A yoga pose for our times

I am at a loss for words. Reading so many friends posts about the bushfires in Australia I notice that some feel guilty. Guilty that they are okay, living in relative comfort while others are suffering so much. Finding it hard to promote their 2020 offerings because who is thinking about that anyway?

I feel the same. That’s why I am grappling with “what next”. One thing I know for sure, the healing benefits of yoga, which by the way are free, work.

Breath, body, mind are free to use as we wish. Our hearts are also free. No one has taken our hearts hostage. It is the incredible outpouring of support and compassion which makes sense when nothing else does.

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I’m addicted, dumbfounded and political. Addicted to following what’s happening with a crazy cartoon president. Dumbfounded by our Australian Prime minister whom I’m convinced believes he’ll be saved while the world crumbles. And yes, even though experts might try to convince me that’s it’s bad for my brand to be political and take a stand. Screw that!

I am not happy with the state of things, period!

How do I cope with frustration and feelings of helplessness? My daily yoga practice. It helps to suspend the negativity, the constant identification with the thoughts and stress. Ultimately the practice reminds me, I am not this, not that. But the one in whose presence this and that takes place. It’s not about becoming the witness. It’s about knowing that the feelings of calm and peace are the natural state of every human being. Yoga gives me this insight. Day after day.

Today I want to share with you one simple yoga pose, which has helped me in so many ways. It’s from the Yin Yoga tradition. It’s called Saddle pose and it calms the nervous system. Opens the chest facilitating better breathing and also increases circulation into the legs and feet while stimulating specific energy pathways that link to the stomach and spleen. It also opens and frees the Psoas. If you have tight or muscular thighs or knee issues, this pose might be challenging. There are variations, which I will share in the video below.

Holding this pose for 10 to 15 minutes is a game changer. I can’t even begin to describe how it has helped me in all aspects of my diabetes management. After a long hold I sleep better, digest better and just plain FEEL better.

I hope you’ll join me in this short video tutorial.

With great respect…

rachel

Learning to colour outside the lines

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Yesterday we went for another delicious walk along our wild coastline to a pristine river. This time I was prepared for the inevitable hypo. It paid off. I hypo’d, downed 3 glucose gummies and in 10 minutes was back on track. It was deeply satisfying to know I handled the whole thing without freaking out.

It was in bed this morning having a D & M ( deep and meaningful) with my husband that I realised that managing diabetes is like trying to get good grades. As a kid I worked hard to get an A. I was more of a B+ kind of student but I knew that if I studied hard and went that extra mile I could do better. I liked the feeling of mastering the challenge. It meant getting my head around tricky hard to understand subjects and being rewarded for my effort.

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When I go off track in my diabetes management it’s not that it’s the end of the world, or that I won’t survive, its more that the goal I set for myself of staying in range is challenged. Taking my basal shot an hour later, or eating my dinner late, these things won’t make me sick, but they’ll change the landscape of the days to come. Questions like; will I need more or less insulin to manage the change in routine, how will my energy levels be, what should I eat? Things people without diabetes don’t even have to consider. It’s the mental energy needed to dissect the situation that can be frustrating and confusing.

It’s easier just to stick to my routine and forget about it.

Life however needs to be lived in full colour. 2020 for me is all about pushing the edges of my own ideas about management. These long nature hikes are part of it. As is experimenting with when to dose. I’ve taken to dosing at the start of a higher carb meal (I used to dose at the end of the meal) and am seeing less of a post meal spike (duh) and also seeing a flatter line up until my next meal. I may not have as good an A1c as I did mid 2019, but I am seeing flatter lines, less spikes and better overall control.

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Learning to colour outside the lines isn’t one of my strong points when it comes to living with diabetes, but I’m giving it my best. When friends and family are along for the ride I am learning that rather than expecting them to understand what I am going though it’s up to me to understand how I react and respond to my situation. If I’m cool with stopping mid walk to treat my hypo than naturally everyone else will be too. My tendency is to feel like my condition puts out other people’s plans. It’s a myth I’m determined to bust.

As I head into my 12th year with diabetes my New Years resolutions are simple. Try new approaches to management, do things that push the boundaries and most importantly put myself first.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year

With great respect…

rachel

P.s these were the gummies I downed on my walk. So easy and quick, better than glucose tabs overall and actually yummy with no artificial flavours or colours or preservatives. Highly recommend them!

 

The day I forgot my insulin

Forgetting things is normal. Like forgetting my wallet when I go to the store, or my phone or car keys. It’s usually a hassle and requires some unexpected backtracking, but in the scheme of things forgetting stuff is no biggie. But insulin? OMG! Who knew?

Suffice it to say I have never ever forgotten to bring my insulin with me on a trip. No matter how big or small if my outing includes a meal, I put it in my purse and that’s that. Until the other day. For some ridiculous reason, I forgot it.

And  I didn’t realise I’d forgotten it until we were already miles and miles away.  The morning had run as usual, yoga practice, followed by cooking my lunch, packing it and loading up the car. We were heading to Knysna, a picturesque town on the Garden Route here in South Africa. I’m not sure whether it was distraction, the fact that diabetes wasn’t number one on the list that morning or what. Once I realised what had happened there was absolutely no way I could forget. I was freaked out and mildly hysterical. Even though my husband encouraged me not to be.

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Our purpose driven trip turned into a race against the clock. If I don’t eat my lunch around 1.00 pm my blood sugar tanks. I am not sure exactly why, it’s either the long acting insulin peaking or my own insulin kicking in. Regardless I eat lunch to stop the drop.

As my blood sugar started to tank my husband suggested I eat my lunch. Nope…can’t do that. If I do I’ll go high with no way to bring it down for another 2 hours. The only solution was to fast and eat when I could dose. In the meantime I downed a few glucose tabs amidst a grumbling hungry tummy. I also downed my feelings; frustration, anger and fear.

Fasting wasn’t a problem, but heading to the local bakery to buy Christmas cake was. As I stood in line looking at all the bakery delights I felt defeated. This has been me now for over 11 years. I don’t eat gluten, sugar or dairy because it messes with my levels and my delicate digestion. I don’t usually get upset standing in the bakery line, in fact I don’t care, but today with a perfectly good lunch sitting in the car, fasting and skirting an endless low I was livid. Why can’t I just this once enjoy apple strudel! F…k

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As soon as we got home I ate my lunch. It was 3 pm. I calculated that we could still eat dinner at the normal time so that my schedule wouldn’t be too interrupted. Just because I craved normalcy after this hiccup didn’t mean it happened. The most annoying thing about a mishap in routine is that I have no idea how it’s going to influence anything. It’s a total experiment. It’s not just the physical stuff that goes topsy turvy, it’s my emotional responses.

Despite my efforts to use my go to practices for mental and emotional stability, i.e yoga, breathing, meditation and the teachings of yoga (Atma Vidya), I reacted. After lunch I had a tantrum. It made no sense, it was ugly and probably a result of pent up anxiety.

Reaction sucks. There is absolutely no point in blaming others for enjoying life and doing what they normally do. I could have gone to the chemist and gotten some insulin, I didn’t have to fast for the day, I could have stayed in the car rather than gone to the bakery. I could have relaxed and accepted that this sort of stuff happens, people forget stuff, even big stuff. I didn’t. It’s my style to do things the hard way.

It’s been a few days now since my major stuff up and it’s been interesting to reflect. I’ve learned some really valuable lessons.

  1. When travelling always bring insulin. Put it in purse.
  2. Fasting works, but it does have after affects. I ended up struggling with lows for a few days afterwards because it increased my insulin sensitivity
  3.  Stay balanced during a crisis. Don’t succumb to hysteria. Put things in perspective
  4. Be kind! Be kind to one’s self and others. No one no matter how close knows how it feels to live with diabetes.
  5. Take stock and be grateful! Just 4 hours without access to insulin is nothing compared to someone who can’t afford insulin or lives in a  country where access is limited or non existent.
  6. Never ever forget insulin again!

With great respect…

rachel

Preparation, practicality and cautious expectation

Yesterday was the start of my holiday. Piercing blue sky, slight breeze, the swell of the ocean and a day planned walking through the forest to a remote and pristine river. I was excited and frickin scared. I packed my backpack to overflowing with glucose tabs, insulin, lunch, phone fully charged, an extra and accurate blood testing meter and rescue remedy. My husband would have to carry my bathing suit, sarong and water bottle.

I love walking and I do it every day. 20 minutes hits the spot and lowers my levels just enough so that I cruise into dinner steady and in range. If I go beyond my 20 minute cruise I often end up high. Seems like the liver kicks in and releases more glycogen aka sugar into the blood stream.

Honestly, I am not a fan of long hikes. The last time I did one was before I started short acting insulin in 2018. That’s why I was scared. How would it work to walk for more than 3 hours, on a sunny hot day? Would my insulin stay cool? How would I dose for lunch when I knew I’d have to hike up a hill after our planned picnic at the river mouth. So many questions, so many unknowns. While my friends and husband were excited to walk I felt like I was jumping off a cliff.

As much as I use yoga to keep me balanced, it’s these normal everyday things that get me. I can’t take a vacation from diabetes. EVER!

In spite of my trepidation we went. The first hour was awesome. The forest was alive with wild flowers, trees dripping in moss, singing birds and dappled sunlight. I felt connected and alive. Our forest is 50 million years old.

IMG_0491By the end of the 2nd hour we had reached the lookout. My blood sugar was a steady 6.0 mmol. I started the walk with a 1/4 of an apple and didn’t take any insulin to cover.  Things were going well. We had to cross the river to get to our picnic spot. On went the bathing suit. With my backpack and shoes held above my waist we waded across. The water was brrr cold. Here in Africa the water is clean and crisp, full of prana, amazing!

As everyone else munched on snacks I pulled out my prepared lunch, enjoying every bite, it was crunch time. Would my usual two units be best considering that in an hour I’d  be climbing a steep hill followed by an even steeper descent? I opted for just under 2 units and an extra 1/4 of an apple. Then threw myself in the river, cold refreshing water. So good!

I started the next part of the walk around 5.7 mmol. It took 30 minutes to hit the dreaded low. 3.9 mmol with a downward pointing arrow. I took two and half glucose tabs, while gazing at the most beautiful view in the world. We waited for 15 long drawn out minutes.  My friends asked me what would happen if it didn’t come up. I’d take more tabs and wait some more. Waiting is the worst. On the plus side I was so tired from the walk I couldn’t feel the low or my fear. I was peaceful, relaxed and grateful. Grateful for my husbands arm around me, the patience of my friends, and the beauty of our surroundings. My levels returned to normal and we completed the walk. Topping it off with a dip in the wild ocean. It couldn’t have been a better day.

IMG_0505Back at home my husband reminded me, holidays are all about dropping the every day stresses. Time to take a break from normality, hang out with friends, talk about whatever, spend time in nature. I get it, I used to have that freedom, even took it for granted. Since diagnosis I’m a work in progress. I take each day as it comes. I work with what I have without expectation. Rather than define my ‘vacation’ by what everyone else does. I do relaxing my way.

Preparation, practicality and cautious expectation.

Have a wonderful holiday season

with great respect…

rachel

 

 

The 5 go-to yoga practices that saved my life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more  on Beyond Type 1

see you tomorrow…#NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Just drop it

Writing every day about diabetes for diabetes awareness month is giving me the opportunity to share my innermost thoughts and feelings about diabetes. Hopefully it also sheds some insight into the inner world of anyone dealing with a chronic illness. Whatever crisis or challenge we face, it’s the ability to overcome, that transforms into a shared wisdom. I know for myself when I’m feeling at a loss as to how to deal with an aspect of diabetes management, finding out how someone else approached that same issue helps me enormously.

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I’m someone who likes to get it ‘right’. What I am learning ( slowly but surely) is that right is just a word I have been conditioned to believe in. There is no right way to do diabetes or anything for that matter. There is only what works for each individual.

Today I had an injection blunder. I put the needle for my long acting insulin in and it bounced straight back out squirting blood and insulin everywhere. When something like this happens it’s totally different to say dropping a pill on the floor. If I fumble and drop a pill, I just brush it off and swallow it. An insulin mishap however is totally different. I can’t determine how much insulin actually went in, so if I take another injection it could mean a hypo at some point in the future. All future bolus (fast acting insulin) calculations need to be taken into account. I’m hopeless at math so that’s a big issue right there. My motto for this one is better safe than sorry. So no extra insulin for me today which means possible higher levels all day. Total bummer!

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Stepping on my mat for practice it dawned on me that in spite of my earlier mishap, I make up the rules. I can’t change what happened, but I can change my reaction. A story from my teacher in India comes to mind. “When you hold something in your hand,” and he demonstrated the example by holding a red hibiscus in his hand, “holding it takes effort. But how much effort does it take to let it go? Dropping the flower is effortless.” He demonstrated this by letting go of the flower. As it effortlessly fell to the ground he added, “This is just like us. We hang on tight to our ideas, beliefs and ideologies until we are shown how easy it is to let go.”

Exactly my plan for today!  Just drop it.

See you tomorrow for #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Chair yoga for everybody

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.

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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.

see you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Catching a relax

Today the whole of our shire is blanketed in a smokey haze. The smoke is everywhere. It’s awful and there doesn’t seem to be much respite on the way. Meanwhile life seems to continue as normal…or does it? It’s pretty hard to ignore what’s happening not just on a local but global scale. The word that comes to mind is chaos.

When I think of managing diabetes I also think of the word chaos. Not because I can’t manage it, because overall I do that really well. Rather its the unpredictable nature of diabetes that keeps tripping me up. One day I’m struggling to stay above 4 mmol and the next I can’t get under 9 mmol (in range numbers are between 4-8 mmol). There is no X=Y with diabetes. The pancreas is a strange and elusive animal which doesn’t like stress. And how many times have I been stressed without even knowing I’m stressed? A lot.

The opposite of stress and what the pancreas loves is relaxation. Recently I’ve been catching those moments when I’m relaxed. Noticing a nice deep relaxed breath, a feeling of calm, soft tingles through the body, mind slow and centred. Every time I feel a ‘relax’ coming on I remind myself with a verbal prompt. This is me relaxed, this is what it feels like. Simply acknowledging these moments has helped me to sleep better, digest better, even think better. In fact, Relaxing makes everything better.

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This morning I went to a yoga class with my teacher and friend Louisa Sear. Her classes are hard. Not because there are complicated postures or sequences, more because she asks you to be in the pose with every fibre of your being. She instructs the class to hold the pose, fix the gaze and still the mind. Every pose is taught like this so that by the end of the class there is a sense of being cleansed from the inside out.

The ultimate agitation is our habitual need to identify with the moving miasma of the mind. Thoughts will always be there, including thoughts about diabetes, its up to each one of us as to whether we uptake that thought or not. Thoughts don’t have power. You do!

Understanding the triggers for relaxation and  fixing the gaze on that is a profound way to deal with the constant stress of living with diabetes. Instead of focusing on the tension you’re experiencing, mentally, emotionally or physically try and find somewhere in your body that is at ease. It could even just be your big toe. As soon as your mind goes there all the awareness and focus goes there too. When I do this, within seconds I’ve forgotten what the problem was.

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As I write this I’ve decided to take my own advice. There’s not much I can do about the external factors such as the choking smoke or annoyance with erratic levels. What I can do is take a full breath, be kind to myself and catch a relax.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Dance 4 Diabetes

There’s a picture of me performing in a dance piece somewhere in an old photo album in my storage. When I think about that picture I think about a life time ago. Pre diabetes, pre marriage, pre child, pre yoga.

Being a professional dancer was a childhood dream. By the time I was twenty one I had performed, taught and choreographed in dance companies throughout Australia. There was a moment though where I came to a crossroads. I decided that if I wasn’t going to get into the company of my choice, which at the time was the Australian Dance Theatre, I was going to call it quits. I auditioned, didn’t make the cut and was devastated.

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Me dancing at 22 on the far left in Tasdance

I gave up and devoted myself to yoga, but my resolve didn’t last. Eventually I was asked to teach, choreograph, perform and serve as the Head of Dance at a local performing arts college. It was around the age of 35 that I hung up my professional dancing hat for good. Not because I wanted to but more because the demands of my job as a yoga teacher took over.  Living in NYC at the time and having to support the family meant there was only so much time for ballet classes and auditions. It was a reluctant decision, but I have no regrets. Sometimes the things we think we’re born to do turn into the things we are called to do. For me that’s yoga. I never asked to teach and share yoga but here I am.

Just before my diabetes diagnosis dance had reappeared in my life. I did a healing retreat which included dance as therapeutic release. It felt incredible to move again and I loved how the movement wasn’t about impressing an idea on anyone ‘out there’ instead it was about what was longing to come out.

To dance is to free oneself of grief, expectation, anger. A return to joy, freedom and peace.

When I saw this months campaign from Diabetes Australia, dance 4 diabetes I got excited. Now here’s something I’m good at and can get behind. Dancing takes the difficulty out of diabetes, it’s uplifting, inspiring, motivating, fun and good for blood sugars. It reminds us to be light hearted in the face of it all and inspires community and support. I love seeing people share their love of movement while shedding light on such an important cause.

The campaign motto is: Stop what you’re doing and dance! Then donate and dare (share) by tagging three friends and asking them to dance, donate and dare too.

Fun right? Here’s my entry below and the link to join Dance4Diabetes


See you tomorrow and happy #WorldDiabetesDay for my US friends!

#NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

With great respect…

rachel

World Diabetes Day…again

Today is World Diabetes Day and to be honest I’m flat.

The fire emergency here in Australia combined with higher blood sugars have kept me from my usual enthusiasm. But it’s not just that. It’s hard to put a positive spin on diabetes all the time.

All I can say is my daily yoga practice pulls me out of the doom and gloom. It reminds me that as much as I like to get lost in the details around my health management it’s never going to be perfect. Control is necessary but there has to be some wiggle room. Giving myself a hard time isn’t productive. I’ve learned to relax in the tougher poses, to breathe deep and find stillness. These mini lessons are perfect metaphors for the ups and downs of this disease. And believe me I need that right now.

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Today marks the birthday of  pioneer Frederick Banting and as such celebrates the discovery of insulin in 1921. Before 1921 they didn’t even know what insulin was. Every time I think of this I’m gobsmacked. 1921 is not that long ago yet I take so much for granted when it comes to all the available medication and tech. Here in Australia there is subsidy for our medication and equipment. I am stunned that this isn’t the case in other countries. No one should have to pay for life saving medication!

Luckily there is an initiative out there to help those in need. Its called Type 1 International and their mission is to support local communities by giving them the tools they need to stand up for their rights so that access to insulin and diabetes supplies becomes a reality for all.

Please join me today on World Diabetes Day in supporting this wonderful organisation.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel