Yoga makes the difference

Diabetes sucks. I know I’ve said it before but this time I really really mean it. And it’s not just because of the endless needle pricks, the shaky blood sugars, the near-death episodes or dietary issues. It’s the financial side. Why does having diabetes cost so much? I get choked up when I hear about how people are rationing their insulin, how insurance companies change what type of rapid or long-acting you have insurance for against your best interests or that in some countries people walk miles to take just one shot a day because of lack of refrigeration in their homes.

Things I take for granted here in Australia like subsidized insulin and test strips are nonexistent in other parts of the world. So I know I should be grateful. And I am.

But sometimes I need to vent. Because diabetes comes with a price. Knowing I have to keep some funds aside each week to cover my test strips means keeping to a tight budget.  And that’s not accounting for a week of lows where I use test strips like candy. It often means saying no to something I’d love to do so I can live well another day.

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I’m a girl with a mission. Yoga is my lifeline. I am convinced it’s the reason why I have managed my health so well in spite of my diabetes.  It has given me a positive outlook and a wealth of stress management tools. Writing the book has been my way of giving back. But writing a book and having a mission doesn’t mean life is all rainbows and unicorns. It takes hard work, dedication, consistency and total conviction to bring a project like that to fruition.

And here’s the thing…

The more I push myself out there, the harder I work to share,  the more I am seeing that people living with any type of diabetes aren’t jumping up and down about yoga.  You know what they say in marketing? You find your ideal client by touching their deepest longing. The biggest faux pas is creating a product no one wants. Even worse is creating something they don’t even know they need.

Enter Yoga, the new kid on the block in diabetes management. Will medical institutions endorse it? Will the media expound it’s benefits? Will bloggers and podcasters rave about it?

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Eventually yoga for diabetes will go mainstream.

I know that a simple yoga practice makes the difference. I for one am going to keep creating quality content for you. Things you can do today that will make a difference to the numbers on your meter, to the way you feel about your diabetes and even more importantly how you relate to your health and wellbeing in general.

Even 5 minutes of a consistent yoga practice can make a huge difference to your day.

So… what’s on offer this week? A FREE 20 minute yoga practice designed to reduce stress.

All you have to do is click this link and you’ll get it in your inbox straight away.

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I can’t wait for you to join me

with great respect…

rachel

 

 

 

 

10 awesome ways to get back your yoga mojo

If you’re like me you’ve probably spat the dummy on more than one occasion when it comes to living with diabetes. From feeling like you just can’t take another finger prick to wanting to consume the fridge, it can feel insurmountable.

When I was in total denial it was easy for me to ‘forget’ about my diabetes. But that only lasted for so long. Neuropathy was my cold hard slap in the face. As a yoga teacher I didn’t  want to lose the feeling in my hands and feet. I rely on that sensitivity.

Losing your diabetes management mojo is totally understandable. But what about your yoga mojo? Like when you tried yoga, loved it, signed up for that 6 week course and then somehow didn’t keep going.

Or maybe you attend weekly group classes but can’t seem to motivate yourself to practice at home. Once you’re stuck in a rut whether its blood sugar related or not it’s hard to see your way out.

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But here’s the thing. If you feel like you should make a change because you fear the consequences, you’ll never stick it out.  There has to be a strong motivator to step up.

So what are the 10 things I do when I feel like hiding under the covers?

  1. Keep my mat rolled out in quiet, clean spot. Preferably with a view and near a window
  2. Choose one posture that’s motivating, like down dog and hold it for at least 10 breaths. Then get on with my day
  3. Start with shoulder and arm stretches. Simply clasping my hands and lifting them up overhead immediately creates a feeling of expansion in the chest. It gets the prana (life force) circulating through the system.
  4. Head over to youtube and search for online yoga classes. There’s loads of free content on there. Not specific to diabetes, but supportive nevertheless. If you aren’t sure what kind of yoga is right for you check out this blogpost I wrote for Diabetes Sisters to get the gist. There are quite a few specific sequences on my youtube channel or you can head to our FB group and follow my live videos.
  5. Have a set practice, do the same sequence every day. You might want to practice at home but aren’t sure where to start. A set sequence takes care of that. This is the one I do every day.
  6. Invite friends over for a weekly at home yoga practice party. Share your favorite postures with each other. You don’t need to be teachers to do this. Roll out your mats, bring the kids, have fun and follow it with a bring a plate lunch. Yoga is all about community and what better way to get motivated than having fun with friends.
  7. Try a new style of yoga. Check out a new teacher or a new studio. Trying something new is a great way to get re-inspired to practice. Plus you can try out your new moves at home
  8. Go on a yoga holiday, retreat, weekend mini break. It’s amazing what a few days away from the hustle and bustle of life will do for you and your diabetes. We take diabetes with us everywhere we go but a change of scenery, down time and a focus on the yummy stress-reducing benefits can reinvigorate so many aspects of your day to day life. After a retreat, I am much more inclined to get on my mat. All of a sudden my reasons for practicing make sense again. If you live in Australia and would love to study with us check out our latest retreats and weekend getaways here 
  9. Read an inspirational yoga book. Reading about yoga, the why, what and how is an awesome motivator. My first yoga book was Light on Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar. For an awesome yoga reading list go here. And if you want a great book specific to yoga for diabetes check mine out.
  10. Take the practice out into nature. Fresh air, sunshine, ocean waves, a cool forest,  and birdsong create the perfect setting to feel inspired to breathe and move with intention. Better yet practice outside at sunrise or sunset. This is the most potent time to practice because the prana sits low to the earth and is more easily absorbed into the system.

So that’s it 10 ways I inspire myself to get on the mat every day. And it’s not just about getting back my yoga mojo, it spills over into my diabetes management too. When I feel alive, refreshed and strong I can handle those diabetes curveballs any which way they come.

P.S I’d love to know how do you get back your Yoga Mojo?

Comment below

with great respect…

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5 poses to power up your practice

Something I struggled with when I first started yoga was having the strength to hold postures for longer than a few seconds. My wrists ached, I fell out of postures and my thighs buckled. I even found it hard to lift up when we did backbends on our bellies. I don’t think I would have persisted if I didn’t have my teacher encouraging me to do yoga more than just one day a week. At first, I just didn’t see the point in wasting time and money on things I didn’t think I could change.

It was my competitive streak that turned the tides. When my teacher moved effortlessly from handstand into a backbend or balanced lightly in headstand, then folded into lotus I couldn’t help thinking, “I want to do that!”

I set a goal for myself. I would do yoga every day for six months. if I hadn’t built up my strength by the end of that time. I’d quit. Six months of relentless practice paid off. I was stronger, focused, my physique had transformed and I felt like a new person.

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Not only had my body completely rearranged itself in shape and capability but my mindset had shifted too. I no longer felt like things were cut in stone. I now understood that it was my commitment and persistence that made the difference. If I could do this in six months what could I achieve in a year? I was 23 when I decided to make yoga my life. From my own personal practice to teaching others I haven’t looked back.

Every day on the mat is a new day. A day to come back to myself, to reawaken my muscles, to stay grounded and strong. And as part of my daily practice, I always include five postures to maintain my strength.

These five poses are also perfect for increasing insulin sensitivity, developing willpower, burning up toxicity and strengthening immunity.

Down Dog
Classically labeled as a posture to open your hamstrings this pose is also a wrist strengthener.  If you have wrist issues you can practice on your fists or even use a prop like a wedge or folded blanket under your wrists to take the pressure off your wrists.

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  • Start in child’s pose stretching your arms out in front of you.
  • Spread your fingers and line up the crease line of your wrists with the end of the mat ( the straight edge).
  • Tuck your toes under and lift your sitting bones high to the ceiling.
  • Bend your knees as you draw your chest close to your thighs taking all the pressure off your hands and arms.
  • You don’t have to straighten your legs if it strains your hamstrings.
  • Try and hold the pose for at least five breaths.
  • Eventually, build up to longer and longer holds in the pose.

Warrior 2
This pose is my absolute favorite. It’s a hip opener and thigh buster all in one. It’s really powerful in building strength in your thigh muscles and it supports your knee. It’s also a great pose for developing focus. The longer you hold it the stronger you feel. If you have inner thigh or hip issues or hip restrictions please take care. The wider your stance along the midline the less pressure on the hips.

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  • Begin by taking a wide stance so you face sideways on the mat.
  • Turn your right foot out and your left foot in.
  • Line up the heels with each other.
  • Bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle making sure the front knee is stacked over the front ankle.
  • If it feels tight turn you back hip in towards your front foot and adjust the foot in even more.
  • Raise your arms to shoulder height and look over your middle finger.
  • Hold here for five breaths and build up to more.
  • Start with what feels comfortable.
  • Come out of the pose and repeat on the other side.

Chair 
I love the chair pose! It a total thigh strengthener, a forward bend and backbend all in one and develops core strength. It’s also awesome for getting the thigh muscles to uptake glucose for fuel helping to reduce blood sugars. Whenever I teach this in class my students grimace. They know we are going to hold this pose for a long time. Even better than being in the pose is coming out of it. You feel an incredible rush of energy through your whole body. After chair I feel stimulated, my mind is clear and my body feels warm and tingly all over.

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  • Start the pose with your toes touching and heels slightly apart.
  • Hinge at the hips, shift your sitting bones slightly back and imagine you’re about to sit in a  chair.
  • Make sure your knees are slightly apart and your chest stays open.
  • You can have your hands in prayer position at the heart, lengthened out in front our reaching overhead.
  • Keep your abdomen back to your chest and lengthen your lower back.
  • Breathe deeply and hold for five breaths.
  • Work up to a longer hold as you get more confident.

Plank
It’s time to get your plank on! This pose is perfect for building wrist, abdominal and shoulder strength. It’s also heating, intense and involves every muscle in the body. I love it because when I do it I feel like I’m doing something powerful. Even on the most challenging of days when my blood sugar feels out of control or I’m overwhelmed with the minutiae of daily diabetes management, plank gets me in the zone.

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  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • extend your right leg and then your left until you are balanced between the hands and the balls of the feet.
  • Press firmly into your thumb and forefinger and feel the weight spreading evenly throughout the palm of the hand.
  • Lift up out of the wrists in this pose
  • Round the upper back slightly to stabilize the shoulder blades on the back.
  • If it’s hard to hold, drop your knees to the floor.
  • Hold for five breaths working up to a longer hold.

Boat Pose
Boat pose is another great abdominal strengthener. It also works the inner thighs and opens the chest. Finding just the right place to put your balance for the pose is key. You’ll also want to make sure you keep your chest open to facilitate ease of breath. You can keep your legs bent or straight. Either way, you’re abdominals will get a workout. I often use my ability to hold this pose as a measure of how my strength is progressing. At first it can feel a little wobbly but eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and balance like a pro.

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  • Start in a seated position, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Shift your weight slightly back behind your sitting bones and gently lift your feet off the ground.
  • You can start by holding behind your thighs with your hands to find your point of balance.
  • Gradually lift your feet to line up with your knees so they are at a right angle.
  • Keep your chest open and extend your arms alongside your thighs
  • Eventually, work towards straightening the legs so you are in a V shape.
  • Hold for 5 breaths, gradually testing to see if you can hold it that little bit longer

If you’ve just completed the practice, Brilliant! Including these five poses into your workout routine is a guaranteed way to power up your practice and feel energized and ready for anything diabetes and life throws your way.

With great respect…

rachel

P.S Want to know more about Yoga and Diabetes and how to find the right practice for you? Check out my new book or sign up for my newsletter here and get the first chapter for free.

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Back on track with yoga

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.

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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.

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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.

I love how Yoga always gets me back on track!

with great respect…

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Striving for gold

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.”

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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.

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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.

Slow and steady wins the race.

with great respect…

rachel

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Grace

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.

With great respect…

rachel

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Diabetes All Stars

Bump! I’ve landed in Australia after an action-packed book tour in the USA. Whilst there I was fortunate to spend time with and learn from some of the most inspiring diabetes advocates out there. These people are not just living with diabetes, they are thriving and giving back in whatever way they can to the DOC and beyond. Whether heading out together for a walk, meeting at a conference, sharing and teaching together, or supporting each other online each person touched me in a unique way. To me these guys are legends and DIABETES ALL STARS!

This week’s blog is all about the work they share out in the world and some of the sweet things they have shared with me about, Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda. To really give these guys a proper introduction I highly recommend listening to this track as you read.

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Cynthia Zuber was my first online diabuddy. I reached out to her when I found her on YouTube speaking about Yoga and Diabetes at a yoga conference. Cynthia runs a facebook page and blog. She has had Type 1 for 31 years and also lives with other chronic autoimmune conditions. Her strength of spirit and willingness to share her ups and downs through her facebook page and blog are an inspiration to her followers. It was truly special to finally meet Cynthia in person. We went for a mammoth walk around one of the oldest malls in the country and talked non-stop.

IMG_3886“Rachel’s book is filled with artistry and beauty. My body was instantly filled with goosebumps as I perused the pages, full of so much wonder and practical information that is easy to assimilate into my life. Her writing is engaging, like chatting with a close friend that shares just enough information to help you feel intimate and connected. Here I am reading about the power of thoughts! Ready to upgrade my health and life through Rachel’s teachings. I’m so grateful for her passion and wisdom.

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I met Karen Rose Tank during the crowdfunding campaign for the book. We instantly hit it off and I insisted on interviewing her.  She is one of the most supportive people I have ever met and can help anyone living with any type of diabetes to thrive. Karen is the best! You can find her at RoseHealthCoaching.com or her FB page 

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“Here I am in my home office where I coach people near and far on finding the foods and lifestyle practices to help them achieve their weight, diabetes, and blood sugar goals…. lovingly and compassionately from my 22 years of my own life with type 1 diabetes… plus certifications and trainings in Integrative Nutrition, health coaching, chronic disease and diabetes peer group coaching, low-carb, hands-on cooking groups, and yes… several yoga teacher trainings. I’m reading the chapter on “setting up a home practice”… as I struggle with a home practice and use classes to keep me in the flow. Luckily I belong to a Fitness and Wellness Center where I can take unlimited classes with fabulous instructors. Over the years I’ve had a home practice, but then something shifts, and I have a hard time settling in a personal spot. Thanks, Rachel for writing about this important step!”

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What can I say about Asha Brown the founder of We Are Diabetes. She is an action-packed powerful bundle of energy with a mission to support people in the diabetes space who live with eating disorders. Before I met Asha in person I followed her work closely. Having spent years as a dancer and having all sorts of issues with body image I feel her work is not only important it’s life-changing. As I’ve listened to her talks and met her in person she’s inspired me to reflect on my own disordered eating while trying to manage my diabetes. We are Diabetes is a nonprofit charity. I urge you to support her truly healing mission

1“There are so many things I love about Rachel Zinman’s Yoga For Diabetes. Her suggestions on how to compliment and balance the Vata, Pitta and Kapha energies through specific sequences is definitely one of the highlights for me!”

IMG_1361Marina Tsaplina, one of my all-time heroines, touched me deeply during an interview with Daniele Hargenrader where she spoke about the fragility of living with diabetes. Usually, we are told that we can do anything with diabetes. Marina talked about restrictions. and how we have a sensitivity that makes us unique. As an artist, puppeteer and scholar who brings the issue of mental health to the diabetes space Marina has been reaching out through her organization thebetes to physicians, caregivers, families, and people living with diabetes with a puppet show that addresses the “elephant in the room” Marina and I had the chance to meet and hang out in person in New York City. Her work is profound and moving and made me realize how important it is to feel all my emotions when it comes to living with diabetes.

IMG_1716” Chronic illness pierces our bodies: it pierces us on the level of body, breath, and bone. We must give extra attention to the shape and effects of our embodiments. And here is the great truth that is kept hidden from too many of us: The practice of breath and body contemplation is what it means to heal while living with chronic illness. This is my cure.  I am alive today. I breathe today. I am in this body today. My life is today, and it is made of what I practice. Thank you, Rachel, for the wisdom you have gifted to the diabetes community through your book. ”

Yoga - straddle stretchI was lucky enough to Skype with Dr. Jody Stanislaw after reaching out to her to her about how to manage insulin with exercise. Having lived with diabetes since a young age and being passionate about alternative approaches to management we had an immediate sympatico. Not only does she have a wealth of knowledge from her own experience of living with T1D she is a trained naturopathic doctor, type 1 diabetes specialist, CDE and yogi. I can’t think of a better guide if you’re newly diagnosed or wanting to improve your A1c. Sign up for a free consult here.

jody and book“The photos are so bright and beautiful! I equally love the great info but especially the simple and practical poses with the benefits and variations included as well. Such a stunning and unique book…yoga for diabetes! Thank you, Rachel!

IMG_1222My next diabetes all-star is the truly motivational Christel Oerum from Diabetes Strong. I met Christel and her partner Tobias when they asked me to create a yoga sequence for their online challenge. We connected in person at the Diabetes Sisters Conference. Christel knows a ton about diabetes and exercise. In fact, I just reviewed her new fit with diabetes ebook in my previous blog. Christel has motivated me to do all sorts of things like hang out in karaoke bars, inject in new places and walk straight up a hill on a hike in Malibu.  If you’d like to work with Christel as a personal trainer go here.

Photo to Rachel“I was actually looking at the dosha questionnaire again. I wanted to see if it has changed from when I did it the first time after your presentation. I think it’s hard to objectively do it for myself but I think it’s shifted a bit.”

Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 5.42.45 AMI read Lauren Bongiorno’s post on Beyond Type 1 and I knew I wanted her to be part of the all-star team because this woman is the real deal. She is a Diabetic Health Coach, Author, Yoga Instructor, and Wellness Speaker. Lauren’s motto? “through challenge we find our strength. It is up to us to Decide + Conquer.” Her latest and most exciting venture is ” The Diabetic Health Journal”  an easy to use, action-oriented, mindful approach to improving diabetes management mind, body, and soul. If you’d like to connect and work with Lauren go here.

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“What I love most about Rachel’s book is that it ties in the Ayurvedic constitutions. All yoga poses have the potential to benefit people with diabetes but Rachel takes it a step further by making it even more specific to each individual. My favorite part of Yoga for Diabetes specifically is the chapter including the Pitta sequence. As someone with a higher pitta dosha, I can be very intense and goal oriented, which can sometimes stress me out and lead me to burn out, making me more prone to erratic blood sugar numbers. I naturally gravitate towards more heated yoga flows + circuit training and have the hardest time slowing down. For the past few years, I’ve Ayurvedically manipulated my diet to help cool off my pitta nature, but can fine tune it through yoga. In her book, Rachel provides a soothing, calming, and surrender focused sequence that I will for sure be adding to my home practice weekly!!”

So that’s it! Now you know how many all-stars are out there to support you on your journey with diabetes. And there are a ton more. People all over the world, writing, sharing, loving and living well with this condition and helping others.

As I was sharing with my CDE and Endo just a few days ago without Peer Support I would not be doing as well as I am.. That and YOGA!

With great respect…

Rachel

P.S if you’d like to attend an in-person event with me in Australia go here  and if you’d like to work with me one on one I am offering online yoga sessions here 

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Fit with Diabetes: An e-book review

I’ll never forget how it felt to step on my yoga mat to practice the day after I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008. I was distraught, afraid and disillusioned. The tears flowed like a river and I couldn’t imagine the road ahead. My doctor had armed me with some pamphlets and told me to google diabetes. Back then I wasn’t on insulin and still had quite a bit of my beta cell function so worrying about insulin and exercise wasn’t an issue. My practice that day took me on a journey. With every pose, I felt myself calming down. The more I followed my breath the less my mind freaked out. By the end, I felt restored and ready. Ready to confront what lay ahead.

At diagnosis, I thought I had to tackle diabetes on my own,  I didn’t know there was a thriving community of people supporting each other with diabetes and I hadn’t met Christel Oerum the founder of Diabetes Strong.

Christel is a powerhouse who hasn’t let diabetes stop her. She’s tall, strong and looks like a warrior goddess.  After meeting her in person, I can attest to the fact that she’s a motivator of note. We met at the Diabetes Sisters Conference in October. I was in charge of leading the yoga classes and she was leading the morning fitness workout. Our approaches couldn’t be more different but our message is the same. Working with the body is a total buzz.

Recently Christel asked me to check out her new e-book, Fit with Diabetes which is all about how to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into your daily life with diabetes.

Having started fast-acting insulin just 7 weeks ago I am now much more concerned about how exercise impacts my blood sugar levels. Being someone who loves to walk, swim, dance and do yoga I’ve been concerned about having too much insulin on board. Christel’s book and her message couldn’t have come at a better time.

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The book begins with Christel’s personal story, not so much about her diagnosis but her discovery of how to work with insulin and exercise. She looked everywhere in the traditional medical and diabetes community for answers and no one could give her a precise formula so she decided to create her own.

What I love about Christel’s writing style and the format of this book is that everything is in easy to digest bytes.  The first chapter sets the scene for assessing our goals and motivation for getting fit with diabetes.

As she states clearly, “in order to start any new fitness regime you need, clear and realistic goals for what you want to achieve and the (positive) motivation that will allow you to work towards your goals on a daily basis”

She then heads into some real-life examples of how she’s helped her clients to set measurable goals. Throughout the book, she either refers to her own life experience or the experiences of others. As the reader it makes me feel like I can make the necessary changes to be fitter and healthier.

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The chapters that follow are about the different types of exercise and how diabetes might impact your blood sugar management. Topics like diabetes and cardio, diabetes and resistance training include relevant information like; how to manage each type of workout with a pump or MDI (multiple daily injections). She also covers how to reduce the risk of low blood sugar during and after exercise.

Her explanations are clear and supportive. She even provides a chapter on how to find your unique formula to take the mystery out of the math I feel I have to do every time I set out to exercise. If you’re still not sure about diving into the different types of workouts there are more case studies and real-life examples to relate to.

After you’ve found your individual formula she moves on to describe how to design your own home or gym work out.  Throughout the book, you’ll find inspiring photos of Christel doing various workouts including a series of workouts you can implement straight away.

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One of my favorite chapters is the one on nutrition and exercise and why it’s so important to have a healthy diet. As food is such a minefield in the diabetes world I like how she emphasizes that her approach to eating has to do with fuelling her workouts. In my opinion, she has a great attitude. We need a certain number of calories and carbs to approach different types of workouts and it’s not one size fits all. This chapter is all about working out your daily calorie and carb intake and includes some nutritious meal plans and how to create your own meal plans. The photos of Christel’s meals are mouth-watering!

Finally, there is a chapter on diabetes and losing weight. As she says, “weight management with diabetes can be done. It’s not impossible and it’s not out of reach”

This chapter is all about understanding the relationship between weight, insulin and calorie intake and what to do about it. I know for myself one of my concerns with starting a full insulin regime was that I’d gain weight. Understanding the mechanics of what actually causes weight gain helped me to reframe my thinking.

I have been learning on my journey with diabetes that what I need to nourish myself, how I respond to insulin and how exercise affects me is unique.  Experimenting, try new things and finding peer support are all ways I stay balanced and well with diabetes.

So what do I think of this book? A huge thumbs up!!! I’ll be referring to this informative, inspiring and motivating book, again and again, to find confidence and support as I continue to navigate my life with diabetes. Thanks Christel for creating this incredible resource!

Go here to find out more about the Fit with Diabetes e-book by Christel Oerum and  get your own copy

with great respect…

rachel

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Christel and me on a walk in the Malibu hills just last week 🙂

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable

I started long acting Insulin in 2014 under pressure from both my endocrinologist and GP. Up until that point, I tried my hardest to avoid insulin because I saw it as the enemy. I can remember being on a 10-day trial of the Medtronic CGM to see what was happening with my levels and sitting in a room with other people who were also on the trial. The conversation turned to the number of shots we were on a day. The guy next to me was on three. Back then I thought I was pre-diabetic and considered myself lucky to be shot free. I didn’t realise that the source of my higher blood sugar levels was autoimmune or that I had LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) which is essentially type 1 diabetes.

Starting insulin was terrifying. I had no idea how my body would respond and didn’t believe my endo when he assured me that I’d have so much energy that I wouldn’t recognise myself. Now that I’m on a  regime of both basal and bolus insulin I feel embarrassed that I didn’t believe him. Insulin has given me back my joie de vivre and made me feel like a kid again.

In my last post I talked about the challenges of getting a minuscule dose into a syringe and the feeling of fear around getting the dose just right. Just a few weeks later I’ve learned that practice makes perfect and a bit of peer support goes a long way.

I no longer worry about whipping out my syringe at dinner and dialing up my dose after hanging out with my friend Sarah MacLeod from What Sarah Said.
IMG_1902She showed me how to inject in the back of my arm by scrunching it up against a chair and mentioned how important it is to normalize injecting in public. I had always felt a little shy about lifting up my shirt and perhaps disrupting conversation to inject. She mentioned it didn’t make sense to go to the restroom, “who wants to go to a dirty smelly bathroom right?” It’s much cleaner at the table. I’d always worried that the insulin would get everywhere, on the food or other people. So far so good except last night was a little awkward in the Italian restaurant. The waiters were clearing the table just as I was priming my syringe. I persisted and although I probably overbolused a smidgen a ½ glucose tab in the movie theatre sorted me out.

When diabuddy, Christel Oerum from Diabetes Strong and I caught up for a walk in Malibu we discussed the predictability of dosing.

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When you know how your body responds to carbs, insulin and exercise its easy to see how much you’ll go up or down with a meal, a walk or a yoga practice. Like me, Christel, likes to take the guesswork out and counts every carb. She’s just written a really cool blog on how yoga impacts her blood sugars and her new Fit with Diabetes e-book is an essential read. More on her new book from me in an upcoming blog post.

I think my biggest challenge was to work out corrections (injecting insulin after a spike to keep blood glucose levels in range) It felt overwhelming and scary. What if I overcorrected, at what stage would I take a correction, and what if I wanted to eat, or exercise? To tackle this one, I had the support of Karen Rose Tank from Rose Health Coaching, she’s a certified health coach, yogini and type 1 diabetic and go-getter like me.

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I did my first correction at her house. She shared with me that you can use a correction to get yourself back in range and it’s a matter of keeping an eye on your levels after the correction.

Gary Scheiner, my diabetes coach from the mySugr bundle, explained that a good way to determine how far one unit will lower your blood sugar is to take a correction and then fast for the 4-hour duration that the insulin is in your system. It was magic to watch my level of 173 mg/dl (9.6 mmol) come down to 128 mg/dl (7.1 mmol) in 4 hours.

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Even cooler was to see how just 2 gms of a glucose tab would raise my level by 45 mg/dl. Big thanks to Mona Morstein from the Low Carb Diabetes Association and her new book Mastering Diabetes for giving me the info I needed to understand how to raise blood sugars safely. I was drinking apple juice to bring up my levels and could never figure out how much of a sip was 4 gms worth of carbs. I’ve learned that I only need half a glucose tab to stabilise my levels, no more eating the entire fridge at 11pm. It’s been neat to note that taking an injection at meals hasn’t impacted my daily yoga practice either. I can inject at breakfast, head to my mat an hour later and see little change in levels before and after practice.
IMG_2253All these milestones in the last two months have built my confidence and tackled my fears head-on.  It reminds me of the time my husband dared me to jump in the freezing ocean in South Africa. At first, I crossed my arms, shivered and refused to go in. Then, as I watched my husband dive under the waves I felt silly for being such a chicken. Slowly I waded in up to my ankles trying to get used to that numb icy cold feeling. Eventually, I dove in too and came up for air smiling from ear to ear shouting, “ That was awesome! and so refreshing!”

I can’t exactly say that living with diabetes is awesome or refreshing, but learning to ride the waves has a sweetness of its own.

with great respect…

rachel

Diabetes: A total head spin!

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.

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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.

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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!

with great respect from the trenches…

rachel