Yeah so diabetes is no picnic. I think I’ve pretty well established that in the last 10 blogs. There are however so many ways yoga can help. Working with a strong focus for the mind through sound and imagery is one. When we give the mind something to do and draw it out of its habitual need to identify with thoughts, our sense of individuality is suspended leaving us with SELF, the nature of which is peace, contentment, oneness or more aptly put, YOGA.
I learned the beautiful meditation in the video below from my teacher Alan Finger when I was living in NYC. I invoked it quite often, especially after being in 9/11. I found that taking my feelings and releasing them back to source was a profound way for me to come to terms with all the emotions that seemed to be piled up on top of each other as my body worked to release the shock.
My diabetes diagnosis was also another moment where I worked with this meditation. I was actually terrified at diagnosis, felt ashamed and alone and had no idea how I would recover from something that I knew had no cure. These feelings of helplessness dissolved into the simple focus of the practice and soothed my worried heart.
If you live with diabetes, or are just needing something to soothe and support your nervous system I invite you to join me for the meditation below
It’s burning in the hills behind the town where I live in Australia. I am grateful not to have to evacuate but am concerned for those who do. The entire valley all the way to the beach is in a blanket of smoke. It’s hard to breathe. We just went to the beach for some relief but there was none. It was strange to see people out and about in cafe’s and shops as per normal. Apparently it’s only going to get worse. So many more friends are leaving their homes to be safe. It’s heartbreaking.
I feel this way about Diabetes too. Even though I live with it myself I feel for every single person who lives with this condition. It’s heartbreaking when anyone is diagnosed. I know all too well the challenges ahead. Every day can feels like Russian roulette. It’s a massive learning curve and you can’t get away from it.
In spite of all the feelings that come up after diagnosis I also see diabetes as an opportunity to live differently. Instead of taking things for granted I wake up each day grateful to be alive, I’m learning through yoga and other modalities to regulate my nervous system, to react less to the stress of variable blood sugar levels. My diet is refined and I maintain an active life. This kind of approach takes focus and sustained effort and there are plenty of times where I feel frustrated and defeated. But I try not to let my down days take over. I have always been an enthusiastic participant in life.
Today as the smoke chokes the air around us I think about all the people all over the world in crisis. How do we rise above, stay resilient and not give up in the face of uncertainty? How can we make a difference in spite of circumstances beyond our control? I draw strength from a simple Ayurvedic principle.
You can’t fight fire with fire. The softness of water is what douses the flame.
The softness of water is about slowing down, tuning in and calmly moving forward. Flowing with change rather than pushing against it. Connecting with water is about dispersion and delegation. In the face of disaster it’s coming together in community and supporting each other. If we all share the burden we’re stronger together.
It’s the same with diabetes. When I reach out into the diabetes online community I find like minded friends managing their health in myriad ways. All of this forms my pool of inspiration. Even better is going to a support group or event where we all meet and share. I’ve learned more about my condition from these brief in person events than I have from my doctors and diabetes educators.
Knowing there is a community out there to answer a question, share a technique, help me find the best product or device is priceless. Before diabetes I would never have outsourced, researched or informed myself in this way. Diabetes has literally inspired a whole new me. My mission for diabetes awareness month is to share from the heart how diabetes affects me personally but its also about sharing how yoga is an incredible balm.
In this very difficult time, no matter what the struggle, it is my prayer that the varied practices and teachings of yoga become an important part of the healing journey.
More on that tomorrow… #NDAM, #DiabetesAwarenessMonth
Today ‘diabetes’ was the big topic of conversation amongst everyone I spent time with. I love how friends are curious about how I manage my daily life with this condition. I enjoy clarifying the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, why we take insulin or sugar and the ins and outs of daily management. There are many diabetes myths out there, like people with diabetes can’t have sugar, or we take insulin for every situation, whether low or high, or that our diets caused our diabetes.
Diabetes is so much more complex and mysterious than that. It’s a bit like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. What I deal with in my iteration of diabetes is different to every other person with diabetes. That’s what makes it both frustrating and predictable. Living with diabetes means you can rely on its uncertainty.
And don’t get me started on how each person living with diabetes relates to their condition emotionally and mentally. In a recent conversation, a friend with type 2 diabetes stressed how exhausting it felt having to stay so vigilant with daily blood tests and visits to the doctor. In the end her way of dealing with it was to say, “I have diabetes, so what.”
Listening to her take on diabetes made me reflect on my own approach. I could completely understand her position. Taking anything so seriously that it restricts your life can make you more unwell.
This is where I segway into my personal approach to management. It’s definitely the serious approach, where fear of complications such as loss of vision, amputation, kidney damage,and neuropathy give me the discipline and impetus for strict control. I’ve used my body my whole life to express myself through dance and yoga. The body being my joy meter. I remember thinking as a teenager that if I couldn’t walk, or dance I didn’t know how I’d cope. I feel the same way now as an avid yoga practitioner. I see the body as a powerful tool for health and wellbeing. If you can open, stretch and strengthen the body you can directly affect how you deal with any physical , mental or emotional stressor.
Luckily the daily discipline required of a dancer and yogi has its benefits, I utilise it to be comfortable with eating the same kinds of foods at every meal, taking approximately the same amount of insulin, walking at a specific time each day, checking my blood sugar often and using yoga and meditation to mange my mindset. When I veer from my daily routine it takes days to catch up. It’s hard for me to experiment and try new approaches even when I know those changes would benefit me. I don’t want to beat myself up about my approach though… I’m fine with it. As one of my diabuddy’s once said, “You do diabetes your way and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Walking with my friend today we talked about how it feels when I see a positive number on my glucometer or I know I’m doing good time in range. ” Do you feel like you can take a moment to soak in the tone of that feeling? In other words stop and feel how good it feels to know your managing well? ” I absolutely loved the way she put this. If I can acknowledge the good feelings, really soak them in then perhaps those more challenging moments i.e low or high blood sugar freakouts, will be less stressful. I like the idea that even something as stressful as diabetes gives me the opportunity to embrace those feel good vibes and to heal my nervous system.
A nice way to acknowledge that even though I have diabetes, so what.
Setting myself the task to write something every day for 30 days about diabetes to spread diabetes awareness is definitely daunting. I live with diabetes for 365 days a year and deal with it 24/7 so it should be easy to articulate that right? In reality the way I deal with diabetes is deeply private.
After spending 6 years ignoring it and then spending 4 years shouting about it via writing a book and being a fierce advocate through social media, it’s been interesting to spend this past year taking a break from the need to externalise my experience.
In 2019 I set a goal to lower my Hba1c, heal some of my underlying digestion issues and be brave when it comes to taking Insulin. I started 2019 using the Diabetic Health Journal, created by yogi and diabetes health coach Lauren Bongiorno, with incredible results. Writing down daily goals, things I was grateful for and staying accountable made a big difference. My Hba1c went from 6% to 5.6 % in 6 months. If you’re not sure what that means it’s like dropping your cholesterol levels or blood pressure. Moving it from a pass to a win.
I also went into hyper drive with my digestion, adding different supplements, bone broth and more variety into my daily meals. I worked on stored trauma with network spinal analysis and neuroimmunology sessions. Finally I made sure to keep up a daily walk and my twice daily yoga practice.
Making a concerted effort to shift some deep seated patterns has been an interesting process. I didn’t necessarily make great strides or have major revelations, instead I settled more into accepting what is.
“What is” might not be what I want but if I can accept it that’s a pretty good place to be. It’s how I dealt with diagnosis after fighting it for so long and pretty much how I manage my finicky digestion and volatile blood sugars and everything else that comes my way.
My latest go to phrase for everything is, ” It’s not up to me” That’s not about not doing everything I can to stay balanced. It’s about understanding that I don’t know the recipe of creation. Letting go of needing to know, enjoying the gifts I’ve been given and trusting that whatever comes is perfect, goes a long way in helping me manage my condition.
I never expected to be diagnosed with diabetes but now that I have been I can honestly share it’s a blessing in disguise.
More on that tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth
Diabetes! The one word in the english dictionary I never really wanted to focus on. I can remember the day I was introduced to the word by my high school girlfriend. She wore a medical bracelet around her wrist and ate sugar free candy. She told me it wasn’t much fun having it, but little else. It wasn’t until my own diagnosis, thirty years later that I understood the gravity of the burden she carried. Living with diabetes isn’t like living with a slightly annoying flatmate. It’s a 24/7 alarm bell that never stops ringing.
After diagnosis I tried to ignore it, big mistake! For me ignorance has meant nerve damage and digestive issues that don’t abate. But I’m not bitter. I’m grateful.
This month is #DiabetesAwarenessMonth. I’ll be posting every day sharing how yoga and mindset has helped me to navigate this journey. I’m not sure how I’ll fare, it’s a big task but I’m going to give it a shot (no pun intended).
So why should everybody know about Diabetes?
Well for starters 425 million people worldwide have the condition. That’s a lot of people. And that’s not counting those with undiagnosed or misdiagnosed type 1 and type 2. Diabetes is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world. It’s also a disease with no known cause or cure and with ridiculously high priced medication in a country, like the US. Managing diabetes also has no set treatment rules. I.e Insulin is not a cure! It’s like managing Jello. There’s a whole lotta wobbling going on.
Lately I haven’t been waving my diabetes flag here on the blog or elsewhere. For personal reasons I needed to jump off the bandwagon for a while. I worked pretty hard for most of the year on getting my numbers in range. For non diabetes friends, that means I’ve worked towards having normal in range blood glucose levels. When I achieved my goal halfway through the year I took a writing break. It’s been a good exercise for me in looking at the topics which really matter to me. It’s also given me a chance to step back from all things diabetes and just be.
Whether you know about diabetes, live with diabetes or know absolutely nada being is seriously cool. Being means being okay with the ups and downs. Being is all about taking each day as it comes. Without doing anything being is always happening anyway. So being conscious of being takes it to a whole new level.
After quite a lot of being…I’m feeling like doing again…Phew!
I hope you’ll join me this month here and on my social media channels. Do comment below if you’d like me to post about something specific like what postures I choose to do, what I eat to manage my levels or anything else.
I’ve been low lately. Low in glucose levels, energy and motivation. Motivation to write this blog and be active on social media. Other than wanting to share through my channels what we can do as individuals to make a better world, I can’t watch the endless stories on Instagram anymore, even when I like the people who share them. I’ve got no time for superficial nonsense and I could give two hoots about how to live a better me. This is it baby, I AM me.
My inbox is crammed with junk mail and there’s no end in sight. The weather is way too hot, too cold, and here just up the road 21 homes have been destroyed due to raging bush fires. Last night we went to see the Joker. I came out with a headache. This movie is all about the making of a villain. No superheroes in sight.
But who is the villain?
As far as I see it, we have been complacent too long (me included). If we don’t do something, say something and change our behaviour not only towards the planet but each other we are all ‘the villain’. I don’t care which way you lean. Be a decent human being. Those people putting themselves on the line deserve our support. Better yet put yourself on the line. Start with your own home, reduce your carbon footprint.
And all of us dealing with the high cost of Insulin, crap insurance and lack of money for medication, devices etc, the situation isn’t looking up. I had a meltdown the other day realising that if I am somewhere where access to medication becomes impossible for whatever reason, I and countless others seriously wouldn’t have long to live!
If you’ve been reading my blog for the last 4 years, you’ll know I am super positive. I always try and see the good in things. I use my yoga practice to support my mental and emotional health and absolutely believe yoga and knowing its true meaning can solve all our problems.
So even though I have been feeling disheartened I’m also excited. Excited that things have finally got to the point where there is a possibility that we can breakthrough our complacency and come together. I truly wish for this with all my heart and I believe it can happen. Being part of the diabetes community has taught me that.
When I’ve needed an extra sensor, syringes or a shoulder to cry on someone’s been there. It feels natural to help others when it comes to chronic illness. It’s not our fault and if we can’t turn to the people who understand, life would be bleak. I trust that even though crisis is the worst and impossible to face, it also calls out the best in us.
When I was in 9/11 in NYC and walking through the streets to make my way home, I walked along the 59th street bridge with 7,000 people shoulder to shoulder. We held each other in that embrace. Nobody was arguing, complaining or attacking. We were one breath, one body, helping each other home.
This post today is a clarion call. What small act of kindness can you do today to make a difference? It could be something personal or planetary. This is what is meant by the practice of Karma Yoga, Selfless service. The yoga of action.
Recently my friend and mentor Eve Grzybowski started a group on Facebook called Climate Yoga. Asking Yoga teachers to find ways in which they could act off the mat to support the climate movement. The group grew from 10 to 200 or so in a matter of days. This shows how yoga can be a springboard for anything we care deeply about.
Why? Because during your yoga practice you learn to cultivate compassion for yourself. A posture may not be easy, your breath may be inhibited, you may feel too tired to stretch or hold a pose. Being kind to yourself is the first step in learning compassion. I often talk gently to myself on the days I don’t want to do anything. Reminding myself that if I just do two or three poses it’s enough.
The same goes for how we can contribute to this huge behemoth of climate change. Think about two things you could do today and every day to reduce your carbon footprint. It might be something as simple as walking somewhere you would normally drive. ( p.s also great for blood sugar management) Going meatless on Mondays. Bringing your own bag to the supermarket. In fact if you’d like a list I’ve found this one to be really cool.
And if you’d like to get inspired to ‘be the change’ you wish to see in the world. Try this simple loving kindness meditation.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Sit comfortably or lie down.
Bring your awareness to the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils.
Remember the happiest moment in your life and feel yourself happy and smiling.
Visualise sending yourself feelings of love, kindness and joy.
Think of 3 things that you love about yourself.
Think about ways in which you are kind to yourself.
Then say to yourself. May I remember myself as pure loving kindness. May I remember my natural strength, peace and joy.
Next think of someone you love and extend that loving kindness to them. Wish peace, strength, happiness and joy for them. Feel yourself sending them love and imagine them sending love back to you. Think of the things you love about that person.
Repeat the same loving kindness words for someone that you don’t know so well. A neutral individual.
Now repeat the same process with someone or something you feel is hostile towards you or you feel hostile towards. This could even be directed at the anger and frustration you feel towards your diabetes
Go back to step one. Direct loving kindness back towards yourself. Feel yourself as love, peace and joy. Feel how love peace and joy is the nature of every human being. Feel your compassion extending out from your heart to every single creature of the earth. Feel it like a giant heart pulsing through the whole of creation….
Finish by bringing your awareness back to your breath taking some slow deep belly breaths.
I’m getting braver when it comes to taking fast-acting Insulin. My insulin to carb ratio has been 1:30 for the last year but that seems to be shifting. Either that or I’ve upped my carbs enough to need more. After nearly 6 years of nothing but greens, I’ve added butternut pumpkin, carrots, apples, and the occasional sweet potato.
My whole life I’ve been told that I need to eat sweet foods to stay balanced. Before my diagnosis, warm veggie root stew was my staple. The first 6 years post diagnosis I managed to keep my levels in range with a low carb diet. The first thing to go was bread, then pulses and eventually all grains. I got really good at making bread with sesame seed or almond flour until I overdid all the seed and nut flours too, ending up with even more tummy issues. Before I tried insulin, I had a very narrow corridor of foods that I could tolerate.
Starting Insulin has made things easier but being sensitive I haven’t been able to leap back into pancakes even when they are made with low carb ingredients. It seems my body wants simplicity when it comes to food. So, in spite of my desire to go wild, eat whatever and cover I’ve been building back my gut flora and adding foods in and out in cycles to see if I can tolerate them. Some things have worked, like butternut pumpkin and carrots while other things like cabbage, kale and brussel sprouts haven’t.
It’s been frustrating and disheartening at times, knowing that in choosing to ignore my diabetes I damaged my digestion.
My husband, who has very simple needs when it comes to food always shares that the body needs food, it doesn’t need a particular type of food. It’s only me, the one eating the food that has a desire for something special.
Food is a language and I’ve become conditioned into that language developing a taste for the foods I like. In reality, food is sustenance.
Part of what the deeper teachings of yoga have brought to me is a way to be with my condition with compassion. The other day we walked into a health food store with rows and rows of delicious things. Things I know my body will react to if I eat them. Rather than get despondent or feel angry I felt a quiet acceptance. Reminding myself that I had 42 years of eating whatever I wanted. If I needed to avoid those foods so I have a more relaxed tummy so be it.
In the words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.”
As my journey into my 11th year with diabetes continues I am still coming to terms with this condition. I’ve shared before on the blog that my endo wants me to get to the point where managing my diabetes is so ordinary that it’s as easy as brushing my teeth and that I no longer panic about changing the amounts of insulin I need, that I trust my body and its ability to work with the medication.
I agree that I need to have a healthy attitude towards insulin, but I also feel I need to stay alert, check my blood sugar regularly and be sensitive to the timing of doses, exercise, and changes in my routine. I like to think of my life with diabetes as an adventure but at the same time have a good back up plan. For me, that’s the winning combo.
with great respect…
P.S I’d love to know your winning combo…comment below. It’s beautiful to learn and grow together.
It’s tragic, that moment when my inbox flags that someone’s unsubscribed from my newsletter. I know it’s not personal, but it is.
Feeling the inevitable gut punch when I post a newsletter is something I’m getting used to. It’s why I find it harder and harder to send them out and truth be told I’m a little envious of my unsubscribers. I’d like to do some unsubscribing myself
Like unsubscribing from Type 1 diabetes.
It’s 6 am. I roll out of bed and pad to the computer, As I watch the myriad of newsletters come in the subject, “LOW BLOOD SUGAR” is staring me down. I click through the dropping numbers and glucose tabs to the fine print. Who wants low blood sugar in their inbox anyway? Not me. With a quick click, I’m done. PHEW!
One less newsletter to worry about until breakfast.
The inevitable ping reminds me my next newsletter has arrived. This time the subject line reads, “BOLUS for BREAKFAST”. Again I scroll down to the teeny-weeny lettering and click the unsubscribe link, only to be led to a page which offers me numerous other ways to resubscribe
Bolus for Lunch ✅
Bolus for Dinner ✅
Basal for Bed ✅
Inject for a High ✅
I go through the process of unchecking all the boxes and BOOM no more bolusing for anything!
I feel an incredible sense of relief until I realize, I’ve got another mail. That annoying one where I have to manually write to the person and ask them to personally unsubscribe me. The subject reads, “Unknown Reason for High”.
As I write a diatribe to the person for not taking me off the list I find myself confessing, “Don’t you know I’ve tried everything already? Why can’t you just make sense? It’s no use showing up if you’re just going to be irrational.”
Blah Blah Blah
While I’m at it I rage unsubscribe to everything.
A bird flies overhead, the Sun rises and sets. The wind blows through evergreen trees and I feel calm again. I’ve tamed the beast and lived to tell the tale.
Now wouldn’t that be nice…
With great respect…
P.S if you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter go here
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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’.
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.
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!
One of my husband’s axioms is, “Every day is a perfect day. It just depends on what you do with it.” I love it. And it’s true, it’s up to me how I navigate this thing called life.
Take last week when we moved interstate. You might be thinking we packed a moving van, moved into a lovely house and spent the week unpacking all our stuff.
We’ve been shacked up in an Airbnb fighting ant invasions while we house hunt, get to know the locals and continue our daily practice.
Before we moved everyone kept asking me if I was sad to be leaving where I’ve lived for 35 years. Trying to answer that is hard. John and I have been on the move for the last eight years. That’s eight years of living in Airbnb’s, sublets and house sits. As fun as it is to be a global yoga teacher, I’m ready to be in one place for long enough to teach weekly classes.
I also get how I can’t make things happen just because I want them to. It’s going to take time to find a place to live, to develop a reputation in the area and to find the right medical team as well. I can feel the tendency to want everything to be perfect right now. It’s tough facing my perfectionism. It follows me wherever I go.
Just before we moved I went to see my CDE to get my latest A1c. The results were even better than last time and a cause for celebration. But I didn’t celebrate. Not because I’m not proud of myself for smashing my goals, but because I can’t ignore how much work it takes to have a “normal” A1c.
A number is just that a number. It can’t reflect the sugar surfing, the micromanaging, sleepless glucose popping nights or the endless times I have to drag myself onto the mat and convince myself to practice because I know that if I don’t my levels will suffer.
Being a yoga teacher doesn’t mean yoga comes naturally to me. Like everyone else, it takes discipline to keep it up. Even the most hardened practitioners admit they struggle. So how do I keep myself enthused?
I use my imagination and visualize myself going through my favorite postures, taking the time to slow my breath down. Basking in the afterglow of meditation I imagine my day post-yoga. I picture my body strong and resilient. I’m prepared knowing challenges will arise but trust I’ll be more accepting in my response.
As I visualize all these benefits from my practice I start to get excited about actually practicing and before I know it it’s happening. I’m on the mat making my dream a reality.