Sailing unchartered waters

Today I’d like to share for Diabetes Awareness Month, a bit more about how diabetes affects the nervous system and why yoga is so beneficial.

Imagine…you’ve lost a ton of weight, been super thirsty, you can’t stop peeing and your exhausted. You know somethings wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Then BOOM you are in the hospital hooked up to drips and on the fastest learning curve of your life. Your family and friends can’t believe it and neither can you. Or if you’re like me, you find out from your GP that your blood sugar is not in range as it should be and it looks suspiciously like diabetes. Whether you have a sudden diagnosis, or gradual diagnosis, the shock to the nervous system is the same.

Your life as you knew it is gone. Without any prior skills to rely on you have to navigate dangerous medication (too much or too little could put you in a coma or kill you), change your diet and exercise habits and possibly even rethink your vocation. From the moment you wake up till the moment you go to sleep and even through the night, vigilance is key. Diabetes technology has definitely reduced the burden but it isn’t a cure.

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Every single day the body is in hyperdrive at some point or other. It’s especially notable when it comes to low and high blood sugars. As I’ve experienced since my horrible hypo less than a week ago and my rebound high which keeps on keeping on, being in range and giving my nervous system the chance to rest and regroup has been just that little bit more out of reach.

Autonomic nervous system dysregulation (spending more time in the fight or flight reflex and not being able to calm down and rest and digest) can be the cause of more erratic blood sugars. So taming the beast is always the first order of business. I.e lots of breath work, restorative yoga and other nervous system balancing modalities.

One of the quickest and most specific tools I use is full complete breathing. This calms and soothes, enhances digestion, massages all the abdominal organs and gives the mind a focus out of its habitual tendency to identify with conscious stressful thoughts. When we have an extreme low or high it’s is not necessarily something we tap into consciously, having a quick fix on hand that can be done anywhere, is invaluable.

Just like I used the Ujayii breath to calm me down during my low, full complete breath can be practiced at any time. It’s even helpful when you’re not in a stressed state . It can be done lying down or sitting in a chair. You can even spend some time with your hand on your belly while standing if you can’t get into the other positions. The more tools we have to bring our nervous system back to balance the easier it is to navigate future challenges and teach the body to do what it’s designed to do, relax.

Below is a short video where I share the practice. Give it a try and let me know how it feels.

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

A horrible hypo

I titled this post at 2 am this morning after a sudden hypo around dinner time. At 2 am I was thinking clearly, taking time to make a note on my phone so I wouldn’t forget. At 7.15 pm things were a whole lot more chaotic. Well not at first….

I was cruising nicely through my evening yoga practice after taking my basal shot (long acting insulin which keeps my blood sugar level over night) about 30 minutes prior. I’ve been playing around with where to take the shot to avoid insulin absorption issues, and decided to inject in the soft fleshy area in the top part of my bum. There was a sting on entry and when I pulled the needle out quite a bit of bleeding so I knew I hit a capillary. I wasn’t concerned. Usually this means the insulin won’t absorb as well and I’ll sustain a higher level overnight.

I hopped on my mat, forgetting all about the shot. It was towards the end of my practice that I noticed some itchy sensations around my waist. This is usually a sign that I am going low but sometimes that itch comes when I’m high. I actually find the itch super annoying. It’s not at all useful in helping me determine whether I should check my level or not. Luckily I checked.

3.4 mmol flashed large on my blood glucose meter. This is NOT a good result. This is a scary result. The last time I had checked I was 5.4 and usually it would stay that number until dinner. This sudden and fast drop could only mean one thing. My long acting insulin had hit my blood stream and was absorbing all at once. If I’d been wearing a CGM ( continuous glucose monitor) I could have seen the trend. Arrow pointing down on an angle means I can treat it with around 8 grams of fast acting carbs and it would come up in 20 minutes. Arrow pointing straight down would mean taking 15 grams and still having to wait 20 minutes.

Sadly I cannot afford a CGM. I had to fly blind.

After cramming two tabs in my mouth at once I sat back down on my mat. By now the itch had turned into a crawl which went from head to toe. My husband who was sitting next to me and in the middle of his own yoga practice reminded me to breathe.

I engaged whats called Ujayii breath a slow whispering breath, which sounds almost like a snore and tried to focus on lengthening my exhalation. It worked and I stayed calm but it did little to budge the numbers on my meter. I took another tab and a half and started raving and ranting This is the point where someone telling me to calm down doesn’t  work.  Me telling me to calm down doesn’t work.

Telling myself, “don’t react, don’t eat more tabs, just be here, it will pass, your blood sugar will come up” is like that feeling on the edge of orgasm when the thought comes “don’t do it… hold off… keep enjoying…” and then you go for it anyway.

Not the best analogy, because sex feels good while hypos are horrible, a total brain melt. 

It took 30 minutes and three and half glucose tabs to come out of the tail spin. The graph on the app which measures my data went straight up. When I pulled out my syringe to take some fast acting insulin for dinner my husband was confused. Why are you taking insulin when insulin just caused the problem? How to explain that if I don’t take some insulin to cover the meal I’ll rebound even higher.

Living with diabetes is a fine and tenuous balancing act between the horror of lows and the haunting of highs. No matter which way you look at it you can’t win. Best not to try. Thankfully I rarely have these testing moments. I chalk this up to a consistent and daily yoga routine. More of which I’ll share with you here during #diabetesawarenessmonth.

Want to learn the ujayii breathing technique I use to calm myself during a low? Watch this short video below and join in.

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

Sex and Diabetes: the good news

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Chocolate is sexy. Wearing red is sexy. Deep conversations…..sexy. Diabetes? Not so much.

When I was first diagnosed I wasn’t on insulin which meant no low blood sugars. In fact, a good romp meant lower blood sugars and time in range. I always felt better after, healthier and relaxed. It was also a respite. A moment where I was no longer obsessed with my meter. Although FYI I always tested before and after just in case.

After starting insulin, sex felt daring. Even risque. I never knew what the outcome would be. Would my liver kick in and dump more sugar or would my own insulin take over and plummet me to the depths? Sex felt like Russian roulette. Instead of gazing into the eyes of my beloved I was in full panic mode, making sure my glucose tabs were handy ‘just in case’.

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So how did I recover my mojo from those early diagnosis days?

Yoga, breath, and meditation.

Not quite sexy, but oh so satisfying. Yoga and its varied practices are the best way I know to regulate the nervous system and here’s why.

The system that’s responsible for the stress response and the sex response are located in the same part of your brain. They function at the same time and in response to each other. The center for learning, feeling good and motivation are also located in the same area. That means that the nervous system is intimately involved in all the different aspects of our sexual experience. I.e. anticipation, build up, orgasm and release.

Living with diabetes is a major stressor. We’re dealing with unpredictable blood sugars on top of everyday life. Stress also inhibits our sexual sensitivity and sensuality.

According to Artemis School and anatomy project founder, Lara Catone, “When the nervous system feels safe and can enter a state of relaxed downregulation the body can enter the processes it needs for both physical and emotional healing as well as the opportunity to experience more flow, pleasure and “better” sex. “

So how can we support the body to feel safe?

Starting with the breath. Breath regulates the nervous system. It’s easy to use and foolproof. There’s not one second that you’re not breathing right? And not only that you can use it during sex. The next time you’re at it in the boudoir try and catch how your breathing.

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Are you panting? Sighing? Holding your breath? See if you can consciously breathe evenly and slowly. Even dare to increase the length of your exhalation which deliberately calms the nervous system. You’re probably thinking, c’mon that’s crazy… Sex is all about letting go.

And yes it is! However, when you work consciously with your breath during sex you can actually enhance and increase your sexual pleasure. Especially at the moment of orgasm and just after. There is a whole area of modern yoga dedicated to the idea of sacred sexuality which borrows from eastern mysticism streams like the Tao.

The simple practice of controlling your breath is just the first step in teaching your body to relax. Immediately after orgasm is another opportune moment to pause.

Try this meditation for maximum post sex relaxation

You’ve just put your body through the paces building up to a burst of heady pleasure and connection with your lover. Instead of falling asleep in the afterglow sit upright and find your most comfortable seat. Begin to watch your breath. Notice the initial pace and speed slowing down to a steady rhythm. Not trying to control the breath you let it wash over and soothe you tuning in to the sensations all over your body. Perhaps you feel lighter, more tingly, perhaps there is a feeling of profound relaxation.

Bring your awareness to the center of your chest and imagine a light there no bigger than the size of your thumb. Feel it expanding on inhalation and drawing back to a pinprick on exhalation. Keep increasing the expansion of light on inhalation until you feel it surrounding you then draw it back on exhalation to the smallest dot. As you continue to do this notice how calm and present you feel. Working with the heart center enhances feelings of love, connection, and trust. On that note, it might even be something you and your partner would like to practice together.

You can work with this meditation practice for any length of time. It could be a few minutes or as long as a good soak in a tub. It’s up to you.

After finishing the practice sink back into your beloved’s arms and relax further. Then do what needs to be done for your diabetes knowing that the relaxed part of your nervous system is tuned in and switched on.

In my personal experience, the practices of yoga continue to enhance my sensitivity and ability to cope with diabetes in any situation. It has even made my diabetes, SEXY!

Check out my heart light meditation as a guided visualization and if you’d like to enhance your practice with mudra for diabetes I recommend checking out my favorite book, Yoga for the Hands by Gertrud Hirschi

Note – This post may contain affiliate links to products I trust. This means if you make a purchase using the links I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for the support! 

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What brings me to my knees

When I was pregnant and about 6 years into my yoga practice I was asked to start a prenatal yoga class in my local town.  Looking back, I am amazed that everyone survived. I was inexperienced, teaching from a book and making grand claims about how the pain we were experiencing while stretching our legs was exactly like childbirth.

Then I gave birth. The pain was unimaginable and nothing like a hamstring stretch. How could I have been so blind!

Today after my second low blood sugar in two weeks, I feel like that.

Up until three weeks ago, I was a novice. Sure I’d had a few numbers teetering on the edge, but like a graceful dancer about to fall in her first performance, I’d somehow catch myself just in time and leap away with the perfect smile.

But yesterday brought me to my knees.

I’d woken up at 3.30 am with a perfect 5.5 mmol (in diabetes land we call that a Unicorn). I knew it would be better to get up, make myself a snack and get into the day than toss and turn and worry about a low.

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After completing a few administrative tasks and enjoying the efficacy of working before dawn, I took my morning basal dose (long-acting insulin). I’d been working the different spots on my tummy to avoid potential pitfalls. I.e. popping a blood vessel and injecting straight into a vein, and was trying a new technique to spread the skin rather than pinch so the needle didn’t go in too deep.

The needle went in without a hitch, I depressed the plunger and then waited for a count of 10. When I pulled the needle out there was a huge drop of blood and I could see a hard bubble forming under the skin.

Instead of panicking I decided that eating consistently all day would help to keep my levels on track. I enjoyed having a bigger lunch and a few extra snacks. Things were looking good. I’d stayed balanced for most of the day.

Then I took my 2nd Basal shot

I prodded my belly again for the perfect spot. Primed the needle, sunk it in and then… oh… no… ANOTHER BLEEDER! I stayed calm. This time there was no bubble and no mark. It was going to be fine

I happily made my dinner, ate my desert and headed to the computer to do a few tasks before a scheduled online evening meeting with one of my yoga students. I felt a strange itchy sensation on the right hip and just to make sure I wasn’t going low, checked my level.

2.6!!!!!!

Two friggin . 6

The shock of it was worse than the feeling. In fact, I felt absolutely ZERO, nada, nothing! I felt totally normal…I screamed, and my husband came running. We were on repeat (see my last blog). He’s telling me to breathe, stay calm and I’m chugging juice. He reminds me (like he did the last time) I really don’t need to drink the whole 250 ml.

2.6? I’m drinking it!

Then I sit on the couch and wait. My heart has stopped pounding and everything feels surreal.

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I feel sad. I’m sad for babies diagnosed at birth, for the mothers and fathers who get up all through the night to make sure they stay alive. For all the people in the world without insulin. For the adults like me who are diagnosed after a full life who now have to grapple with their new circumstances. For the lack of awareness and understanding that accompanies this disease. For the injustice from pharmaceutical companies who use diabetes for profit. I want to strangle someone, scream and pound the wall. But I’m actually too spaced out. I check my blood sugar every 5 minutes and gratefully watch the numbers on my meter rise in slow steady increments. When I hit 5.5 I relax.

I had no idea, I don’t know what I was thinking…. but I had no idea

Slow steady breaths definitely helped. Stretching out on my mat the next day also helped. Putting my hands together at my heart at the end of my practice just that little bit longer to acknowledge the absolute precious gift of life… that’s helped as well.

But really I don’t know how we can ever recover from the circumstances we find ourselves in until there is a cure. As someone said recently ” Insulin does not solve the problem”

So what does?

Knowing I am not in this alone and that there are millions just like me, doing their best to meet the challenges every day with courage, strength, and grace!

If you’d like to make a difference in the life of someone living with diabetes please consider donating to any one of these amazing charities.

Beyondtype1,  We are Diabetes,  The Betes,  T1international,  Diabetes Sisters

That Mysterious low

It finally happened! I’d heard about it, read about it, feared it, even dreaded it. But one can’t stave off the inevitable. At some point, if you live with diabetes and take insulin you’re going to have a mysterious low. Today it was my turn.

It would have made sense if I’d had lower levels when I woke up or hadn’t thought I’d seen the number 8 mmol just 20 minutes before. I’m not someone who ever crashes fast. In fact most of the time I’m a big flat line. Being a LADA ( Someone who lives with Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) I still produce some insulin and use a low carb diet with moderate protein and fats to keep things balanced. I take a small dose of long acting insulin and time my walks and yoga practice around the time my insulin begins to wear off. Usually, if I am heading towards a low, I feel hungry. So I’ll grab a high protein, hi fat snack to keep things in check. Plus I check my blood sugar all the time. I mean, I use test strips like Candy!

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So what the heck happened?

I have no idea! I noticed my hands were shaking when I sat down at my computer around 6.45 am. I checked my blood sugar levels, had my morning injection, (which had burst a small capillary, but I’d made sure there was no bubble or bruising under the skin) and decided that I should eat something to get grounded. I chose a small avocado which had a bit of a bitter taste, didn’t think much of it until I started feeling like I was itchy under my skin.  I never feel like that… usually, if I’m itchy it’s on my skin and I can see hives or something… but this was like a slow skin crawl… and I was shaking… I cooked an egg to have with the avocado and sat down to eat it and offhandedly remarked to my husband that I was shaking while I was eating which was weird. I didn’t think to check my blood sugar. Instead, I went to the bathroom ( probably too much information here but anyway…) and had a panic attack. Heart racing out of my chest, feeling even weirder I called out to my husband… “I’m feeling weird and now I’m having a panic attack.!”

My husband says, “Let’s go outside and sit in the sun.” So we sit down and he asks me what I’m worried about? I say, “I don’t feel worried it feels physical”…then I lift up my shirt to examine my imaginary hives…the skin keep crawling and I keep feeling weird. But the panic has subsided…we sit in the sun for about 10 minutes and then I think about checking my blood sugar.

My husband is standing right there when we get the results 4.1 mmol…I panic. My husband says, “Check again.” I pull out my other meter, it says 3.8 mmol…I panic more… my husband says, “Check one more time just to be sure.” I check again on my first meter…3.9 mmol.

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I RUN TO THE FRIDGE

My husband is trailing behind saying, “Stay calm don’t panic.”

I don’t listen, I open the fridge find my juice popper ( we have our juice in small bags here in Australia) The straw is missing! URGH!!! I get the scissors and cut the bag open and drink a big gulp. My husband says, “Okay stop there, it will be enough.” I’m like, ” NO! I can drink the whole thing.” I guzzle down the entire 200 gms of juice in about 1 minute. Then I lean against the counter, wild eyed.

I’m thinking to myself… and how long do I have to wait for my blood sugar level to come up?

I carry another juice bag and my meter back to the living room and sit on the couch… trying to figure out what happened. I was sure that the last time I’d checked my level was right before I ate. So I went through the log on my meter. I was shocked! I checked at 6.45 am… and then checked at 8.07 which was when I saw the low.

I’d started having breakfast at 7.30 am… so couldn’t have checked just before I ate. Had I imagined the whole thing?

I’ve heard people say that when you’re low you don’t think like you normally do. But I had no idea what that meant. I remember feeling completely aware of everything that was going on. So it seemed super weird that I didn’t do the one thing I was supposed to do…

CHECK MY BLOOD SUGAR!

And my husband used to me reacting to foods or having panic attacks in the loo didn’t think to ask me to check either.

Once my levels had returned to normal… (well not quite I did overshoot with the 200 gms of juice and am now running at about 9 mmol)  I’ve had a chance to reflect on what worked for me during the mystery low.

  1. I didn’t freak about the skin crawling sensation. I stayed calm and tried to figure out what it was
  2. When I started having the panic attack the first thing I did was calm down and breathe deeply, Then I called my husband
  3. I went outside into nature and put my bare feet on the earth
  4. When I finally did check my blood sugar level, I checked a few times just to make sure it wasn’t a mistake on the meter
  5. I knew exactly where to go to get what I needed, took the remedy and managed not to eat everything in site
  6.  I waited calmly for my levels to return to normal, watched my breath and trusted my body
  7. I decided to do a yoga practice to support my adrenals and to bring more circulation and blood to my brain to help stabilize my levels after the low
  8. I drank quite a bit of water knowing that I would go a bit higher than I liked from the juice to flush excess sugar out of my system
  9.  Lastly, I hugged my husband and counted my blessings for all of the above!

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.

 

 

Yoga is the bridge that works

Konichiwa! I just landed in Japan for a 21 day yoga teaching tour and I am truly excited to dive in to teaching again. Travelling and teaching means I won’t be able to write as much so I wanted to share this uber cool guest post from Bella Girovich who is an inspiring type 1 yogini and blogger. Here’s her story AND her personal insights on the value of yoga for  diabetes. Take it away Bella…. 

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This all started in the winter of 2012. It was just around New Year’s Eve, and my family and I were getting a head-start on those New Year’s resolutions by taking a two week sabbatical (can you call it that in college!?) from life at a beautiful yoga center in Tulum, Mexico. The resort we were staying at is essentially a yogi’s paradise, complete with 2+ yoga practices per day, an unlimited supply of juices and smoothies, and sunshine and ocean to soothe the soul. The perfect set up for anyone to reboot and feel in the best shape of his/her life… right?

Well, for some of us, this was right. My mother, brother, and even my father (who was reluctant to try yoga but we eventually convinced him because he felt left out by day two) felt amazing. Me, on the other hand, is another story entirely. I woke up every morning at 7:30 for our 8 AM practice feeling tired, groggy, and lethargic, even though I had gotten plenty of sleep. For some reason, I had the strangest craving for bananas that I could not shake, and disturbed every morning practice by walking in late like a chimp with three bananas in tow. So why did I feel so awful? I was on vacation on the beach in Mexico, after all! My family poked fun at me because going on a yoga retreat was my idea in the first place, and I was the one complaining!

I blew this off as nothing, perhaps my body just reacting to a lot of physical practice in a short amount of time. Back at college in Washington, D.C., one of my friends and I decided to try out eating a raw food diet. We were both marginally interested in nutrition, and had started working at a local juice bar. How hard could it be, we thought? Well, I thought I would have it easy, being that my friend doing the diet with me was about a foot taller, 30 pounds heavier, and a male. For the first few days, we struggled through it together, laughing our way through the college dining hall with our huge bowls of spinach and raw veggies as people cast sideways glances our way. After about three days, my friend woke up and texted me how amazing he felt, and I could barely keep my eyes open. I had just joined a sorority at my university, and I attributed my lethargy to having hundreds of conversations with peppy strangers.

After about a week of feeling “off,” I was putting on mascara in my friend’s room on Friday morning, and my hand was shaking so much that I ended up looking more like a raccoon than the smoky eye I had intended. My friends looked at me anxiously, but I was too busy trying to steady my hand that I did not even notice.

“We are taking you to the health center,” they asserted, as if I did not have a choice.

“No way!” I exclaimed. “I have class in 20 minutes. Besides, they’re going to tell me I’m pregnant or have cancer,” I joked, mostly to ease my own nerves.

Being 1/3 the size of my friends, there was no fighting it- they physically dragged me across our small campus to the health center. The walk was probably only under a mile, but felt like it took an eternity.

We arrived at the health center at 8:45, 15 minutes before opening. After begging someone to see me, a nurse came in and barely looked me in the eyes as she took all of my vitals. Eventually, she went to prick my finger and check my blood glucose levels.

“Umm… can you skip that part?” I anxiously joked. I was always in Chicago, with my mom, when I had to go to the doctor’s office, and was a little squeamish around blood.

The nurse laughed at me as if I had said something hilarious, and proceeded to prick my finger. “I’ll be back in two minutes,” she stated, as if I was a nuisance.

She didn’t come back for twenty.

I could go through the gory details of my week spent in the hospital, but this was essentially how I found out I am a type one diabetic. At 18 years old, I was already an established “human” in the world, with my own diet, lifestyle habits, and yoga practice. I had already completed a teacher training and had a fairly regular practice.

After diagnosis, I had no idea how to effectively manage my blood glucose levels. Starting on insulin caused me to gain 20 pounds in a few short months, which made me even less inclined to make it to the studio, let alone even put on yoga pants.

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It took almost an entire year and the accumulation of a solid group of “yoga buddies” for me to feel comfortable walking into a studio again. However, as soon as I did, my mind remembered what my body had been missing the entire time.

Asana is incredibly effective for controlling blood glucose levels, in diabetics and non-diabetics alike. However, to me, yoga is so much more than twisting my body in this and that way. If my diagnosis with diabetes was the severing of my mind’s connection with my body, yoga was the bridge that worked (and is still working) to reconnect these two distant parts that make up “me.”

On more days than I would like to admit, I feel that my body is betraying me. Knowing that my beta cells are being blocked by my white blood cells every single day is pretty discouraging. However, every day, I come to my mat, and begin to feel again. I feel appreciation for my physical body; for my feet for carrying me into the studio, my hands for holding me in downward dog, my legs for holding me in warrior two, and my heart for opening up in my backbends more and more with each and every practice.

Without yoga, I would carry myself through the world filled with resentment and bitterness for the deck of cards I have been played. Instead, I can walk with my heart open and my head held high with gratitude for all that I do have, and for the practice of yoga that humbles me each and every day.

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Forever a student of the world, Bella is interested in the intersection of all forms of health, be it Western science, holistic nutrition, or ancient practices. Growing up in Chicago has shaped her yoga practice in that she found solace on her mat in the middle of a bustling city, and took this inner peace with her to D.C, Israel, India, and now to Atlanta where she is getting her Masters in Public Health at Emory University.  https://unsweetnlo.wordpress.com/

 

 

Yoga, meditation and ketones 

I don’t know about you but I spend quite a lot of time playing around on social media looking for ways to spruce up my meals. It’s not easy keeping things simple and nutritious. I found Hannah on Instagram and discovered she’s a passionate yogi just like me  who also follows a ketogenic diet. We connected off Instagram and I asked her to share her story and why she loves yoga and also to share one of her favourite recipes. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I do. With great respect…Rachel

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I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes almost 10 years ago and wow how my life has changed. At diagnosis I was 13, in junior high, and I had just moved to the United States from Europe. Awkward and shy doesn’t even begin to explain it. I went to a family practitioner because my mom suspected I had a urinary tract infection due to frequent urination. They tested my blood sugar and the doctor told me I needed to see an endocrinologist. While waiting for our appointment, a nurse began to explain how I’d have to take shots and prick my finger every day. Confused we asked the nurse what was wrong. “Oh didn’t they tell you? You have diabetes”. That was the first of many times that I‘ve cried about diabetes. “She then asked why I was crying,” which looking back on it now is pretty humorous because of the ridiculousness of the question. The appointment ended soon after that, we were sent home with a box of supplies and an instruction video on how to use it all (which we found out later was in Spanish).  I won’t forget that day and how I felt, but I’ll use it to make me a better and more compassionate physician. I don’t want anyone else to have to feel as lost about diabetes as I did then. 

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So here I am now living to the fullest; happy, healthy, totally loving life and believing that everything happens for a reason. Over the years I learned to be an advocate for my own health. I currently find balance in health by eating a ketogenic diet, lifting weights, doing yoga, and meditating. I have found yoga to be a great way to relieve stress. Slowing down my world for a few minutes to breath and focus on appreciating my body does wonders. As most people with diabetes know, stress makes managing blood glucose very difficult. Why? Because it’s so stinking unpredictable.

When we feel stressed out, our bodies release a class of hormones called glucocorticoids, these are hormones like cortisol and adrenalin (or epinephrine). They cause our bodies to release sugar from our liver into our blood stream to help us run away from tigers, lions, and bears.  When we’re going into a big exam, about to hop on a roller coaster, or are in a fender bender, we have no idea how stressed we’ll become and are even more clueless about exactly how much of which hormones our bodies will release. Predicting how our bodies will use these hormones and how much glycogen will be released from our liver is even more of a stretch. We can’t realistically take a preemptive shot of insulin to cover the cortisol for the car accident we’ll get in 20 mins. So what can we do?

Simply put; incorporate daily stress reducing things to cover daily stress causing things.

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That’s how I’ve found balance. My experience has taught me that yoga absolutely balances my blood sugar levels over all and with my continuous glucose monitor I now have numerical data to prove it. I believe it’s good to be informed and try things until you find what works for you. What I’m suggesting here is that maybe yoga is worth a try. 

Yoga was introduced to my life while I was getting my undergraduate in Nutrition at Texas A&M. I had previously been a dancer and was looking for a new way to get in exercise, so I bought a pass to the classes at the Student Rec Center. I read about the benefits of yoga on stress management and overall health and decided to give it a try. At first, I honestly did not like it at all. I thought it was boring, kind of like dancing in slow motion. However, I promised myself that I would go at least once a week and workout the rest of the time. It took me a long time to make it through a class without giggling because of some funny name or awkward pose (I actually still do that pretty often). 

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During my first college finals, I became very stressed, and found myself craving the relief I feel from a yoga class. It wasn’t until then that I really appreciated yoga and since that stressful week I’ve been a huge fan. Early last year I took the time to become a certified yoga instructor.  I now have a very busy schedule and practice yoga and meditation almost daily in short bursts on study breaks.  Yoga may not be for everybody but I honestly believe that everyone can benefit from it. I love it because it’s so versatile and can be done anywhere. All you need really is a space on the floor and a quick youtube search for a lesson. Simple and stress relieving.

Happy blood sugar balancing!

And here’s one of my favourite meal ideas

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When I plan my meals, I really try to focus on food quality. I aim to eat whole food with minimal processing. Most of my meals are simply just different combinations of real food. This is a sardine spinach salad with olives, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. It takes less than two minutes to rinse a handful of spinach and open the sardine can. So simple and really satisfying.

Feel free to connect with me if you have questions, stories, or just want to say hi!

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Hey There! My name is Hannah. I’ve been living with Type 1 diabetes for almost a decade. I am currently a medical student with dreams of becoming an impactful and inspirational endocrinologist. I have found health by implementing a ketogenic diet, doing yoga, and lifting weights. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Sciences from Texas A&M and I am certified to teach yoga. Last year I started a blog to share my successes and failures as I try to find balance in blood sugars and in the rest of life.  If you’re interested in learning more, the link to my blog is https://theketolifeblog.wordpress.com/