The 5 go-to yoga practices that saved my life

For todays post as part of Diabetes Awareness Month I am reposting a segment of an article I wrote for Beyond Type 1 in 2015. Make sure to read more on their site to find out what yoga practices are perfect for Diabetes management

I’ve been practicing Yoga since I was 17; right up until my sudden diagnosis of Type 1 at the age of 42, I was convinced that Yoga made me invincible. After my diagnosis everything changed. Instead of thinking Yoga would stave off the boogieman, I took responsibility and came to terms with the role that Yoga played in my life.

I discovered that Yoga is more than a good stretch. It’s a tree with many branches, each limb a path back to harmony and balance, a way to mitigate stress. Yoga is not a trend, it’s been around for over 5000 years.

The Yoga practices are powerful because they are subtle. The physical aspect is just one component of a multilayered methodology that looks at the flow of energy in the body. Life force and immunity can be cultivated and built through posture, breathing, meditation, the right diet and lifestyle adjustments.

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The word Yoga means, “wholeness, completeness, oneness.” Yoga is not a state. Rather it is the natural state of everything in the creation including ourselves. We are naturally peaceful, happy and whole. It’s only our thoughts about something, and our identification with those thoughts that create a sense of incompletion.

Yoga practice does two things — it pulls us out of the habit of identifying with our thoughts and reminds us of our true nature. When you feel all “zen” after class … it’s not the practice that’s doing it. The practices merely remind you that the peace, stillness and harmony you feel at the end of a practice are your natural state. For me, going deeper with Yoga has enabled me to better manage my relationship to diabetes and manage the stress associated with diabetes.

So what are my five Go-to Yoga practices that put me in the zone each and every day?

Read more  on Beyond Type 1

see you tomorrow…#NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

dialling up the dose

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.

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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.

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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…

rachel

P.S I’d love to know your winning combo…comment below. It’s beautiful to learn and grow together.

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Subscribing to the Unsubscribe

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.

IMAGINE

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.

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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…

rachel 

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P.S if you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter go here 

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That Low Blood Sugar

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It started just like any other day. Well not quite. I still hadn’t experienced a low low blood sugar even though I’d been taking Insulin for almost two years. To be honest I was terrified of the unknown. I’d hear the horror stories. People fainting, not being able to talk, brains not functioning. If you’ve ever had a low blood sugar you know exactly what I’m talking about.

But here’s the thing; having never experienced a hypoglycemic event I actually had no idea what people were talking about. I mean I could imagine it being awful, but I had never actually felt it for myself. So my fears weren’t based in fact. But that didn’t mean I didn’t have them.

And then it happened!

So randomly and for no reason. It wasn’t about over injecting, it wasn’t about exercising too much. I just started to feel really anxious and shaky and itchy all over. I assumed I was having an overdue panic attack. Except I was just standing over the sink, lost in quite a pleasant thought so what the F…ck. What was there to freak out about? I went over to my husband and mentioned I was feeling a rush of panic. He suggested we go outside and talk it through.

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I didn’t think to check my blood glucose levels, forgot my glucometer, didn’t bring a juice box with me. NADA

For the next 15 minutes or so while my sweet husband talked me through my ‘anxiety’ nothing budged.

Luckily I decided to check my levels. Casually, well not that casually because I was shaking from the inside out, I pricked my finger. The number that stared back at me was nothing like I’d ever seen before.

2.7 mmol!

Seriously? 2.7?

The strange thing was even though mentally I knew that was way too low and I was itchy and shaky and wanting to eliminate everything from my body with a good trip to the loo, I wasn’t frightened. I felt frustrated and curious instead.

Even though I’m sure it was only a matter of seconds, the walk from the living room to the kitchen to get some juice, felt like a lifetime.

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Photo by Pâmela Lima on Unsplash

It was only while I was waiting for my levels to come back to normal that I started to feel the terror. Why didn’t I check my blood sugar sooner? Why did I think it was something else? Why didn’t I do the most obvious thing? Where was my rational mind?

Umm… yep, that’s a low blood sugar event. You don’t think properly.

After my blood sugar came back to normal and in the subsequent years, I’ve had so much gratitude for that first scary low blood sugar. It helped me to face my fear and to lessen my anxiety about my levels in general. I was able to watch my blood sugar rebound and to see that I was okay. I learned subsequently to test how many grams of glucose I need to bring my blood sugar back to a safe range.

As someone who lives with LADA ( Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) and still producing a tiny amount of insulin I can get away with ½ a glucose tab, sometimes even a ¼  when I am just below where I’d like to be. I love the idea of sugar surfing keeping my levels in range with a little bit of sugar and a little bit of insulin.

I’ve also become more vigilant about checking blood glucose levels regularly especially when I feel slightly off. I.e. itchy around my tummy or vague in my thinking. And I’ve learned to let go of expecting perfection with my blood sugar management.

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So if I’m about to teach a yoga class and my blood sugar is at 4.3 I don’t hesitate to treat it. I’d rather not be checking my levels in the middle of demonstrating down dog.

Another super cool tool I use for soothing anxiety and settling the nervous system during and after a low blood sugar event is mudra. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know how passionate I am about mudra for diabetes. A user-friendly tool which is literally at our fingertips.

In a recent interview with Lesley O’Brien from Ayurbotanicals, I go through mudras which help engender fearlessness, increase circulation and give pause for self-reflection.

Join me in the practice below

with great respect…

Rachel

P.s I’ve tried these gummies below and they work effectively to bring up my levels fast 🙂

Sex and Diabetes: the good news

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

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

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

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

Yoga, breath, and meditation.

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

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

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

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

So how can we support the body to feel safe?

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

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

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

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

Try this meditation for maximum post sex relaxation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Warming up to warm-up

OMG, it’s Freezing in Queensland! We moved here because of the climate. Tropical breezes, diamond coastlines, a mix of liquid gum trees, rainforest and heavenly vistas of mountains, lakes, and rivers. Last month it was beyond hot, we were sweating it out in the ’30s (that’s Celsius for our northern hemisphere friends) and then from one day to the next. WHAM…icy winds, well not quite icy but COLD.

The houses here aren’t built for the cold so I’m wandering around in two layers, wooly socks and complaining. “It’s just too darn cold for my blood sugars and I swear I’m coming down with something.”

A few finger pricks reveal my blood sugars are just fine with the temperature. It’s me that has the issue. I guess it a bit like how I feel about the up and down swing of my levels. I prefer coasting on a flat line. A 27 ºC temperature suits me fine. Just like riding a unicorn at 100 mg/dl aka 5.5 mmol would be pretty cool.

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So what do I do when I’m freezing my socks off? ( love that expression which I learned from my Australian born step-mother when I was little)

YOGA!

I like to do something fast to get my fingers and toes warm. Then, I feel motivated to do a longer slower more focused practice. If you don’t have the time to devote an hour to yoga no problemo! I’ve created this super quick 3 pose practice to get you to feel warm and tingly all over.

Let me know what yoga poses you like to do to get motivated and warm in the comments below.

With great respect…

rachel