Dancing with Diabetes

This last month has been all about my obsession with Ballet. It started when I was in the airport on my way back to Australia and Misty Copeland’s, Life in Motion miraculously leaped off the shelf and into my hands for the long flight ahead. Reading about her incredible talent and rise to stardom amidst a very unstable home life and her detailed descriptions of a life in Ballet, brought back vivid memories of what it was like to live and study dance in New York City during the early 80’s.

Back then I was an aspiring Ballerina and spent every spare minute either attending dance classes or watching the greats in American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. My own career in dance lasted well into my 30’s. I never made it to a big company, ( I danced with a regional dance in education company in Tasmania), but I did get to taste what it’s like to perform day in and day out.

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Don’t let anyone tell you that dancing is glamorous. It takes grit, hard work, and guts to do all that graceful stuff and nerves of steel…not only to face external criticism but one’s own nagging self-doubt, fear of failure and much more.

Initially, when I was diagnosed with diabetes, I tried to dance down my blood sugar levels. I’d wake up, head to my yoga room, blast out music and thrash about for 20 minutes hoping for the best.  It worked quite well in the beginning stages when I was still producing quite a bit of insulin but later, not so much. After a while, any kind of exercise raised my levels and depleted my adrenals and sadly I stopped dancing.

Reading Misty’s book made me wonder. Are there other dancers out there who live with Type 1 Diabetes?

Enter, Zippora Karz, a former ballerina with the New York City Ballet who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just as her career was taking off within the company. Lucky for me she is also a writer so to continue my passion for all things Ballet I couldn’t help devouring her book, The Sugarless Plum. It’s such a great read and perfect for anyone living with type 1 diabetes who also loves all the intrigue of the Ballet. I soared along with Zippora as she realised her dream of joining the company, and then crashed when she was diagnosed, misdiagnosed and re-diagnosed again. Her journey to health and wellbeing is remarkable, her courage unshakable and her persistence in living her dream in spite of the many challenges and unknowns awe inspiring. Can you tell I love this book!

So after a month of watching videos of Ballet, reading about Ballet and thinking seriously about attending an Adult Ballet class, I decided it was time to digress from my usual yoga for diabetes topic and share with you a short interpretive dance about what it feels like sometimes to live with diabetes.

I’d love to know how you find creative ways to manage the many emotions that arise in a life with diabetes so feel free to comment below…

With great respect…

Rachel

What will the world look like now?

Last night I couldn’t sleep and I know I wasn’t the only one. The biggest question on my mind was, what will the world look like now? What will be the worlds attitude towards America and how will we move forward?

My Facebook feed is packed with fearful and tearful exclamations and words of comfort too. Close friends who practice yoga sharing personal stories of how they’ve coped in the past with tragedy and uncertainty. How do any of us face the unknown?

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As this is still #diabetesawarenessmonth and managing diabetes is a 24/7 job this whole election palaver and subsequent result although hugely daunting is also an opportunity to tune in to how any of us cope when faced with something we don’t want to face.

When someone is diagnosed with diabetes often friends and family comment that at least it’s not cancer. At least you can’t die from diabetes. Isn’t it the same with an election result we’d rather not stomach? Surely this isn’t going to kill us and for those of us who live with chronic illness, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

We find ways to more than cope. We thrive!

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And how do we thrive? Through acceptance. Accepting the hand we have been dealt with grace and determination.

Do you know anyone who lives with diabetes? have you seen them injecting at a meal, testing their blood sugar, eating differently, perhaps fiddling with a device attached to their belt? If you have then you might have assumed that what they do is easy and that they have adapted.

What you don’t see is the shock and horror of diagnosis. The fear and uncertainty of how they will cope. The grief, and the loss and despair. Even worse if that diagnosis happens to a baby or a small child how that little innocent being is just that, innocent and how the parents for years to come will have to bear the burden. Constant blood sugar checks day and night, injections and more.

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The road ahead after diagnosis is harder then anyone can imagine. But somehow little by little that baby grows up, graduates from college and goes on to live a healthy and productive life.

I truly believe that as a human race our ability to adapt is a blessing. We can stare down the barrel of a gun, live in the most appalling conditions, survive holocausts, wars, famine and still love and create beautiful, astounding things that change the world.

Staying Balanced

It’s been pretty quiet over here on the blog. Mainly because I’ve been in flux. First there was the awesome safari in Kruger national park and then flying home to Australia, recovering from jet-lag, preparing for my upcoming yoga teacher training and generally adjusting insulin, routines and more to the the new environment.

rachel-2016-2-2Throughout all the change my yoga practice keeps me stable. That and my strict adherence to routine.  Knowing my ayurvedic type means knowing what will easily imbalance me and what will easily bring me into balance.

Travel and change are some of the biggest hurdles when it comes to staying balanced as they increase vata dosha. Vata is the combination of air and space in the system. When we have too much we experience things like insomnia, anxiety, a feeling of being spaced out and difficulty concentrating. Physically the skin dries out, we suffer from constipation and our joints tend to pop and crack. Excess vata can also cause erratic blood glucose levels. Bringing the vata back into balance is good for everyone whether you live with diabetes or not. flower-offering-the-photo-forestBesides, eating well, sleeping at least 7-8 hours and drinking plenty of water I make sure I’m really warmed-up before starting my postural practice. Repeating movements that flow on the breath is a great way to start.  Lately I’ve been putting together short sequences on my iPhone and posting them on Instagram and Facebook just for fun. The one below is one of my favourite ways to get warm quick.

Check it out and let me know what you think…and if you feel inspired and would like to do more you can get a free yoga class here.
With great respect…Rachel

Do your best, get feedback and begin again

“Again! Let’s take it from D.” The young conductor was standing in front of a world class orchestra and a world famous conductor, my Dad and about to cast the first downbeat.

Young conductors know that this is the only way to improve. They do their best, get feedback and begin again. Watching the class and listening to my Dad’s comments it hit me; he has worked hard like this his whole life.

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When I was little, my dad was often hunched over a score at the piano making pencil markings, or waving his arms around with headphones on. I knew that we were supposed to be quiet and patient while Dad was studying, but I never quite ‘got’ why. I attended a dizzying amount of concerts and rehearsals as a kid and it all seemed so effortless.

It’s only now as an adult, living with diabetes, that I get it. What appears normal to others is actually a well thought out micromanaged existence designed to give the appearance of effortlessness.  If you knew that a conductor stopped the orchestra multiple times to correct a tempo, adjust the volume, or ask for more emotion, I wonder how you might listen to the final performance.

Knowing what goes on behind the scenes with my Dad makes me more sensitive and compassionate. These guys have worked their butts off. I also understand that making music is a true labor of love. Musicians use their bodies, their arms, legs, lips and voices to produce sound and hours of practice and effort takes its toll. Necks get sore, lips wear out, elbows get strained. But the orchestra keeps on going. The music survives and we the audience are entertained. It’s all worth it in the end.

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As someone who definitely micromanages their diabetes, I can relate. I’m not taking injections for meals yet, but I’m definitely on the verge. And I’m busy learning from my peers. I have to admit not only do I spend hours on my yoga mat, but an equal amount of hours reading articles on diabetes, chatting in facebook and twitter groups and staying abreast of the latest management strategies. Ideally I’d love to sit in on a master class with some of the greats.

Then last week it happened. I caught up with Hanna Boethius, a coach, writer and speaker who has lived with type 1 Diabetes for over 30 years. She offers motivational and inspiring ways to bring about change in diabetes management and has a profound understanding of how nutrition and lifestyle choices can balance diabetes.

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The first thing Hanna said to me, when I shared how often I check my blood sugar, was to remember that long acting insulin just slowly trickles through hour after hour. Without fast acting on board, I won’t suddenly drop low. If it hasn’t done it over the last 18 months, it’s not going to suddenly start now. With a gentle smile she suggested I trust my body more and give my fingers a rest.

We also discussed food and low carb diets. We both agreed that it has helped us immensely. But we also agreed it’s not for everyone. After nearly an hour and a half of sharing our insights on food and yoga in diabetes management, Hanna suggested we offer up our conversation as a webinar/google  hangout. We’d already planned a workshop in Zurich on how food and yoga can control diabetes, but thought it would be even better to spread our ‘masterclass’ to the worldwide DOC ( diabetes online community)

Hanna truly lives what she shares, which became even mores obvious when I headed over to her gorgeous and welcoming home on Lake Zurich for our webinar. She complained a little at the size of her kitchen, as it was too small for the amount of food they love to prepare at home, but we agreed that having a beautiful place makes up for it. She also shared with me later, as she walked me back to the train, that living in Switzerland has its perks when it comes to insurance. “I can have the sorts of medicines and equipment as I want and need it.”  I admit I’m envious. In Australia so many things aren’t covered (like CGM’s) and I would definitely have more confidence with my management if I knew I could afford to.

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Riding home after our webinar, reflecting on what I had learned from Hanna I thought again about my Dad and his mastery. When he steps out on stage and seamlessly conducts, the orchestra becomes one. One sound, One voice.

The word Yoga, as I described it in our webinar, also means oneness, wholeness. Understanding that the body is not separate from creation. Rather we are inseparably part of creation. And we can’t get out of creation either. Even if you get in a spaceship and head to Jupiter you’re still in creation.

With chronic illness we often isolate ourselves or feel like we’ve done something wrong. But the truth is there is no such thing as imperfection in creation. There’s just variations on a theme. In music those variations are celebrated, played with and teased out.

That’s how I work with my diabetes management as well.  In an upcycle (where my levels are stable) I think about what’s working and try and repeat that. In a downcycle (where my levels are more erratic) I can come back to what worked before or try something different to start again.

I can’t stress enough that no matter where you are on your journey with diabetes it’s important to reach out, be creative and keep exploring.  It’s something I learned from Dad when I was quite young and something I’m deeply grateful for today…

If you’d like to learn more about how food and yoga can help you control your diabetes check out our webinar below and if you want  to watch my awesome Dad go here

We’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

 

The day the world stood still

While the rest of the world still thinks it’s April 6th and is sending me birthday greetings from far and wide the dawn is breaking on a  very different kind of celebration for me. The 39th anniversary of my Mothers passing. 

It’s always been a conundrum celebrating the excitement of my birthday with the bittersweet of my mothers death.

I can remember so vividly my dad and step mother talking with me about the arrangement to fly across the country for my mothers funeral and me insisting I didn’t want to know about it. Who wants to talk about death on the day of their 11th birthday.

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What I love about living down under is that even though the sun has set on April 6th here, it continues on in other parts of the world and the spilling over of my birthday into a second day, means I just get to keep celebrating. Before I know it its April 8 and tragedy, loss and all the other associated emotions are merely faded memories.

That doesn’t mean I don’t mark the moment, I just don’t let it cast a shadow over the excitement of a new year ahead, the challenges to overcome,  the new friends to make and  all the exciting places to go.

This year is a little more special than others.

I’ve been here 50 years, nearly 40 of those without my mother. How has time moved so fast? It seems like just yesterday that she was brushing my cheek to wake me up for school. Driving me to various dance lessons or scolding me for running away that time with my friends. I wish I could remember more about her, but the loss of a parent at 11 means the memories have grown fainter.

My dreams of her however, have stayed clear.  Like the time she spoke to me when I  was pregnant or her long embrace during my divorce. In my dreams her hair is long and her smile wide. When I look at my cousins daughters I see that smile. Beautiful, happy and expectant.

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When I turned 40 I remember thinking that was it: my mother had only just made it past her own 40th birthday before passing and I was absolutely convinced the same fate awaited me. I’ve heard similar stories from friends… and how once you cruise past that date you feel invincible.  That’s why my own feelings as I approached my 50th surprised me. I found myself asking questions like; have I done enough? Explored every corner of possibility?

Is this happiness and contentment I feel the beginning of the end?

Catching up with my grade school friend, she asked me what were my plans for my 50th? She was thinking of doing something daring.  I admire her gumption but I’m definitely not a spills and thrills kinda gal. I wanted to do something simple, personal and meaningful. I wanted to be with my beautiful beloved in nature with time to reflect, watch the ocean and just be.

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It was a truly special day, a secret beach, warm ocean, circling hawks, we stripped bare and dove in. Letting the ocean wash away the previous 49 years. Feeling purified we couldn’t stop remarking on the perfection of the day.

And I know that if my mom were alive today  she’d be proud of the woman I have become.

Her legacy lives on in me.

with great respect…Rachel

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What are your non-negotiables ?

Hello 2016! I wish I could say the year started off all calm and cosy, but it’s taken me nearly two weeks to get my levels down after our christmas day celebrations. Don’t even asked me why…  sometimes I just have to give myself a break and be okay about swimming upstream. Amidst the pure frustration of looking at numbers I do not like I’ve realized there are some things that I can rely on.  These are my non-negotiables and I’m absolutely sure they keep me anchored amidst my personal version of diabetes distress.

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I’m a stickler for routine. According to ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, one of the best ways to stay balanced and grounded is to create a routine and stick to it. Go to bed around the same time each night and wake up around the same time each morning. I say around because we can’t always predict when we’ll wake up or get tired. What I have noticed though, is that once you tell the body to sleep and wake up at specific times it actually does it. If you show the body whose boss it will acquiesce.

Be prepared with food. Life is so busy that skipping a meal or not having something healthy on hand can either make or break you. Planning out your meals and being prepared means you can go anywhere, be anywhere and relax. I can’t think of anything more stressful then being out somewhere and there’s absolutely nothing I can eat. I’m talking road stop, in the middle of nowhere and carbs carbs carbs. My non-negotiable is to always have snacks on hand that I like and make me feel good. A few months ago I wrote up a recipe for Bliss balls during diabetes blog week. These babies go with me everywhere and are packed with protein and good fats.

Get into an exercise regime that works for you and do it every day. The whole exercise insulin thing is quite a mystery. It takes time to find out how exercise affects your levels. And there are so many factors at play. For some people exercise reduces levels drastically, for others it levels everything out and for some it pushes levels up. It’s not a one size fits all.  Checking your levels before and after exercise and testing how exercise affects you at different times of the day can really help to give you more assurance that you’re not going to go low or high. I do a breathing practice in the morning, take a walk late afternoon and then do a short twenty minute yoga practice before dinner. How do I find the time? I just do. It’s my non negotiable. Yoga brings my mind and body together into a continuous stream of presence. Being present to what is happening in my body draws me out of fearful and distressing thoughts. If I didn’t give myself that luxury every day I don’t think I’d cope as well as I do.

My last non- negotiable is making as much time available as possible for fun. Fun could be anything. Right now it’s my addiction to watching the TV series, Nashville. I never thought I’d be a country music fan, but I’m having so much fun. I’m also loving summers here in Australia and a little afternoon walk through a rainforest to the beach. A simple swim and laugh with my beloved is priceless.

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With all the hype around the start of the year, new years intentions and all that jazz, we know that there’s nothing new about managing diabetes. But what you can do is make a fresh start and decide to add something new, creative and supportive to your daily management plan. That’s where Yoga comes in.  Yoga is so much more than a practice, its meaning and purpose is to bring you home. Home to your body, your breath and the simplicity of being. Being yourself.

So did I mention that yoga is my biggest non negotiable? That’s why I’ve spent the last year writing a book about how yoga can be the perfect compliment to your daily diabetes management plan. I’m in the final stages of production and I’d love you to be involved. I’m launching a crowdfunding campaign in late January so that you can pre-order copies of the book . I’d be thrilled if you would help me help people with all types of diabetes to get on top of their game.

If you’re interested in getting in on all the prelaunch excitement, I’ll be sending out emails to let you know when and how you can be involved.  Sign up here to find out more.

In the mean time. I’d love to know… what are your non-negotiables?

with great respect… Rachel

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

If you could give yourself the perfect gift what would it be?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the spirit of giving. Every year around this time I think about  what I can give to others. I love heading online or into a store and picking out little things to give to friends and family. While browsing I also check out things that I might like. A book, a dress, a new kitchen gadget. But usually, being quite unattached to ‘stuff’ I don’t buy anything. 

But all the shopping gets me thinking. If I was to give myself the perfect gift what would it be? What do I really want? Probably foremost on my mind would be a cure for Diabetes. But to be honest that feels impractical and certainly not something readily available. So instead, what about a wish list? Things like….

a home

a regular steady income

endless opportunities to share yoga with people who really can benefit from it

blood sugars in range

perfect digestion

a consistant cardio exercise program

ability to eat a wide range of foods while maintaining good blood sugars

time to write, express, share

time for fun with my partner

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okay so that’s THE LIST

But if I had to choose just one gift, material things aside, what would it be?

I mean what would you choose?

Self Love? Patience? Happiness? Peace? Beauty? Nature?

I’ll let you in on a secret.

Already the wholeness that you seek, nothing is missing. This is the meaning of YOGA. Already WHOLE, COMPLETE AND PERFECT JUST AS YOU ARE, you just don’t know it. In fact without you creation would be incomplete. Your presence completes the picture.

So what does that mean? To know this is the perfect gift. YOU are the perfect gift. What a hoot!

So here’s wishing you the best most satisfying holiday season ever and as a special gift from me enjoy this simple soothing yoga practice. Make sure you download it from dropbox so you can do the whole practice.

with great respect…..Rachel

Catching a Moment of Grace

I spent my life equating value with effort. I always thought I had to put in 110%. Thats why, when I kept reading 18 mmol/L on my glucometer, I felt like a royal failure.

I tried everything, I mean EVERYTHING. I’d rationed my food, walked up and down hills. Ingested chromium and cinnamon. Swallowed mountains of bitter gourd, had acupuncture and kineseology. I even tapped my chakras for a whole year. I cried a river, searched my childhood for wounds, visualised my pancreas as a big pink love heart regrowing cells “ compassionately”.

I prayed, man did I pray!

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I even tried giving up for a while, my version being; pigging out on a bag of almonds. No matter what I did, the effort I put in did not equal a healthy pancreas.

Being an innovative person I tried a multitude of approaches. But nothing worked because I was missing the key ingredient.

I’d been misdiagnosed.

Imagine… You’re in Prague. You don’t speak the language and can’t read the signs. How do you get to your destination? The most essential information in this equation is to know where you are. Are you at the train station? The tram stop? The airport? Once you know where you can ask someone, google map search, whatever. But if you don’t know the WHERE it’s going to be hopeless.

That’s what it’s like when you have the wrong diagnosis. I knew there was a problem. I knew I had diabetes. But all the information about what I thought I had was wrong. I kept treating type 1 as if it were type 2. I kept telling everyone, “My cells are resisting the abundant insulin I produce. I just need to open up my cells again. That’s why you see me eating blah blah blah and doing these Yoga practices and having those treatments.” I can remember my ex trying to counsel me, explaining that my big issue was fear. If I could just stop being afraid maybe I’d heal. In hindsight I can only giggle at the ridiculousness of it all.

Knowledge is power.

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Ok, so to get anywhere you need to know where you are. But knowing about something is very different than actually experiencing something. I knew all about Type 1- but to be honest only what I’d remembered from my friend’s son injecting in front of me once. Why should I learn about something I couldn’t possibly have. And when my doctor told me I had an autoimmune condition which was attacking my beta cells, the penny still didn’t drop! “Can I regrow the little buggers?” I asked hopefully. The Doc only shook his head and apologised encouraging me to get my A1c down or we’d have to start ‘medication’.

I’d never taken a pill in my life, I was terrified!

So I put in even more effort. And that’s when the shit hit the fan. I tanked. We were on retreat at a beautiful resort on a hill in the middle of the tropics. I was teaching at dawn, inhaling avocados and trudging my way up and down hills in a last ditch effort to get my levels back down. Deep down I knew it wouldn’t work. My self-assuredness was gone. My motivation exhausted. I couldn’t see the point.

I’ve often heard or read that its at the point where you truly give up that grace steps in. I don’t think I’ve ever truly understood what grace means. People talk about in lofty terms. Like… and then such and such happened and I was showered by grace.

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Understanding grace was about getting real with myself. It happened when the Doctor told me I was a type 1 diabetic and that my only option was Insulin. I felt it when my diabetes educator said that being diabetic couldn’t possibly be my fault. And I still feel the presence of grace every single night when the needle hits my skin and the insulin seeps into the soft folds of my belly.

I have a friend who is deliciously positive. Simple things that I take for granted are miracles to her. What I love about my friend is that she’s happy with what is. It shows she doesn’t equate her value with any of her achievements. She doesn’t have to do anything to accept who she is. She lives her life through the potency of GRACE.

So what does it mean to live a life filled with grace?

I’d love to know what you think!

with great respect….Rachel

Express Yourself

What sort of things do you feel help you to let go, lighten up and relax? Do you get physical? get cooking? Love being creative? Watch a movie? Head out for drinks? Everyone is so different went it comes to letting off steam.

Being a self reflective person, dare I say “ self “ centric (I just made that up) it’s hard to imagine that some people just don’t find creative pursuits relaxing. If you cringe when you put pen to paper, feel embarrassed on the dance floor or run and hide on karaoke night, I dare you…

Keep reading!

Growing up as a kid had its challenges and its not what you think. Imagine a big rambling house, a basement filled with barbie dolls, sequins and glass sculptures, musicians playing quartets in the living room, late night pizza sessions with the likes of Yo Yo Ma.

Living with my Dad was a non-stop music fest. What was normal for me was eccentric to my friends. I was actually the odd one out in my family because I chose dance over piano. Even still I was encouraged to do my best. My mother also loved the arts. My grandfather had some of her art works proudly displayed on his walls. As we walked by a painting he’d stop and reflect on the work, a splash of dark greens and blues under a smouldering sky,

“It’s quite moody… like your mother,” he’d muse

I don’t remember her that way. What I remember most was our attic playroom filled with chalkboards, crayons, paints and play dough. When we were bored my mum would declare, “ Go forth and create!” and so we did. My brother and I not only made art, we made up plays, songs, musicals and dances. We lived in worlds where crates became spaceships and shows like the bionic man became a super 8 film where I did fancy things like lift cars with my bare hands and knock down doors.

Ah those were the days!

Art therapy for stress management

Those heady times of creative free play were soon replaced by goals of “making” it as a dancer. I spent hours in training with little time for anything else and forgetting how much fun it actually was to just make stuff for no reason. I even started to feel like I was kind of bad at art.

When my son was four, I decided its was time to express myself again creatively. Something about getting out of that whole mommy and me thing. I enrolled in a writing intensive, joined a painting class and taught myself guitar. I didn’t think I could really do any of these things well but I didn’t care. I just needed some me time. My inspiration was a book by Julia Cameron called the Artist’s Way-daily explorations, writing exercises and ways to remember the inner artist. It was super pleasurable and relaxing and the best part was I didn’t have to share it with anyone. The process and the actual act of making something was more important then the end result.

Yoga and art for stress management

Those days of just making stuff for no reason were super supportive when I was diagnosed. I was too weak to do Yoga and in too much denial to reach out, so heading to my yoga room to decorate my altar, paint and draw pictures and make yantras ( sacred mandalas) with flowers soothed my grieving heart. Making art again became a powerful touchstone and I was surprised at how my simple childlike drawings and flower creations not only facilitated my own healing but somehow reached out and touched others. What started as a relaxation tool turned into something I could share as part of my Yoga workshops and trainings. And this was before social media took off.

I’ve always seen yoga as art. The body, the perfect canvas, the breath as sculptor and the postures, splashes of colour illuminating the inner landscape. But making art with the body and getting your emotions down on the canvas really are two different things. When I’m feeling challenged, stressed, bored, even frustrated I get out my art stuff and go to town. Before I know it I’m feeling relaxed again, stimulated and ready to tackle the next moment. You may not feel like you have have the time , inclination or talent to pick up a paintbrush. So don’t…

Dream big!

Art therapy for stress management

If you were a creative person what’s the one creative art you’ve always wanted to explore?

Dance? Drama? Writing? Cookery? Craft? Sculpture?

Whatever it is do it!

Get a book, sign up for a class, get a tutorial

and let me know how it goes…. with great respect Rachel

And below’s a peek at what grew out of my own exploration with art for relaxation…