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

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Taking on the World!

Today is World Diabetes Day. In just a little over a year my life and my understanding of Type 1 Diabetes has changed dramatically. A year ago I was in tears at the thought of having to inject for the rest of my life. I felt defeated and devastated, because I’d assumed that all the hard work I’d put into my health hadn’t paid off. But I was wrong. Having diabetes isn’t my fault. Type 1 Diabetes is an incurable autoimmune condition with a genetic componant. It runs in my family. My great grandfather had it, my great uncle had it and now so do I.

I try and be polite when someone insists there IS a cure, or that if I eat such and such I’ll feel better. If it hasn’t worked for 10% of the 380 million baby, it ain’t gonna work for me.

And I refuse to just act like everything’s normal. This is a fragile disease. I feel fragile. It’s okay.

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It’s that sense of fragility that drives me onto the mat. I’m convinced the practice of Yoga keeps me sane. Especially 365 injections later.

Oh my god…. did I just say that?

Last year I didn’t know anyone with Type 1. 365 days later I’ve met and made new friends, found a worldwide support network, started a blog, written for magazines like Insulin Nation and A Sweet Life, been an ambassador for BEYOND TYPE 1 and had my story and tips for thriving with diabetes published in a #1 Best Seller.

And I’ve managed to keep up my practice, teach yoga worldwide and enjoy the support of my loving partner John.

I can’t imagine what the next 365 days will bring but the future excites me.

As the technology improves to make life with this disease easier, as Insulin becomes smarter, as more of us contribute resources towards a cure and as our understanding of the causes of the disease refines, you never know. I might just be able to say that one day I used to have diabetes.

In honour of all the emotions, the challenges and struggles my offering to you for this special day is this simple heart balancing meditation…with great respect Rachel

Why Yoga for Diabetes?

When I was coming up with the name for my blog I came across a book about Yoga and Diabetes by Dr. Lisa Nelson and Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher Annie Kay. I subsequently ordered it.

I love it! A simple, down to earth manual to inspire both Types 1’s and 2’s to take up a yoga practice while learning about its profound benefits. I wrote to Lisa and Annie, told them my story and asked them to share why they wrote the book and include a simple practice.

The following piece is written by Lisa Nelson M.D

I have been teaching about the effectiveness of yoga as a tool for managing diabetes since 2012, when I first co-taught the Prevent and Reverse Diabetes program at the Kripalu School of Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, MA with the lovely Annie B. Kay (my co-author for Yoga and Diabetes).  This 6 day on-site immersion program is a blend of yoga, nutrition, mindful eating, meditation, group support, and diabetes management.  Though primarily geared toward people with Type 2 diabetes (hence the “prevent” in the title), the program is also useful for people with Type 1 DM who want to use lifestyle modifications to positively impact their health.

Rather than describe what I think guests got out of this program, I’d like to share an email I received from a graduate of our Spring 2014 program:

“My 4-month check-up with my endocrinologist was today. Both the nurse and my doctor separately told me how good I looked, which took me aback somewhat. They were not referring to my weight but my aspect – maybe a healthier glow? A more relaxed demeanor?  My A1C went from 7.1 in November to 5.8 today – this only 2 months post-Kripalu. My doctor and I are beyond pleased. I have fully ended my Victoza and cut my Metformin in half. My BP med is back down to a “whiff” and was 118/80 today. As far as other things beyond med reduction – I think I mentioned in class (to laughter) that I have the odd feeling of being taller. I guess that is really just a greater feeling of well being or a lightness of being – and this occurred before I lost weight. I think since Kripalu, I have lost approximately 20 pounds. Unlike the others in our group, I am 10+ years post diabetes diagnosis; so it shows that even a long-termer can get results. I can only imagine how the others’ numbers will look a month from now.”

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This story is not unique– we have heard from so many people over the years about how this yoga-based program helped numerous aspects of their lives, not just their “numbers.”  People come away feeling more resilient, more balanced, physically lighter, and better able to manage their diabetes.

Our experience with the transformative effect of yoga for people with chronic disease is what inspired Annie and I to work with the American Diabetes Association on our book, Yoga and Diabetes.  We believe that our program at Kripalu was successful because yoga is a powerful tool for life change.  So often, people know what they need to do to support their health, but they aren’t able to actually make the time or mental shift to allow it to happen.  The practice of yoga helps to create the space for healthy change to emerge.  It is transformative; it is a tool for self-healing.

It is our sincere hope that Yoga and Diabetes will help introduce this beautiful science and practice to a whole new audience, so they can reap the benefits of yoga’s healing power.

If you are new to yogic practices, here is one of the breathing practices that we discuss in our book. This practice is calming, balancing and relaxing.

Alternate nostril breathing (“Nadi Shodhana”)

This “sweet breath” is thought to calm and balance the nervous system.

Sit in a comfortable position. Notice the rhythm of your natural breath. Bend index and middle finger of your right hand toward your palm. Keep the other fingers and thumb straight. Press right thumb against your right nostril, blocking it off. Inhale thorough the left nostril.  B. Pause, then place the right ring finger over the left nostril, and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril. Pause, place the thumb back over the right nostril, and exhale through the left.

Begin with three cycles of this breath, and increase to 1 to 2 minutes, then work your way up to 10 minutes.

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Lisa Nelson MD is a practicing family physician and is the Director of Medical Education for the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA and Medical Director of The Nutrition Center, a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire a healthy relationship with food through counseling, nutrition, and culinary education for school aged children.  

Annie B. Kay MS RDN RYT is the author of the award-winning book Every Bite Is Divine, a licensed integrative Dietitian, master yoga teacher, and Lead Nutritionist at The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA. She has been writing and educating internationally on integrative lifestyle for over two decades. www.anniebkay.com

Yoga for Diabetes

Bringing the Sunset into your Breath

Have you ever stopped and really watched a sunset? Here in Africa it’s something else. As the sun dips below the horizon, the sky turns gold, then pink and finally a deep violet. A single star twinkles amongst the silhouetted trees and everything goes still. In yoga, dawn and dusk are recognised as times for reflection, rest and rejuvenation. The perfect time for practice.

But what if it’s not feasible to stop everything and practice at the right time. Breathing for Diabetes   breathing for diabetes

When I started yoga I had a lot of time on my hands. I’d left my day job, was in a new relationship and busy planning a family.  I made the effort to rise every morning before dawn to practice asana and meditation. But when my son was born everything went out the window.  Who has time for anything when you’re busy feeding, burping, changing nappies and trying to get some much needed sleep!

And aren’t we all busy with some baby or other? What about your work baby, marriage baby, social media baby, health baby or whatever baby….you feel the need to do something to manage your health and wellbeing, but the question is when, what and how?

A physical yoga practice is a perfect tool. But it does require an interest in the modality, a connection with a style or teacher as well as persistence and patience.

The practice of Pranayama ( breath work) is more accessible . Why?  Because unlike the postural practice you don’t need a yoga mat on hand to do it. You can breathe anywhere, anytime. In fact you already do. You’re just not aware of your breath or what its actually doing in any given moment. Being mindful of your breath is an immediate stress reliever.

Change your breath and you change your state of mind.

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My favourite breathing practice incorporates slow mindful breathing with visualisation. It comes from Laya Yoga, the practices of contemplative absorption. When you focus your mind in on one thing it pulls it out of it’s preoccupation with thoughts. When you’re no longer needing to identify or react to thoughts the whole body/mind system is at rest. It’s like experiencing the sunset on the inside. Complete peace, stillness and beauty.

For this weeks practice I invite you to join me in a simple breathing visualisation called the Equalising Breath.

With great respect…Rachel