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
It’s Christmas Eve here in Australia. Last year we were in The US with my family. We’d spent days shopping for presents, dressing the tree and the turkey and enjoying the snow and the cold. It was a personal cause for celebration with the launch of my book and the promise of many events and launches to come. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be with my family, to feel safe and supported and to be able to live my mission in the world.
As the year has unfolded it’s been full of incredible highs and difficult lows. As much as I’ve enjoyed traveling to share yoga throughout America and Australia it’s also been challenging. I live with a chronic illness, and staying on top of my health while living in a different place every few weeks has forced me to reflect and pause and think about how I want to begin the new year.
My goal in Jan 2018 was to start taking insulin for meals. I’d started to notice my basal was no longer covering what I was eating. Plus I didn’t think I could take one more mouthful of greens, greens, and only greens.
I took the plunge with great support from some of my diabuddies plus testing out the MySugr app with diabetes coach Gary Schiener. After working out my insulin to carb ratio, when to inject and how to treat lows with glucose tabs ( I did some testing on how much glucose I need to raise levels in 10 minutes) it all came together.
A few months into the regime my diabetes educator said that my body responded well to mealtime insulin and it appeared more predictable than my body’s response to basal insulin ( I’ve really struggled to get that dose right).
A few months later when my A1c was the lowest it’s been since diagnosis (5.9%), she poured over my data to make sure I wasn’t living in the land of lows (which I wasn’t) and then finally last week my doctor declared I must still be producing some insulin and honeymooning because my A1c is holding steady.
Go figure 10 years on. I know it’s the yoga and breathing and discipline with diet but shhh…. Don’t tell!
But just because I’ve managed to smash my A1c goal for the year doesn’t mean it’s all unicorns and rainbows. As much as I want to share all the good stuff here on the blog I also want to be real.
What you see on FB or Instagram doesn’t show the 24/7 reality. There is exhaustion, pain, and emotions, like anxiety, feelings of failure, overwhelm, insecurity, grief, and loss.
There are moments where I don’t want to write one more word on the page.
As much as I feel these feelings ( I know this is not just me but basically everyone) I’m also capable of rising above them through knowing that feelings are just thoughts I’ve entertained and given momentum too. No matter what the thought, good or bad, it’s just a thought. As quickly as it comes it will go.
So what’s my go-to when I am feeling absolutely exhausted or overwhelmed?
I do one thing that brings me comfort and one task I know I need to get done to work towards a set goal. It could be as simple as making myself my favorite lunch (baked sweet potato and pumpkin salad with Haloumi) and then answering a work-related email or creating a flyer for my next event and then going for a walk.
Whatever those two things are in committing to them I find myself relaxing, returning to my center and able to gather more energy for the next task.
As the year turns over into 2019 my wish for everyone is to know you are not alone when it comes to living with diabetes. No matter how tough it gets, or how challenged you are, there is hope and support. For me its Yoga, for you it might be something else. No matter what it is. You got this! If I can do it so can you.
Wishing you a truly beautiful holiday season. You are a precious gift!
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
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.
A few days ago I hurt my back. I was overzealous and lifted a couch and twisted slightly the wrong way. Immediately my back went into spasm and I had to lie down. Never mind the fact that I had to teach two classes the next day, or that I hadn’t even landed in our new home or unpacked my bags.
I don’t hurt myself often but when I do I get annoyed. The frustration is in the fact that I could see it coming. I am a compulsive over-doer, overachiever and I have been working for years to curb my enthusiasm. My husband calls me “Squirrel”. He says it’s because I never stop moving.
In yoga, the ones who love to do are called Pitta types. Pitta is composed of fire and a small amount of water. We are literally on fire, passionate, hot and often don’t stop until it’s too late.
With all the excitement of the last 9 months, I am so glad I live and breathe yoga. Without my practice, I’d probably have done more damage than strain my back for a day or two. No matter what goes on in my life, no matter how tough things get having a variety of yoga practices in my toolkit means I never hit empty.
My first stop is always the breath. Whether it’s waiting for my levels to come up from a low, or dealing with a dreaded hot flush ( yep… I am post-menopausal) or just feeling like it’s all getting too much. Stopping, dropping and taking ten slow breaths are my kind of pushups.
And it’s not just any kind of breaths it’s ten full complete breaths. I wrote about it a while back in this post and video practice. You’ll love it!
Next, I get my stretch on. Stretching is much more than just a feel-good exercise. It super connects you to the highway of your nervous system. The nervous system is designed to be your ally. When you need energy it ignites you so you have the fuel you need to get stuff done. It’s also your ultimate chill pill, enabling you to move through life without ‘sweating the small stuff”. The nervous system takes quite a beating when you live with diabetes. All the fluctuating blood sugars wreak havoc throwing you into the fight or flight response. Most of us, diabetes or not spend about 80% of our time in flight or flight. It should be the reverse. Stretching signals the nervous system to relax. Clasping your hands and reaching your arms up overhead and leaning from side to side is enough to bring you back to the relaxed part of your nervous system.
My last and most favorite practice is to work with Mudra. Mudras are hand gestures which also work with the nervous system. Bringing the hands into specific positions concentrates the mind and calms the emotions. Learning to do yoga with your hands is the easiest and best kind because you don’t have to be fit or flexible to practice. Recently I shared a mudra sequence with patients recovering from various forms of cancer. Most had limited mobility and energy. Being able to bring the hands into a shape was blissfully relaxing and restorative. Here’s a short mudra practice I posted on the blog if you’d like to try it.
With some deep breath work, stretching and my mudra practice I’m no longer flat on my back. Phew, it feels good to be pain-free again.
It’s been a long road. From my initial diagnosis in 2008, starting long-acting insulin in 2014, to finally biting the bullet by adding short-acting this past January, I’ve reached a milestone. A thumbs up from my diabetes HCP.
I have never put so much hard work into anything in my life. Counting carbs, measuring up minute insulin doses, Intermittent fasting, diligently sticking to my twice daily yoga practice. Staying hydrated, sleeping 8 hours a night and doing everything I can in the middle of a non-stop book launch tour to avoid stress.
It’s been a marathon!
Hearing, “Your diabetes is under control.” didn’t make me hoot and holler or give me permission to drop the ball. Instead, I feel apprehensive. What if I can’t keep it up? What if it was a fluke? Even more pressing is the thought, “I can do better.”
But then what? Getting my levels in the ideal range is a worthy goal. As hard as I’ve worked in the last 6 months I know I’d have to work even harder. The big question right now is; am I up for it? Or… is it okay to paddle for a while?
I’m ready to pause. Pause perfection, pushing, expectation, assumption, hope, striving. Ready to receive, let love, reflection, acceptance and guidance flood in.
When I was studying ballet in my early teens and starting pointe work I assumed that the elegance of balancing on the end of my toes would be the ultimate pinnacle. In reality, it was unglamorous. My toes were often bloodied and bruised. I developed bunions and callouses and would wince and limp for days and weeks after practice. I learned over time to distance myself from the physical pain and to shut down any feelings of inadequacy around the shape and strength of my feet. It was in the depersonalization that I mastered the ability to balance and turn. It wasn’t easy but I did it.
I feel the same about living day in and day out with diabetes. Taking a few steps back, a breath, a moment of stillness when I feel everything backing up on me means I can pause and begin again.
Even though I’ve spent the last 6 months striving for the gold standard and achieved it. I’m ready to create and adjust.
That’s the essence of what it means to be flexible in yoga practice. When a posture feels insurmountable, you don’t push to your edge. Instead, you back off, warm up the surrounding muscles and work up to the pose over days, weeks, even months. A slow build yields lasting results.
So instead of cutting back more on my carbs, increasing my insulin doses and watching every mouthful. I’ve got a plan. I’m going to be like the tortoise in Aesop’s fable, the Tortoise, and the Hare.
There’s a lot of things I am supposed to be doing today. Writing three blog posts, sending out my newsletter, contacting media, calling a friend, organizing my travels and paying my bills. But I can’t.
I’m tired. Not just because I am on a steep learning curve with my diabetes management having added fast acting insulin to my regime, but because it’s too much to be a one person everything. I wish I could press the slow-mo feature on my iPhone. Life and its pressure are relentless. I ache for simplicity.
When I first set out to write this blog I assumed I’d be sharing tons of yoga sequences, with tips and tricks for making life with diabetes easier. Even though that’s been the main focus, I’ve also realized that blogging about chronic illness and expressing my feelings about what it’s like to live with diabetes are as therapeutic as the practice itself.
When I write I find acceptance and gratitude.
There’s an image I use when things get tough. My yoga teacher gave it to me years ago as a way to let go and acquiesce to circumstances.
I imagine myself on the ground, belly down with arms outstretched at the feet of something greater. Call it divinity, a deity, the beloved, creation. Whatever I call it for me, that image is grace. I literally “pray for grace”
And even if my prayers are not answered the way I would like I always feel lighter, more courageous and ready to try again.
I love certainty. Knowing exactly what to expect in a situation keeps me calm. When I don’t know I try to guess… But living with diabetes is different. I can’t really make a guestimate when my life is at stake.
After my first rapid-acting insulin injection a few weeks ago, I had a total meltdown, my blood sugar skyrocketed and I had to make several trips to the loo. It reminded me of one of those dares your friend gives you when you’re a kid like; I dare you to take off all your clothes and run around in the snow or, I dare you to tongue kiss Danny Marsden. You want to do it, but you’re also terrified. What if you freeze your butt off or end up swallowing his tongue!
There were definitely things to be paranoid about. Not getting the dose right, reacting to the insulin, the insulin not working, injecting into a muscle and crashing my blood sugars. Not to mention that the sheer mechanics of getting the shot ready were a nightmare.
I had no idea you had to prime a syringe, that a ½ unit is a tiny tiny amount so tiny you can hardly see the plunger moving when you push it in and that pulling insulin out of a pen without all the proper handling techniques can make your syringe fly across the room.
It became obvious quite quickly that listening to my CDE tell me what to do and doing it were two different things. In the beginning, there was a lot of insulin wastage. Something I don’t like doing as I am very aware of the cost of this life-saving medication. As those of us living with diabetes know, insulin does not grow on trees!
After two days of trial and error and wondering if it was ever going to work, it did. My postprandial blood sugar coasted up a mere 10 mg/dl and then 2 hours later coasted right back down. I couldn’t believe it. Working with long-acting insulin to cover meals meant I always went up between 40 to 50 mg/dl after every meal… I’d gotten so used to the spike I didn’t see it as an issue. Even though logically I know it’s those spikes that give me a higher A1c.
Success didn’t last long, just because it worked perfectly once didn’t mean it worked like that again. The day after my very successful bolus I wrestled with lows. urgh.. the frustration… now I had to wait for my blood sugar to come up again to try bolusing with a meal. I even lowered my long acting to see if that was the issue and then WHAM…the next day blood sugars were too high.
Count carbs, prime needle, take the shot, monitor blood sugar, treat a low, check blood sugar, take a correction OMG! It’s a total head spin.
I am in awe of every single person living with diabetes. I am stunned by how inaccurate the treatment methodology is. No wonder we need diabetes coaches, peer support, better and better technology’s and smarter insulin and did I mention YOGA!