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…
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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.
Keeping up with social media, blogging, yoga teaching and just plain surviving is intense. As much as I love every single aspect of my life, I definitely get overwhelmed. Like today, after a night of surfing the edge of lows (6 glucose tabs later), I’m kind of a wreck.
I’ve always been good at “putting on a smile.” It comes from my dancer days when we were told that a smile is the best way to deal with a stuff up. i.e. falling on your butt.
I’m not sure smiling my way through frustration with diabetes is the answer. I should probably be doing more yoga. I do quite a bit, but I’m also teaching a lot at the moment so getting up early after a rough sleepless night means I’m sleeping in instead of groping my mat at dawn. If you don’t do yoga you’re probably thinking, jeepers Rachel give yourself a break.
And you’re right. I need a break….
A break from diabetes would be awesome. A break from finger pricks and needle sticks. A break from counting carbs, guestimating doses, downing glucose tabs and the constant micromanagement that creates a dull ache in my brain that never ever goes away.
A break from getting letters from the DMV telling me I can’t drive without a medical assessment and the endless costs of this test and that test just to make sure I am not sliding backward. Which by the way I just found out I am. Hashimoto’s is now showing up even though ‘apparently’ my thyroid antibody count is down. ( Whatever that means…)
Like all good 21st century peeps I’ve signed up for endless free webinars and summits on thyroid and gut solutions. I’m seeing a neuroimmunologist, I’m drinking chicken bone broth, taking clean fish oil and probiotics, chlorella and I’m whole food plant based while having eggs.
P.S If anyone gives me one more dietary guideline I’ll detonate!
And with all this endless frustration I’ve realised that I feel powerless. Powerless because chronic illness is not something that stops being chronic just because I want it to.
Chronic illness just is.
Even though I’m offloading my feelings, I also know that there are things I can do to alleviate my frustration.
Recently in a beautiful online women’s circle, the facilitator offered as an out for when we were wallowing in our emotions. Instead of saying yes to powerlessness, anger, or victimhood she reminded us to focus on going for what we loved.
When you focus on going for what you love your subconscious says yes to that. So even if diabetes is a total downer, it doesn’t have to drag you under. A subtle shift in focus is all it takes.
In that spirit, I invite you to join me in this simple practice to stop the merry go round.
When you feel at your wits end with diabetes, when you feel fed up, burnt out, frustrated, spun out and overwhelmed imagine sloughing off those emotions like you would an old coat. Then step into a circle of light. In that circle are all the things you love, your creative desires, let the images come without effort. As you focus on what you love, feel yourself becoming lighter and light filled. Feel the delight and the freedom of you expressing your gifts. Then take a pen and paper and write down all the things that you felt and saw in your circle of light.
Once you’ve got it all down on paper get creative. Turn your words into a poem, a college, a song, a story. Put those words and the images in a place where you have your diabetes stuff so you are reminded to say yes to going for what you love.
Finally, trust that you are always guided and supported no matter what. Your existence is a blessing.
I’ve had to take a few steps back in the last few weeks from the blog. Not because I don’t have anything to say, but because there’s too much to say and I’ve needed to collect myself.
My passion is yoga and to share that in whatever form that takes. So in teaching regular classes I’ve come back to my rhythm. We all have a rhythm when we’re doing what we love. Some people like to call it flow.
For me, it’s a connection to words and images weaving together into a dance of postures. I love talking about the benefits of the poses, the power of the breath and the magic of stillness. What I love most about teaching is for most of that time I forget about diabetes. Sure I check my levels midway through class or sometimes take an injection, but mostly it’s not my focus.
Whenever we are doing something we love and completely immersed in that it’s YOGA. Yoga means wholeness, completeness. In reality, this is our natural state we just don’t know it. Capturing that flow state when living with chronic illness, especially diabetes is a challenge. There is way too much micromanagement involved. I’m definitely guilty of that and to be honest sometimes even doing lots of yoga doesn’t help. It can just end up being another form of escape, control, whatever!
This is where receptivity comes in. Learning to just sit, be quiet and to receive what’s actually happening in that moment. To receive the simplicity of yourself warts and all.
There is a beautiful exercise I often share in class to allow the noise of the outside world to drop away and it relates to the 5 elements, Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space.
Click the image below and join me for this simple 5-minute practice to stop, breathe and receive the beauty of yourself and the moment simply as it is.
I’ve never been someone to feel at home in my body. For as long as I can remember I’ve dealt with feelings of discomfort. The feeling that everything that’s supposed to work in the usual way doesn’t. Digestion, breathing, and vital organs. I’m pretty sure the whole shebang was caused by the sudden death of my mother when I was 11, but I also remember a time before that when my mom threatened to use an enema bag on me when I refused to go to the toilet. I was terrified that my body wouldn’t do what it was ‘supposed’ to do.
Feeling frustrated and disconnected from one’s body isn’t unusual. It seems to be a general trend especially now with autoimmune and chronic health conditions on the rise. When we are conditioned to be comfortable living through our smartphones and laptops. Where productivity and quantity matter more than quality of life. Where we’ve forgotten the vital ingredient for existence. A body.
Stop, take a breath, think. How would you be reading this blog if you didn’t have a body, how would you be able to eat your lunch, without a body? How could you do anything without your body!
As a dancer from a young age, I grew up understanding that my body was an instrument to be pressed and moulded into shape, to be moved into submission. Starved and folded, propelled and pulled my body had to be perfect. In my eyes, this seemed impossible. There were so many imperfections from flat feet to short legs to rounded bits where there should have been bones. So as a teenager I went to war with my body. Expecting the impossible.
Learning to suppress my feelings about my body became the norm for me. As long as I didn’t pay attention it wasn’t there. I longed to feel more comfortable and healthy, but it always felt out of reach.
And then I found Yoga. Yoga changed my life and my relationship with my body. When I first tried the practice I felt awkward, embarrassed, it was nothing like a plie at the barre or a jump on center stage. It was precision, alignment, breath, extension. A feeling of swoosh and whoosh as organs came back to life. It was release and relaxation. Tension easing. And the biggest takeaway was the malleability of the muscles and ligaments. For the first time in my life, my body felt fluid, I literally changed the shape of my muscles.
When I went to an audition for a dance company the year after I started practicing yoga the choreographer mentioned how my dancing had changed. How I moved more gracefully and my physique was lithe. It was nice to be acknowledged but it also terrified me. What if I couldn’t keep it up or worse what if my body failed me altogether.
Many years later it did. Type 1 diabetes takes no prisoners. I have never felt more let down by my body than on the day of my diagnosis. It hurt, it really did.
Climbing out of a hole is no easy feat. I know I’m not the only one who lives with a chronic illness or has had to face the reality of a body that isn’t functioning as it should. It takes courage to see things for what they are. To let go of blaming oneself or feeling ashamed of doing something that may have caused the breakdown.
I am reminded of a story told by W. Timothy Gallway
“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.” We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.”
Learning to see the body for what it is, is the first step in coming back to body love. It’s your vehicle, your temple, the altar upon which you are able to experience the wonder of creation. It has given you 5 senses to enjoy your surroundings. It has given you a heart to love, lungs to breathe. The ability to experience pleasure, sensuality and the depth of connection. As a woman, you gestate and nurture life, as a man you help to create life. Everybody is unique, a love bomb exploding with passionate expression. Whether healthy or ill, you the enjoyer occupy the body, one of a kind and yet inexorably part of the whole. Take yourself out of creation and the whole creation is incomplete. Watching the dancer nothing gets added to the dancer in the dance.
Loving others comes easily, not loving ourselves can seem like the core issue. I truly believe that in a life with chronic illness trying to ‘love” ourselves can feel too much like a concept. So instead of beating yourself up about not loving yourself enough or that you lack self-love. Try this simple visualisation practice below….
You can record this in your own voice so you can practice it without reading it.
Take a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Imagine that you are walking in a forest. In the middle of the forest, you see a clearing. Step into the clearing and just be present with all your senses alert. Notice what’s in the clearing. What do you see? How does it make you feel? Now gaze intently at the circle of trees surrounding the clearing and imagine that behind each tree is a role, a persona, something you tell yourself about your diabetes or chronic issue, something you tell yourself about your body. Imagine calling those identities, thoughts and roles to come out from behind the trees and call them back to you. As they come to you embrace them. Recognizing them for what they are thoughts, ideas, identities, beliefs, projections. Things that you’ve given energy to. Call them back and let them dissolve in your heart. You are not the beliefs, or ideas about your body. You can never be what you have. You have thoughts about your body. Your thoughts cannot be you. As you recall all these fractured parts of yourself notice how it feels to embrace them and integrate them. Keep calling out to the identities behind the trees until there are none left. Once each one has found its home in you. Imagine yourself filling from your toes to your crown with pure golden light. Pure gold, impenetrable light. Feel your body, strong, resilient, calm and centered. Notice how this makes you feel. Keep feeling the strength of this gold light feeding every cell, bringing you back to total body harmony. Take as long as you need to bask in this light. Then when you are ready. Gently open your eyes and come back to normal waking consciousness…
May the light of who you are be the reminder that gives you the courage to meet every day exactly as it is.
Who I am I kidding I am not at all sad to say goodbye to 2018. Yes, it was a year of many milestones, such as continuing to launch the book and creating an online summit, not to mention getting my BG levels under control.
But that doesn’t mean I was running around with a 24/7 grin on my face.
It’s been a year of tightening the reins, learning to say no, reaching out for help even when I was ashamed too, accepting that situations aren’t always how one imagines and giving myself a break.
And I know I haven’t been the only one plowing through in 2018. Most everyone I’ve spoken to says it’s been a tough one. Tough externally and internally.
Luckily I have a gratitude practice. I’ve learned to focus on what’s working and to acknowledge that. Gratitude for me can be as simple as an internal thank you when something goes my way, engaging in a creative endeavor like writing, painting or singing or landing on my mat so I can let go and feel all the feels.
Gratitude is also about acknowledging the individuals and support groups that truly make my day and remind me that even though sometimes it feels like things are just too tough to bear, there are others just like me facing this condition with courage and tenacity.
Together we rise!
So as I bid farewell to 2018 here are some lessons learned
When in doubt reach out. People are ready and willing to help
Find out what people want before you create it
Do what you do best
Living simply is a blessing
It’s okay to rest
If you can’t give materially give of yourself
Learn to listen
Reuse, recycle, waste nothing
Tell your friends you are grateful for their friendship often
Be in Nature
Cry when you need to and make sure you get in some good belly laughter too
When things feel overwhelming do one task that you know will yield results
Eat well and sleep well
Turn a hobby into a skill that you can use to serve others
Seed an idea without expectation
Develop a physical or mental focusing practice that you can repeat daily to bring a sense of meaning and purpose to your life
The other day I was scrolling through Facebook and I was captivated by a song. Within minutes my toes were tapping, my body was swaying and I was humming along. Listening was pure bliss and total happiness. At that moment I forgot myself, my life with diabetes or anything else for that matter.
The benefits of yoga are many, however, the benefits are not just the product of targeted exercise or the marrying of mind, breath, and body.
They are the direct result of choosing to immerse yourself in a focussed activity that momentarily suspends the idea you have of yourself. That idea is a conglomeration of a lifetime of experiences, conditioning, and beliefs. In psychological terms, it is referred to as your identity. When our identity is suspended and we are no longer identified we feel blissful, Ananda, because we are the bliss.
Bliss is not a state-it’s the nature of awareness and who you are.
So what is your bliss? Is it music, dancing, cooking, laughing, being outdoors, playing with friends? Whatever is blissful is only blissful because of you.
Let that sink in for a moment.
It’s easy with this condition to focus on what isn’t bliss.
Like daily finger pricks, site fails, too many lows and highs, carb guesses, medical costs the never-ending 24/7 vigilance of a condition we didn’t ask for and can’t get away from that leads to burnout, depression, and anxiety
But that kind of focus, the one where we naturally go isn’t doing anyone any favors
I’ll say it again.
Whatever you see as blissful is only blissful because of YOU. Without you, there is no bliss.
The next time you do something you love, and you find yourself forgetting everything and you are swept up in the magic of just being.
Stop and remember yourself. YOU ARE THAT.
with great respect…
Want to bliss out? Check out my yoga playlist on Spotify curated especially for you. Click the image below or head here
Today is my Diaversary. Ten years of living with diabetes and baby, I’ve come a long way. When I was diagnosed, neither I nor my health care providers knew a lot about the type of diabetes I had. Type 1 LADA has such a slow onset that it can appear as prediabetes or even type 2.
Ten years ago I had no idea the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) existed either so I never reached out for support. Besides my motto was, “Yoga teachers don’t get diabetes or if they do, yoga fixes it.” Thinking this way was wrong on every count. Looking back I’m glad I hit rock bottom because it took a crisis to wake me up.
Even though it was tough and took a while, the path I’ve gone on has made me more compassionate and inspired my mission to support others living with this condition to thrive.
This morning I jumped on Instagram to tell my story. Check it out below.
Givitude is when you find a way to make your gratitude a gift.
Giving is natural. From smiling at a stranger to donating to a cause, most of us without even thinking about it give in little ways every day. How many times have you opened a door for someone, offered directions, taking a partners hand, or called a friend just to listen?
When I consciously give and my gift is received I find myself falling into gratitude. Gratitude that I could help someone feel better, learn something new or overcome a challenge. I don’t give expecting something in return rather I know that the giving will give me gratitude and the gratitude I feel will inspire more giving.
In the diabetes community giving seems to be a given. When I first reached out online to tell my story and ask for help I had over 25 replies in five minutes. Those five minutes changed everything. I went from feeling isolated and anxious to feeling seen, held and supported. I remember being overwhelmed with gratitude and longing to meet each person who had responded to my call for help. My next thought was what can I do for them? How can I show my gratitude?
The answer… it’s okay to receive.
When someone gives you a gift it’s yours to receive. Think of it as creation, giving to you in the form of that person, situation or experience. In fact, when you analyze it, creation is giving everything to us all the time. The air we breathe, the ability to breathe, the trees that keep our atmosphere balanced, the earth which enables seeds to grow into trees, the sun which brings life and light to all things. It’s all going on effortlessly. Isn’t it amazing that we are free to enjoy creations gifts?
When I first found yoga my body went through some radical upgrades. I became stronger, lighter and more flexible and I was surprised at how resilient it made me. I changed my diet and rested more. I took my time and immersed myself in nature. Time took on a different quality and I was more content. It was because of these simple gifts that I decided to become a teacher. The benefits of the practice were tangible and I wanted to share.
Not much has changed other than now that I live with diabetes, I feel an urgency to share. Yoga was my lifeline in dealing with the crippling anxiety of starting insulin and my rock when I felt overwhelmed and alone.
Since coming out of isolation it’s been my mission to enable people to feel happy, healthy and free in spite of living with this chronic condition. I truly see yoga as the key to that and the greatest gift.
This Thanksgiving I invite you to take a moment for yourself. Receive your breath, feel your heartbeat, your ability to love, give and receive.
And… if you’d like to bring more yoga into your life join me in this downward dog for all levels in the video below.