Experience counts

Whenever I settle somewhere new I make sure to head to a yoga class. It’s a great way to meet people and find out more about the town and its culture. Here in Bellingen, I found my way to the Bellingen Yoga Studio, a purpose-built space with a view of the mountains.

Whenever I take a new class I always introduce myself to the teacher and explain that I have type 1 diabetes and that next to me on my mat I’ll have a bottle of glucose tabs and a glucose meter. Sometimes they know about diabetes but most often not. With a quick check from the teacher to make sure I’ve got my diabetes handled,  I head to my mat to settle in.

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I love learning and I especially love learning about yoga. Every teacher approaches postural yoga in a unique way. What I especially love about the classes here in Bellingen is that they are taught by an experienced teacher. A grounded and strong woman who has been doing yoga forever and it shows.

Our teacher was in her early sixties. I was too shy to ask when she started yoga and to be honest I didn’t care. Her words and demonstrations, the way she adjusted the students showed her years of experience. Yoga had obviously worked for her and she was passing that knowledge on. In short, experience counts.

Experience counts in more ways than one when you live with diabetes.  That’s why learning from those who have gone before is crucial. I recognize that the way we manage our diabetes is unique but it doesn’t hurt to reach out and ask someone who’s been through the ropes.

I have diabuddies out there that I call on for support. It helps to hear that that weird high I had overnight might be due to poor basal insulin absorption or that turning the pen upside down to release a test shot means I’m not dealing with extra drops of insulin all over my belly. I love having different friends with different diabetes experiences, It means I can ask about anything and everything and try new things.

But I digress. This post is about yoga

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There are so many opportunities out there and so many avenues to try your first yoga class. There’s gym yoga, online yoga, yoga in the pub, goat yoga, CBD yoga, OMG yoga,  You get the drift.

Wherever you live you’ll most likely find a local yoga studio and a yoga teacher fresh out of his or her teacher training all fired up and raring to go with cool leggings, rad music and an Instagram account with over 20K followers. You might feel intimidated by this or even reluctant to start. How can a twenty-something yogini know about you and your diabetes? I’ll be honest. They don’t! But they can learn.

Any yoga teacher started where you are, at the beginning. Something our Bellingen yoga teacher shared with us was that we experience the most transformation when we first start yoga. We go from feeling uncomfortable or tight in our bodies to feeling light and open. We start to see the value in stretching and breathing and how soothing it is for the nervous system. As we advance in practice the tendency is to plateau, lose momentum or feel like nothing is happening. This is where going back to the foundation is crucial.

If your teacher is worth anything they’ll remember this and share this with you. Why they started yoga, how they approached a difficult pose. What yoga means to them and why. If a teacher stays glued to their mat and doesn’t even look at the students my advice would be, run. Living with a chronic condition means you deserve better. Why pack yourself into a wall to wall yoga class with someone just because they can do some fancy handstand or backbend. Real yoga is not based on popular demand.

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Personally, I love a teacher with a personalized and simple approach. At my age, I wake up creaky, achy and drained from the stress of changing blood sugars overnight. There’s often a feeling of toxicity in my body as I move through poses. Simply lying in postures and working slowly into muscles feels way more calming and supportive then sweating my way through a flow work out. But that’s just me. if you need a hard vinyasa work out to tame your blood sugars, by all means, go for it.  Yoga is not one size fits all.

After my super simple senior yoga class this week I thought it would be fun to share some of the moves I learned here on the blog. Join me in this 6-minute sequence below and hit reply to let me know how it made you feel.

with great respect…

rachel

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10 awesome ways to get back your yoga mojo

If you’re like me you’ve probably spat the dummy on more than one occasion when it comes to living with diabetes. From feeling like you just can’t take another finger prick to wanting to consume the fridge, it can feel insurmountable.

When I was in total denial it was easy for me to ‘forget’ about my diabetes. But that only lasted for so long. Neuropathy was my cold hard slap in the face. As a yoga teacher I didn’t  want to lose the feeling in my hands and feet. I rely on that sensitivity.

Losing your diabetes management mojo is totally understandable. But what about your yoga mojo? Like when you tried yoga, loved it, signed up for that 6 week course and then somehow didn’t keep going.

Or maybe you attend weekly group classes but can’t seem to motivate yourself to practice at home. Once you’re stuck in a rut whether its blood sugar related or not it’s hard to see your way out.

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But here’s the thing. If you feel like you should make a change because you fear the consequences, you’ll never stick it out.  There has to be a strong motivator to step up.

So what are the 10 things I do when I feel like hiding under the covers?

  1. Keep my mat rolled out in quiet, clean spot. Preferably with a view and near a window
  2. Choose one posture that’s motivating, like down dog and hold it for at least 10 breaths. Then get on with my day
  3. Start with shoulder and arm stretches. Simply clasping my hands and lifting them up overhead immediately creates a feeling of expansion in the chest. It gets the prana (life force) circulating through the system.
  4. Head over to youtube and search for online yoga classes. There’s loads of free content on there. Not specific to diabetes, but supportive nevertheless. If you aren’t sure what kind of yoga is right for you check out this blogpost I wrote for Diabetes Sisters to get the gist. There are quite a few specific sequences on my youtube channel or you can head to our FB group and follow my live videos.
  5. Have a set practice, do the same sequence every day. You might want to practice at home but aren’t sure where to start. A set sequence takes care of that. This is the one I do every day.
  6. Invite friends over for a weekly at home yoga practice party. Share your favorite postures with each other. You don’t need to be teachers to do this. Roll out your mats, bring the kids, have fun and follow it with a bring a plate lunch. Yoga is all about community and what better way to get motivated than having fun with friends.
  7. Try a new style of yoga. Check out a new teacher or a new studio. Trying something new is a great way to get re-inspired to practice. Plus you can try out your new moves at home
  8. Go on a yoga holiday, retreat, weekend mini break. It’s amazing what a few days away from the hustle and bustle of life will do for you and your diabetes. We take diabetes with us everywhere we go but a change of scenery, down time and a focus on the yummy stress-reducing benefits can reinvigorate so many aspects of your day to day life. After a retreat, I am much more inclined to get on my mat. All of a sudden my reasons for practicing make sense again. If you live in Australia and would love to study with us check out our latest retreats and weekend getaways here 
  9. Read an inspirational yoga book. Reading about yoga, the why, what and how is an awesome motivator. My first yoga book was Light on Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar. For an awesome yoga reading list go here. And if you want a great book specific to yoga for diabetes check mine out.
  10. Take the practice out into nature. Fresh air, sunshine, ocean waves, a cool forest,  and birdsong create the perfect setting to feel inspired to breathe and move with intention. Better yet practice outside at sunrise or sunset. This is the most potent time to practice because the prana sits low to the earth and is more easily absorbed into the system.

So that’s it 10 ways I inspire myself to get on the mat every day. And it’s not just about getting back my yoga mojo, it spills over into my diabetes management too. When I feel alive, refreshed and strong I can handle those diabetes curveballs any which way they come.

P.S I’d love to know how do you get back your Yoga Mojo?

Comment below

with great respect…

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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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Diabetes All Stars

Bump! I’ve landed in Australia after an action-packed book tour in the USA. Whilst there I was fortunate to spend time with and learn from some of the most inspiring diabetes advocates out there. These people are not just living with diabetes, they are thriving and giving back in whatever way they can to the DOC and beyond. Whether heading out together for a walk, meeting at a conference, sharing and teaching together, or supporting each other online each person touched me in a unique way. To me these guys are legends and DIABETES ALL STARS!

This week’s blog is all about the work they share out in the world and some of the sweet things they have shared with me about, Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda. To really give these guys a proper introduction I highly recommend listening to this track as you read.

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Cynthia Zuber was my first online diabuddy. I reached out to her when I found her on YouTube speaking about Yoga and Diabetes at a yoga conference. Cynthia runs a facebook page and blog. She has had Type 1 for 31 years and also lives with other chronic autoimmune conditions. Her strength of spirit and willingness to share her ups and downs through her facebook page and blog are an inspiration to her followers. It was truly special to finally meet Cynthia in person. We went for a mammoth walk around one of the oldest malls in the country and talked non-stop.

IMG_3886“Rachel’s book is filled with artistry and beauty. My body was instantly filled with goosebumps as I perused the pages, full of so much wonder and practical information that is easy to assimilate into my life. Her writing is engaging, like chatting with a close friend that shares just enough information to help you feel intimate and connected. Here I am reading about the power of thoughts! Ready to upgrade my health and life through Rachel’s teachings. I’m so grateful for her passion and wisdom.

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I met Karen Rose Tank during the crowdfunding campaign for the book. We instantly hit it off and I insisted on interviewing her.  She is one of the most supportive people I have ever met and can help anyone living with any type of diabetes to thrive. Karen is the best! You can find her at RoseHealthCoaching.com or her FB page 

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“Here I am in my home office where I coach people near and far on finding the foods and lifestyle practices to help them achieve their weight, diabetes, and blood sugar goals…. lovingly and compassionately from my 22 years of my own life with type 1 diabetes… plus certifications and trainings in Integrative Nutrition, health coaching, chronic disease and diabetes peer group coaching, low-carb, hands-on cooking groups, and yes… several yoga teacher trainings. I’m reading the chapter on “setting up a home practice”… as I struggle with a home practice and use classes to keep me in the flow. Luckily I belong to a Fitness and Wellness Center where I can take unlimited classes with fabulous instructors. Over the years I’ve had a home practice, but then something shifts, and I have a hard time settling in a personal spot. Thanks, Rachel for writing about this important step!”

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What can I say about Asha Brown the founder of We Are Diabetes. She is an action-packed powerful bundle of energy with a mission to support people in the diabetes space who live with eating disorders. Before I met Asha in person I followed her work closely. Having spent years as a dancer and having all sorts of issues with body image I feel her work is not only important it’s life-changing. As I’ve listened to her talks and met her in person she’s inspired me to reflect on my own disordered eating while trying to manage my diabetes. We are Diabetes is a nonprofit charity. I urge you to support her truly healing mission

1“There are so many things I love about Rachel Zinman’s Yoga For Diabetes. Her suggestions on how to compliment and balance the Vata, Pitta and Kapha energies through specific sequences is definitely one of the highlights for me!”

IMG_1361Marina Tsaplina, one of my all-time heroines, touched me deeply during an interview with Daniele Hargenrader where she spoke about the fragility of living with diabetes. Usually, we are told that we can do anything with diabetes. Marina talked about restrictions. and how we have a sensitivity that makes us unique. As an artist, puppeteer and scholar who brings the issue of mental health to the diabetes space Marina has been reaching out through her organization thebetes to physicians, caregivers, families, and people living with diabetes with a puppet show that addresses the “elephant in the room” Marina and I had the chance to meet and hang out in person in New York City. Her work is profound and moving and made me realize how important it is to feel all my emotions when it comes to living with diabetes.

IMG_1716” Chronic illness pierces our bodies: it pierces us on the level of body, breath, and bone. We must give extra attention to the shape and effects of our embodiments. And here is the great truth that is kept hidden from too many of us: The practice of breath and body contemplation is what it means to heal while living with chronic illness. This is my cure.  I am alive today. I breathe today. I am in this body today. My life is today, and it is made of what I practice. Thank you, Rachel, for the wisdom you have gifted to the diabetes community through your book. ”

Yoga - straddle stretchI was lucky enough to Skype with Dr. Jody Stanislaw after reaching out to her to her about how to manage insulin with exercise. Having lived with diabetes since a young age and being passionate about alternative approaches to management we had an immediate sympatico. Not only does she have a wealth of knowledge from her own experience of living with T1D she is a trained naturopathic doctor, type 1 diabetes specialist, CDE and yogi. I can’t think of a better guide if you’re newly diagnosed or wanting to improve your A1c. Sign up for a free consult here.

jody and book“The photos are so bright and beautiful! I equally love the great info but especially the simple and practical poses with the benefits and variations included as well. Such a stunning and unique book…yoga for diabetes! Thank you, Rachel!

IMG_1222My next diabetes all-star is the truly motivational Christel Oerum from Diabetes Strong. I met Christel and her partner Tobias when they asked me to create a yoga sequence for their online challenge. We connected in person at the Diabetes Sisters Conference. Christel knows a ton about diabetes and exercise. In fact, I just reviewed her new fit with diabetes ebook in my previous blog. Christel has motivated me to do all sorts of things like hang out in karaoke bars, inject in new places and walk straight up a hill on a hike in Malibu.  If you’d like to work with Christel as a personal trainer go here.

Photo to Rachel“I was actually looking at the dosha questionnaire again. I wanted to see if it has changed from when I did it the first time after your presentation. I think it’s hard to objectively do it for myself but I think it’s shifted a bit.”

Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 5.42.45 AMI read Lauren Bongiorno’s post on Beyond Type 1 and I knew I wanted her to be part of the all-star team because this woman is the real deal. She is a Diabetic Health Coach, Author, Yoga Instructor, and Wellness Speaker. Lauren’s motto? “through challenge we find our strength. It is up to us to Decide + Conquer.” Her latest and most exciting venture is ” The Diabetic Health Journal”  an easy to use, action-oriented, mindful approach to improving diabetes management mind, body, and soul. If you’d like to connect and work with Lauren go here.

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“What I love most about Rachel’s book is that it ties in the Ayurvedic constitutions. All yoga poses have the potential to benefit people with diabetes but Rachel takes it a step further by making it even more specific to each individual. My favorite part of Yoga for Diabetes specifically is the chapter including the Pitta sequence. As someone with a higher pitta dosha, I can be very intense and goal oriented, which can sometimes stress me out and lead me to burn out, making me more prone to erratic blood sugar numbers. I naturally gravitate towards more heated yoga flows + circuit training and have the hardest time slowing down. For the past few years, I’ve Ayurvedically manipulated my diet to help cool off my pitta nature, but can fine tune it through yoga. In her book, Rachel provides a soothing, calming, and surrender focused sequence that I will for sure be adding to my home practice weekly!!”

So that’s it! Now you know how many all-stars are out there to support you on your journey with diabetes. And there are a ton more. People all over the world, writing, sharing, loving and living well with this condition and helping others.

As I was sharing with my CDE and Endo just a few days ago without Peer Support I would not be doing as well as I am.. That and YOGA!

With great respect…

Rachel

P.S if you’d like to attend an in-person event with me in Australia go here  and if you’d like to work with me one on one I am offering online yoga sessions here 

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Fit with Diabetes: An e-book review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

with great respect…

rachel

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