There have been two times in my life where no matter how much I wanted to I couldn’t do yoga. Near the end of my pregnancy and 2003. Late stage pregnancy for me was a killer. Every joint and muscle had softened to the point where stretching just caused more pain. The baby was sitting low and towards the back of my spine. It felt like I was carrying around a bowling ball. Every try to do yoga with a bowling ball in your belly? Forget it.
2003 was the year the sh..t hit the fan with my nervous system. I had been having strange symptoms after 9/11 in 2001, but things really got heavy after holding my breath too long in a yoga class. A few hours later I was out with my girlfriends at dinner and started to get crazy dizzy. The six of us ended up in the ladies room, with me stooped over the sink feeling like my whole world had upended. A few days later I had some sort of heart arrhythmia in the middle of the night. My yoga mentor thought I might be dealing with a nervous system overload and looking back he was sort of right. It was most likely the beginning of my beta cell breakdown, but not knowing anything about diabetes I assumed it was some sort of spiritual emergency. You know…WOO WOO stuff.
I now know it wasn’t but at the time I found anything that made me feel ungrounded which included yoga, breathing and meditation a no go zone.
Many of us diagnosed with diabetes struggle with all sorts of physical issues. We might have tight muscles, restricted joints, injuries or trouble getting up and down from the floor unassisted. Luckily there are simple ways to get around these challenges by practicing yoga on a chair.
When I work one on one I like to tailor a practice to what’s supportive and accessible. A group class doesn’t give me as much leeway, so in the practice below there might be some things that still feel challenging. I encourage you to do what you can and leave the rest.
As always your feedback is invaluable. Let me know how you travel.
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.
Today, I’m hooked on the news. Instead of scouring through my feed and picking up the latest info on diabetes, i.e. tech innovations, cure explorations or people thriving in the DOC (diabetes online community) I’m absorbing the enormity of an issue that goes way beyond personal health and wellbeing.
Our planet is broken, and the impassioned speech delivered by Greta Thunberg to the UN climate summit says it all, “This is all wrong, I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! … For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight?”
And she’s right.
I will never forget the day, at 16 when my much older boyfriend sat me down to let me know that the planet and our environment was headed for disaster. He elucidated the perils of hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gasses and the delicate nature of our ozone layer. He told me to steel myself for the road ahead. I felt helpless, terrified and had nightmares for weeks afterwards. But somehow, I got used to ignoring my anxiety around the issue. In the 90’s the hole in the ozone layer was just a fact. Living through 9/11 and the horrors of chemical and environmental exposure, the breakdown of my immune system and the continued fight to feel better physically in spite of the increase in pesticides in the food and water was a given. Wasn’t everybody dealing with some sort of compromise?
In the early 90’s I tried to do my part. I built an eco-friendly mud brick home, used a composting loo, solar power and rainwater. We ate home grown veggies, supported local farmers markets and grassroots initiatives. Leaving the safety of our sustainable principles for a life in NYC in my mid 30’s was scary. I told myself it wouldn’t be forever, and I could go back my gentle connection with the earth when the timing was right.
When I did eventually return to Australia in 2004 my health had deteriorated so much that I didn’t have the energy to live so sustainably anymore. And then my diabetes diagnosis forced me to focus on my personal needs above a broader vision.
But Greta’s speech to the UN has broken the dam. No matter what’s happening to me personally I need to act. Even if it’s just to make the yoga for diabetes community aware that this is the biggest issue of our times.
And yes, yoga and practicing yoga is supportive but it’s not going to solve the issue. The issue will turnaround when we make changes in our personal lives and come together as a whole to make a change.
As Greta concludes in her speech, “You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
To find out more about the climate crisis and what you can do
Todays blog doesn’t go into the nitty gritty of gripes or issues I have with my health care team rather I wanted to celebrate what’s working and how my team has helped me heal and thrive. Here’s my Diabetes Blog Week story for Health Care Thursday
Most people who live with a chronic illness end up with a lot of experience when it comes to dealing with healthcare. How would you improve or change your healthcare experience? What would you like to see happening during medical visits with your healthcare team? How about when dealing with your health insurance companies? What’s your Healthcare Wish List or Biggest Frustration? Today is the day to share it all!
When I was first diagnosed I was shocked. I’d been doing Yoga since I was 17, it was my career and I’d always been health conscious. So at first, because I thought there was some mistake. I didn’t bother to find out more about my condition. In effect shutting out my medical support team. I’m loathe to admit it but that moment of disbelief, defiance and downright denial took me down a path I do regret.
After 6 years of criss-crossing continents to find alternatives, I landed back in my doctor’s office literally begging him to put me on insulin. The first step, he said, was to get educated and that I’d have to see a CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator). I was excited to start my journey but totally freaked at the same time. Would she grill me about my diet, my inability to maintain my levels or demand discipline without room for error?
I had worked my self up into such a frenzy that by the time I was sitting in the CDE’s office actually having my appointment, I was balling my eyes out like a little kid. She asked if I knew why I was so upset. I admitted that I felt like a failure, that I didn’t know why I was there or even why I had diabetes. It all felt so wrong. She sat quietly and listened as the pain and anxiety poured out.
What she said next floored me.
“Rachel, you’ve done nothing wrong to get this and it’s not your fault.”
My jaw dropped. After nearly 6 years of being absolutely sure of a million reasons why I had diabetes, like eating too many lollies as a kid, or smoking way too many unfiltered cigarettes between the ages of 11 and 21. Or just being an untogether person in general. To actually consider it wasn’t my fault felt like putting on a rubber suit, in the middle of the desert in summer. I was used to taking the blame for just about everything. It was always my fault!
She mentioned that usually type 1 diabetes is triggered during a stressful event. Did I recall any such event?
My whole life clicked into place in that instant. I’d been living in New York City during 9/11. I’d walked into the ash that was screaming up the avenues as the towers collapsed.
I never felt well after that day. Not emotionally or physically. I became more sensitive to foods, surroundings and I developed multiple chemical syndrome. My marriage suffered due to the fact that everything had to fit around me and my specific health needs. In the end we moved home to Australia in the hopes that a less polluted and more holistic environment would support me towards wellness. We never thought it could be something as serious as diabetes because none of the symptoms were there.
Being able to share my story with the diabetes educator and to feel her total compassion and understanding made a huge difference in coming to terms with my diagnosis. Up until that point and even with my doctor I’d been battling to accept it. Understanding that something had triggered it and that it wasn’t my fault allowed me to be compassionate with myself.
It’s been nearly two years since I came out of denial and began insulin. Since then rather than seeing the medical establishment as something to shun or fear I have huge respect and admiration for the people that are supporting me on this journey. I know the system, isn’t perfect and doctors, nurses and even CDE’s could do better. I get angry that insurance companies in Australia don’t cover CGM’s or that the government keeps changing how we access our supplies.
But in spite of all that there are real people out there who have studied their butts off to help people like me and I couldn’t be more grateful!
with great respect…Rachel
P.S Want to know more about my passion for yoga and diabetes? I’m offering the first chapter of my new book on Yoga for Diabetes for free. Find the right practice for your type by learning all about Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga.
I used to play the blame game when it came to having diabetes. But all that came to a halt on my first visit to the Diabetes educator. “ You know you’ve done nothing wrong, “ she shared, “some people just have the marker in their genes and it gets triggered by a stressful event. Can you think of a time in your life where you could have triggered the gene?”
9/11,thats when everything shifted.
That day was terrible, terrible for everyone.
We were in Manhattan waiting for my mentor and Yoga teacher Alan Finger to teach hisyoga class when the planes hit the trade towers. As soon as I realised what had happened, I felt like I’d been shot in the chest, my legs buckling underneath me.After a few minutes I had to get out of there. My son and stepson were at school a few blocks away and I wanted to be with them. Dazed and feeling sick to my stomach I walked out onto the street. It was quiet; ghost like, people with ashen faces walked beside me. The sky was a crisp blue and I wondered, how could everyone just keep going?
By the time I arrived at the school I was feeling faint. I wanted someone to hold me and look after me, but I wasn’t the only one in shock. I had to pull myself together. It was a relief to have both boys with me. The only way home to Brooklyn was to walk across the 59th Street Bridge. I could feel fear stuck in my throat, dry and hard. Gripping my sons’ hands, we walked.
Nearly seven hours after the towers had fallen I fell into my husband arms, but it was no consolation for the shock that numbed my body. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t even think because my whole world had turned upside down.
I don’t think I ever really recovered emotionally or physically from that day. And although I can’t specifically pinpoint the day my beta cells started collapsing I started experiencing a lot of strange physical symptoms about a year later. Tingling up and down my body, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, a feeling of being overly expanded, frequent urination, hives and skin rashes, racing heartbeat, difficulty digesting and many more things which turned my life into a living hell.
Recently I read an article that stated that those exposed to the debris from the falling towers are only now showing an array ofsymptoms and illnesses.
There was nothing I could have done to avoid that day. When the unexpected happens it happens. Right now somewhere in the world some terrifying event is taking place and someone is exposed to something they didn’t expect and could never predict. How does anyone cope? How do we move forward? I imagine a lot of us are reflecting on that today.
A friend of mine posts the same story every year on her facebook page. She says she does it so she never forgets how lucky she is. I also feel lucky, An odd thing to say when one has an incurable disease. Being diabetic is an opportunity to thrive against all odds. In my opinion that’s always the way forward. Keep doing your best, keep loving what is, no matter what.