Diayogi Dialogue with Anna Elfving-Gomes Episode 5

Diayogi Dialogue with Anna Elfving-Gomes

Anna Elfving-Gomes lives in Finland and was diagnosed just two years ago. Perfect for anyone who is newly diagnosed, her story is deeply moving and shines a light on all the feelings and challenges we face when diagnosed as an adult. Anna is also enthusiastic about yoga and its transformative power. As she shares during our chat, “The right moment for any of us is now.” Take it away Anna…

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Anna Elfving-Gomes was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes two years ago. Her diagnosis brought about a big lifestyle change and she left her longtime desk job to follow her passion and become a holistic health coach and yoga teacher. Her company, Type Blissed, is launching soon. Anna currently lives in Finland with her Brazilian husband and their three kids.

Where you can find Anna on Social:

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Diayogi Dialogue with Evan Soroka Episode 3

Diayogi Dialogue with Evan Soroka

Our Diayogi dialogue today is with Evan Soroka, a yoga teacher and yoga therapist for people living with Type 1 diabetes. I can’t wait for her to share her wisdom which includes a calming focussed breathing practice. As a dedicated yogini, Evan is a shining example of how yoga can take you from feeling out of your depth and overwhelmed to mastery. Take it away Evan.

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Evan Soroka is a certified yoga therapist and teacher based in Aspen, Colorado. When she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in early adolescence yoga was the only thing that helped her manage the uncomfortable emotional and physical side effects. Since then Evan has turned her greatest struggle into her life’s purpose. Through the practices and teachings of yoga therapy she empowers others to use their own body as a vehicle for healing and transformation. 

 

Where you can find Evan on Social:

Want more Yoga?
Join the diayogi-tribe, receive a free yoga class and stay tuned for the next episode

Back on track with yoga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love how Yoga always gets me back on track!

with great respect…

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When Gratitude Steps In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast on Gratitude with Rachel Zinman

with great respect…

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Increase your vitality in winter

So I’ve been here in the US now for nearly three months and boy is it freeezingggg. I love romping around in the snow but I’m not loving how the colder weather affects my BG levels.

I’ve been trying to get my basal dose just right but it’s tricky. Some days I’m super insulin resistant and then yesterday I spent the whole day eating to just stay at 5 mmol (90 mg/dl).

The ups and downs of blood glucose management are not just taxing on mental/ emotional wellbeing. It directly affects the nervous system. In winter we contract more, do less and retreat into dry and hot environments. All of these things decrease our natural vitality and increase the elements of air and space in our system often causing restlessness, uncertainty, depression, and lethargy and even a physical sense of weakness.

That’s why winter is one of the best times to work on increasing the energy in your system. The best thing to feed your energy is something called Prana. Prana is defined as life force. You absorb prana through breathing, food, and your skin.

Usually, in a yoga practice, you’ll increase the prana through the physiological process of inhalation but you can also increase your ability to absorb prana by bringing awareness to the ribcage and the muscles in between the ribs, the intercostal muscles.  When you stretch these areas you’re working with the sympathetic/ fight or flight part of your nervous system.

Generally, we spend way too much time in this part because it’s constantly triggered when we are stressed. Many of the yoga practices focus on supporting us to spend more time in the relaxed part of our nervous system. ( I.e restorative yoga, yin yoga, passive postures, slow focused breathing) When it comes to the colder months, I like to make an exception and physically activate the energetic part to generate heat and increase my ability to absorb prana.

I jumped into the FB group this morning to share a short live practice that anyone can do to stretch the side muscles and increase energy and vitality. Why not join me and leave a comment to let me know how it made you feel.

 

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

I’m a real person

Hey everyone it’s been a while…We’ve been travelling all over Europe for the last month. Spending four days on average in one place and by the time we’ve landed, practiced, checked our emails, cooked, slept and taught there’s honestly not much time to roll out a blog.

A few days ago we stopped and my body tanked. I broke out in shingles, stubbed my toe and almost lost my voice. Everything’s on the mend now and thank god for yoga practice. I know I say this all the time, but this time I really mean it. I’ve been rolling out my mat twice a day and absolutely treasuring every stretch, every breath, every minute that I have to take my mind out of its usual and habitual preoccupations.

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Having diabetes means I often get carried away in the general freak outs about my blood sugar levels, why it’s going up or down, how much insulin is the right amount of insulin and what the heck am I going to eat next.

When I am not bogged down in the details I’m thinking about advocacy and how to get more people excited about the benefits of yoga for diabetes and then I remember, I didn’t always live like this. I have to be careful not to let the disease define me. I’m still the same enthusiastic person I was before my diagnosis.

Do I ever forget that I live with diabetes?

No.

Every now and then I forget to check my blood sugar, which is par for the course. And sometimes I lash out with my diet and wear the consequences. But so far living with diabetes is my new normal and I’m okay with that.

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I still burnout at times, but I do it quietly. Kind of like one of those bathroom candles that fizzles out when nobody’s watching. I say this because on the outside no one would know how frustrated I am. It always takes people by surprise when I casually mention that I have diabetes. And something that I’ve noticed, here in Europe especially, is that there seems to be a certain taboo around taking the conversation further. Like it would be impolite to pry. But I also think it makes people uncomfortable. I remember being absolutely clueless about the disease even when I knew a few people who had it. I wouldn’t dare ask more because I didn’t want to upset the person, or have to deal with some emotional outburst.

As a person who lives with diabetes I can honestly say it feels good to be open about it and to educate people. I actually feel really heartened when someone comes away from a conversation inspired to take action in some way.

In my own small way, I try and spread the word and donate to organizations like insulin4allbeyondtype1 and a sweet life.  I also enjoy making personal connections with the founders and organizers. What I love most about the T1D community is that we are real people living with this disease. When you send out an email, people respond and want you to get involved. It’s so different to other types of businesses where you have to be somebody, or know somebody. This is the kind of club that no one really wants to be in but everyone can join. (If you know what I mean)

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My other deepest and most passionate offering is Yoga. It’s the one thing I can rely on to support me when my pancreas doesn’t.

Yoga is not one size fits all and you do have to shop around a bit to find something that works for you. Sometimes a practice can be too intense for your constitution. Maybe you have adrenal burnout, or more than one autoimmune disease. Maybe you are dealing with insulin resistance or hormonal changes. No matter what’s going on there is a practice that’s perfect for you. It just takes a bit of research and trial and error to find what works. A bit like calculating the right insulin dose.

As this is a blog about yoga and yoga practices the one thing I do every day to slow down and recharge is full complete breathing. It’s a beautiful practice and very simple.

Check out this excerpt below from my upcoming book. I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below or send me a message and if you’d like a free copy of the first chapter of my new book click here …. with great respect, Rachel

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All I really want to do is eat chocolate pizza!


Welcome to day two of Diabetes Blog Week. Already its been an intense smorgasboard of words and images to take in. I am absolutely loving this years posts and it’s only Tuesday. Huge thank you to Karen from Bitter Sweet Diabetes for making this happen. Todays theme is The other half of diabetes- Tuesday

We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk?

Oh my god I love diabetes- said no one EVER! But I can live with it. Why? Because I’ve worked for years to refine my attitude towards adversity. When I was a kid I was super competitive. If someone said I couldn’t do something I was determined to prove them wrong. Simple dares, like I bet you can’t climb to the top of that tree to complex ultimatums like; if you quit college you’ll never be a success were treated with equal merit. I made sure I climbed that tree, quit college and lived a successful happy life.

Living with a type A personality however is a double edged sword. I obsess about the numbers on my meter as much as I try and perfect my to-do list. I sweat over my doctors visit espousing to be the perfect Zen yogi when all I really want to do is eat chocolate pizza and give up!

I actually think my frustration helps me cope. Allowing myself to cry, be angry and feel hopeless gives me a break from the part of me that strives for perfection. In fact, every now and then I let myself be a disaster area. Test strips all over the floor, a handful of almonds (yep that’s my comfort food) and binge watching ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.’

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But besides slacking off I do see yoga and yoga practices as a lifeline. Having solid tools to calm my mind and nervous system makes a huge difference to my mental emotional state. Especially when I am dealing with a week of frustratingly high blood sugars or panicking over lows.

Coming back to my breath, slowing down and gaining perspective through quiet reflection are just some of the ways I cope. I also look to my partner for support and advice. He doesn’t have diabetes but he has incredible wisdom and knowledge and is always reminding me that even though the body has a disease, I can never be the disease and that my thoughts about the disease are much more trouble than the diabetes itself.

Learning to manage my thoughts, seeing them for what they are and knowing myself as that presence in whom all thoughts come and go creates a space for me to accept what’s happening. It’s not always easy but it helps.

And then there’s my absolute favourite tool for changing my attitude. The breath!

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 Try this simple technique to let go of stressful thoughts, worries and negativity

You can do this sitting in a chair, lying down or simply standing in line at the post office. Breathing in for an even count imagine you are breathing in love, joy, peace and calm Doubling the length of your exhalation breath out stress, negativity, fear or whatever it is that you want to let go of. Keep going until you find you’re hardly breathing and totally relaxed.

That’s it!

With great respect… Rachel

P.S Want to know more about my passion for yoga and diabetes? I’m offering the first chapter of my new book on Yoga for Diabetes for free. Find the right practice for your type by learning all about Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga.

Getting into your breath

Happy Spring!

When I started this blog 16 month’s ago my aim was to share tips and tricks on how yoga can help you manage your diabetes.  I was going to upload practices each week and create a body of work that would eventually lead to an online resource. Well … in my excitement I kind of got off track. I came across so many inspiring people who live with diabetes and do yoga that I wanted to share their insights too and then I wrote a book, which by the way is on the cusp of being ready.

But besides the diabetes related stuff I do I actually have a day job. I travel nationally and internationally teaching yoga workshops, retreats and teacher trainings with my partner and fellow yoga teacher, John Weddepohl.

Last month our work took us to Japan. It was my 10th visit and Johns 1st and besides teaching a ton of yoga we visited temples, Mt. Fuji, saw plum blossoms and went bowling! It was cold but refreshing and my blood sugar levels staying in range for the entire trip. You can imagine how exciting that was.

After spending 30 days writing, talking and sharing all about my life as a type 1 LADA diabetic in order to raise funds to publish the book, I had almost forgotten that most of the time my focus is on sharing yoga with people who don’t have diabetes. My trip to Japan was a great reminder. No matter what’s going on, yoga works. It worked for me before my diagnosis and it definitely works for me now. My emphasis on why might be different, but the results are the same.

As part of my day job I also teach private sessions and am currently working with someone who wants to increase their breath capacity. It’s been amazing to see instant results when I share how to feel and find the breath. Like how certain poses open up the chest to increase the lungs ability to take in more air, or how some postures release the muscles that can tighten up and restrict our breathing.

In my book on Yoga for Diabetes I devote a whole chapter to breath and breathing. But for todays blog I just wanted to share 3 simple postures that can improve your breath capacity and calm and restore your nervous system.
With great respect…Rachel

And … If you’d like to find out more about when the book is coming out and how to get your hands on a copy you can sign up for my newsletter here.

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1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet placed firmly on the floor inner hip width distance apart. Raise your arms up over your  head, backs of the palms touching the floor. Keep the arms wide so there is no tension in your shoulders. Notice how easy it is to breathe into your chest in this position. Hold and breathe for 10 breaths. Then lower your arms and breathe normally and notice if your breath feels lighter.

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2. Keeping your knees bent and your feet flat and have your arms relaxed alongside your torso, palms facing down. Raise your pelvis towards the sky. Make sure there is no pressure on the back of your neck. If there is, place a blanket under your shoulders. Begin to breathe into your belly. Watch it rise and fall. In this position your diaphragm (the muscle that sits underneath your rib cage and releases and contracts in order for your lungs to take in air) naturally releases. Hold here and take 10 deep belly breaths. Slowly lower your pelvis back down to the ground and relax.

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3.  Come on to your hands and knees. Step your left foot in between your hands lining up the heel of your front foot with the base of your thumbs. keep your belly connected to your front thigh and breathe. Deepen the bend in the front knee making sure your front knee and ankle stay in a straight line. ( If you bend your knee too far and extend over your front ankle you could strain the knee joint!) Feel the stretch on the opposite front  thigh and groin. This stretches the psoas which is the only muscle in the body which connects the upper half of the body to the lower half. When the psoas is tight it also restricts your breathing. Hold here for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.

 

 

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