise.

Her explanations are clear and supportive. She even provides a chapter on how to find your unique formula to take the mystery out of the math I feel I have to do every time I set out to exercise. If you’re still not sure about diving into the different types of workouts there are more case studies and real-life examples to relate to.

After you’ve found your individual formula she moves on to describe how to design your own home or gym work out.  Throughout the book, you’ll find inspiring photos of Christel doing various workouts including a series of workouts you can implement straight away.

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One of my favorite chapters is the one on nutrition and exercise and why it’s so important to have a healthy diet. As food is such a minefield in the diabetes world I like how she emphasizes that her approach to eating has to do with fuelling her workouts. In my opinion, she has a great attitude. We need a certain number of calories and carbs to approach different types of workouts and it’s not one size fits all. This chapter is all about working out your daily calorie and carb intake and includes some nutritious meal plans and how to create your own meal plans. The photos of Christel’s meals are mouth-watering!

Finally, there is a chapter on diabetes and losing weight. As she says, “weight management with diabetes can be done. It’s not impossible and it’s not out of reach”

This chapter is all about understanding the relationship between weight, insulin and calorie intake and what to do about it. I know for myself one of my concerns with starting a full insulin regime was that I’d gain weight. Understanding the mechanics of what actually causes weight gain helped me to reframe my thinking.

I have been learning on my journey with diabetes that what I need to nourish myself, how I respond to insulin and how exercise affects me is unique.  Experimenting, try new things and finding peer support are all ways I stay balanced and well with diabetes.

So what do I think of this book? A huge thumbs up!!! I’ll be referring to this informative, inspiring and motivating book, again and again, to find confidence and support as I continue to navigate my life with diabetes. Thanks Christel for creating this incredible resource!

Go here to find out more about the Fit with Diabetes e-book by Christel Oerum and  get your own copy

with great respect…

rachel

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Christel and me on a walk in the Malibu hills just last week 🙂

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

 

Yoga for Diabetes – Listening to your body, your heart and the world around you.

Today is World Diabetes Day and I’m in Atlanta right now which for me is one of my homes away from home. I used to come here every vacation to be with my grandparents. My grandparents have long since passed but my family is still here. It’s been really special to reconnect with them and feel their support.

Last night while our extended family gathered around the dinner table one of my cousins told me she ran into a friend who had type 1 diabetes. She told him about me and how I was touring the country to promote my book.

She thought he’d be super enthusiastic about my project, but his reply stunned her, “Isn’t yoga good for everything? What’s so special about yoga for diabetes?”

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His question isn’t new and I have to admit it’s been a challenge to address this on the tour. Why come to a specific class on yoga for diabetes? Why even buy a book on the subject?

Yes, yoga is great for everybody and there are no restrictions to practicing if you live with diabetes. But Yoga isn’t cookie cutter. You might think you’d benefit from a yoga class, but if the style isn’t right for your constitution you could be increasing cortisol and inflammation.

Understanding that there is a yoga that’s right for you is the key.  That’s why whenever I want to individualize my practice and manage my health better I turn to the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda.

Ayurveda means the science of life and it’s been working with health and wellbeing for over 4,000 years.

Rather than seeing Diabetes as Type 1 or 2, Ayurveda looks at the way that diabetes is manifesting in the organs and tissues of the body.  As such, It is seen as a condition of excess or depletion. Once the quality of the condition is assessed then the appropriate treatment is given.

What does that mean?

Homeopathic medicine.

If you are dealing with depletion, lack of energy, digestive issues, insomnia or even nervous system problems going to a power yoga class, or a hot yoga class is going to reek havoc because it’s too heating and stimulating. It would be better to practice calming and rejuvenating postures, try some restorative yoga, sound therapy, breath work, yoga nidra, and consider a change in diet and environment.

If you are dealing with excess, then stimulation and purgative therapies to get the toxins out of the system are best. You’ll want to increase your circulation through active yoga practices, like power and ashtanga yoga, have regular massages, eat a lighter diet, consider scraping your tongue, and even have enemas and irrigate your nasal passages. The more you can reduce the inflammation in the system, the sooner your blood sugars will come back to balance.

Another aspect of learning about Ayurveda is listening. Listening to your body, your heart and the world around you.

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Are you trying too hard? Frustrated and feeling burnt out? Ayurveda recommends going for a walk, practicing gratitude or even being of service to someone else in need.

Feeling spaced out, flighty and confused or anxious? Then bringing more routine into your life, eating at the same time every day, massaging your feet with black sesame oil and doing something creative will occupy your restless mind.

Feeling lethargic, slow, unmotivated or even depressed?  Be wild and spontaneous, call a friend, go out and dance and shake up your routine.

When you listen to your heart and approach each day afresh you’ll find that naturally without realizing it things get easier. It’s never going to be easy to manage diabetes, but you can take control of yourself and your habits and make each day the best yet.

Want to learn a simple calming meditation? feel free to check out my previous world diabetes day post here.

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

 

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

Yoga for Diabetes is not one size fits all

When I first started yoga in my teens I knew very little about the postures and practices. I would throw myself into the practice and hope for the best. Some days the practice made me feel great and other days it seemed to make me feel worse. It took almost ten years for me to learn that the type of yoga I was practicing wasn’t actually right for my type. Luckily providence steered me towards a teacher who knew exactly what I needed. He introduced me to the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda and encouraged me to slow down, cool down and practice poses that were nourishing to my system. Since my diagnosis, I’ve realised that there is a practice that’s perfect for my constitution and the type of diabetes I have. I’ve also learned that what might support me in lowering blood sugar might have the opposite reaction in someone else.

After a big spike in blood sugar levels this morning I did this VLOG  to share a bit more about why yoga for diabetes is not one size fits all.

If you’d like to find out more about Ayurveda and your constitution you can get the first chapter of my book for free here

with great respect…Rachel

Why I dropped the ball

Hey there, it’s been a while! Firstly I want to apologise for the long break between blogs. I’ve been plowing through a few ‘moments’ in my life that have garnered my full attention.

Things like:

organising my book tour in the US

getting published in Elephant Journal

creating vlogs for Yoga for Fertility and Yoga for Adrenal support

hosting my parents first visit to South Africa

did I mention, marrying the man of my dreams?

and finally getting a printed advance readers copy of my book on Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda 

Here’s a little photo collage to put you in the picture….

Meanwhile, diabetes has been kicking my but!

I’ve been splitting my basal dose, upping ratios, wrestling with unexpected highs and lows and doubling down on my yoga practice to manage the associated stress.

Amidst all the celebrations, I’ve been dealing with a ton of fear. So much so that I found myself writing about it for Beyond Type 1, my favourite online yoga charity and community.

Here’s a little exerpt

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“Meeting my fear has never been easy. But slowly over time I’m getting better at taming the beast, especially now that I live with Type 1 diabetes.

My initial response to my diagnosis was to deny that I had diabetes. The theory being: what doesn’t exist can’t hurt me. It took time and courage to realize that the only thing standing in the way of me accepting my condition was fear.

Fear of hypoglycemia, fear of ketoacidosis. Fear of insulin. Fear of forgetting to take insulin. Fear of food, fear of what other people think about what I eat. Fear of getting fat or losing too much weight. Fear of complications. Fear of losing my livelihood. Fear of losing my relationships. And the biggest fear? Fear of dying. We all grapple with that one, diabetes or not…” read more here

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So… it’s been a crazy few months and I can’t wait for some sense of normalcy to return so I can keep sharing with you really great ways to use yoga to help you manage your diabetes.

….And I’d love to hear from you what kind of things you’d like to see more of on the blog.

Wishing you an absolutely beautiful day wherever you are!

with great respect

Rachel