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

Diabetes is an opportunity

It’s burning in the hills behind the town where I live in Australia. I am grateful not to have to evacuate but am concerned for those who do. The entire valley all the way to the beach is in a blanket of smoke. It’s hard to breathe. We just went to the beach for some relief but there was none. It was strange to see people out and about in cafe’s and shops as per normal. Apparently it’s only going to get worse. So many more friends are leaving their homes to be safe. It’s heartbreaking.

I feel this way about Diabetes too. Even though I live with it myself I feel for every single person who lives with this condition. It’s heartbreaking when anyone is diagnosed. I know all too well the challenges ahead. Every day can feels like Russian roulette. It’s a massive learning curve and you can’t get away from it.

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In spite of all the feelings that come up after diagnosis I also see diabetes as an opportunity to live differently. Instead of taking things for granted I wake up each day grateful to be alive, I’m learning through yoga and other modalities to regulate my nervous system, to react less to the stress of variable blood sugar levels. My diet is refined and I maintain an active life. This kind of approach takes focus and sustained effort and there are plenty of times where I feel frustrated and defeated.  But I try not to let my down days take over. I have always been an enthusiastic participant in life.

Today as the smoke chokes the air around us I think about all the people all over the world in crisis. How do we rise above, stay resilient and not give up in the face of uncertainty? How can we make a difference in spite of circumstances beyond our control? I draw strength from a simple Ayurvedic principle.

You can’t fight fire with fire. The softness of water is what douses the flame.

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The softness of water is about slowing down, tuning in and calmly moving forward. Flowing with change rather than pushing against it. Connecting with water is about dispersion and delegation. In the face of disaster it’s coming together in community and supporting each other. If we all share the burden we’re stronger together.

It’s the same with diabetes. When I reach out into the diabetes online community I find like minded friends managing their health in myriad ways. All of this forms my pool of inspiration. Even better is going to a support group or event where we all meet and share. I’ve learned more about my condition from these brief in person events than I have from my doctors and diabetes educators.

Knowing there is a community out there to answer a question, share a technique, help me find the best product or device is priceless. Before diabetes I would never have outsourced, researched or informed myself in this way. Diabetes has literally inspired a whole new me. My mission for diabetes awareness month is to share from the heart how diabetes affects me personally but its also about sharing how yoga is an incredible balm.

In this very difficult time, no matter what the struggle, it is my prayer that the varied practices and teachings of yoga become an important part of the healing journey.

More on that tomorrow…  #NDAM, #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

The perfect injection

I was one of the lucky ones, or so I thought. When I was diagnosed with unusual blood sugar levels in 2008 I was told by my doctor that we would take a wait and see attitude. Waiting meant me measuring my blood sugar levels with a glucometer twice a day and having quarterly blood tests to see if there was either a reversal to normal levels or an escalation. Seeing was about hoping that I could reverse the symptoms through diet and exercise.

Looking back I’m not to sure how this ‘wait and see’ approach made me lucky. ‘Waiting’ meant I could go into further denial and ‘seeing’ took me into untold distress. When my doctor finally made the call  to start insulin therapy after acknowledging that what I had was a late onset form of Type 1 diabetes, I cried for two weeks straight. Not because I was worried or fearful (which by the way I was, no one wants to be dependent on medication for the rest of their life) but because I was relieved. Relieved that I had a diagnosis that made sense and that I would have control of my health again.

Up until that point taking insulin was my biggest fear. How would I travel having to carry meds with me everywhere, what if I reacted to the chemicals in the insulin, what if it didn’t work.? My doctor assured me that I would feel a whole lot better once I started injecting. He was right. It took 6 months for my levels to return to ‘normal’. Insulin doesn’t cure diabetes, or solve the problem, but it does alleviate the issue of not being able to assimilate food . When the body doesn’t produce an essential hormone you have to get it in there somehow.

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One of the first things I learned from my diabetes educator was to rotate injection sites. The reason being if I constantly inject in the same place that area starts to form scar tissue making it harder to absorb the insulin. Also the injection site changes the rate of absorption. I started by injecting in the fat layer on my belly, then after meeting friends who lived with diabetes I learned to inject in the fat tissue on the sides and lower back. Recently I’ve started injecting in the top part of my bum. I still haven’t worked up the courage to try my upper outer arms or outer thighs, but I’m getting there.

The hardest thing to remember is where I last injected so I switch sides. Left side of my belly in the morning and right side in the evening. Basically I feel like a pincushion covered in bruises. I like to think of them as a battle scars, a fight well won. Those bumps and bruises show me I’m still alive. I don’t begrudge taking insulin one bit. Taking insulin is a privilege. Before the discovery of insulin, diabetes was a death sentence.

What I’d really like to see out there in terms of help in rotating sites is some kind of way to make sure I’m injecting in a different spot each time. I’ve seen an idea for a temporary tattoos for kids  and there’s a grid you can use, plus apps and charts. But to be honest all these options hasn’t solved the issue.  One of the best options I’ve seen is placing a teeny tiny temporary flower tattoo after injecting, so eventually your whole belly looks like a garden. Sounds fun right?

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In spite of the daily dilemma I have around injecting, life goes on. Initially, I felt nervous and awkward, and unsure as to whether it would work at all. It was my doctor who reassured me, “you know in a little while you’ll forget you even struggled with this part of it. It’ll be as automatic as driving a car.”

And you know what? As much as injecting can be a literal pain in the ass, he was right. As I dial up the dose and inject that sucker I know everything is going to be okay.

see you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

It’s not up to me

Setting myself the task to write something every day for 30 days about diabetes to spread diabetes awareness is definitely daunting. I live with diabetes for 365 days a year and deal with it 24/7 so it should be easy to articulate that right? In reality the way I deal with diabetes is deeply private.

After spending 6 years ignoring it and then spending 4 years shouting about it via writing a book and being a fierce advocate through social media, it’s been interesting to spend this past year taking a break from the need to externalise my experience.

In 2019 I set a goal to lower my Hba1c, heal some of my underlying digestion issues and be brave when it comes to taking Insulin. I started 2019 using the Diabetic Health Journal, created by yogi and  diabetes health coach Lauren Bongiorno, with incredible results. Writing down daily goals, things I was grateful for and staying accountable made a big difference. My Hba1c went from 6% to 5.6 % in 6 months. If you’re not sure what that means it’s like dropping your cholesterol levels or blood pressure. Moving it from a pass to a win.

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I also went into hyper drive with my digestion, adding different supplements, bone broth and more variety into my daily meals. I worked on stored trauma with network spinal analysis and neuroimmunology sessions. Finally I made sure to keep up a daily walk and my twice daily yoga practice.

Making a concerted effort to shift some deep seated patterns has been an interesting process. I didn’t necessarily make great strides or have major revelations, instead I settled more into accepting what is.

“What is” might not be what I want but if I can accept it that’s a pretty good place to be. It’s how I dealt with diagnosis after fighting it for so long and pretty much how I manage my finicky digestion and volatile blood sugars and everything else that comes my way.

My latest go to phrase for everything is, ” It’s not up to me” That’s not about not doing everything I can to stay balanced. It’s about understanding that I don’t know the recipe of creation.  Letting go of needing to know, enjoying the gifts I’ve been given and trusting that whatever comes is perfect, goes a long way in helping me manage my condition.

I never expected to be diagnosed with diabetes but now that I have been I can honestly share it’s a blessing in disguise.

More on that tomorrow  #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

With great respect…

rachel

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A little goes a long way

Oatcakes it’s been a while. A long while, I don’t think I’ve even so much as looked at you since 2014. 2014 was when I read Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, learned about the benefits of low carb eating, the law of small numbers and laid down my carb habit for what I hoped would be forever. So far, it’s worked well… but there have been some issues.

The biggest one being my ongoing food intolerances which includes reacting to seeds and nuts. Cutting them out of my diet has meant less flow in the plumbing department and it’s starting to bum me out. (literally!)

Over the last three days I’ve been reintroducing oats into my diet. Day one I took ¼ of an oatcake, which made me a mucous ball. It didn’t deter me though. Day 2 I had ½ a cracker and my blood sugar pretty well stayed stable. Day 3 I lashed out and had a whole 4.7 carb of a cracker with my egg and avocado brekky, took the same amount of Insulin as always (1 unit) and watched my blood sugar go up up and away.

I did crack open a fresh pen, could it be that? Not sure…because yesterday I had too much insulin and went low.

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I also made a post into the DOC to get advice and someone suggested I try switching up the timing of my bolus. Someone else said I should eat fat with fat and carbs with carbs to get the dose right.

To be honest I am actually terrified to add more carbs into my diet because I am still working out how to manage my lows. At the same time my goal for this year is to be able to eat a broader range of foods and to be relaxed around food. I’d like to feel comfortable eating out, eating in… whatever.

It’s been super interesting to observe my attitude change towards my blood sugar levels since I’ve nailed my A1c goal. I used to see a spike and be like, “oh well, try again next time” I had a no sweat attitude because I didn’t realise how important it was for my health to have better time in range. But now after nearly 6 months of flat lines and what I perceive to be excellent control a few days of peaks and troughs has me completely agitated and freaked.

Not a good look for someone who is touting the mind calming benefits of yoga. If I can’t maintain my cool during a breakout experiment with an oat cracker well what the F…k?What Sarah Said BlogDiayogi Sarah Macleod, shared in her latest Instagram post that non-judgement, one of the attitudes we can adopt through our yoga practice, is about stopping ourselves from labelling a blood sugar level as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In other words, practice with the attitude of going for the best outcome while letting go of the end result.

Not so easy for a type A like myself!

As a few days have gone by since I started writing this post I ended up invoking the principle of flexibility from my yoga practice to help me work up to adding foods into my diet.

When I go into a yoga pose and feel challenged and inflexible I initially hold back from forcing myself in the pose. I watch my breath and wait. After about a minute I can feel all my muscles soften, then I can creep deeper into the pose. A little bit of movement actually takes me a long way.

So even though I was keen to get going with oats, I’ve stopped taken a breath and adopted a wait and see attitude. Oh and I added psyllium husks into my diet instead ( a great low carb option) and wouldn’t you know… a little goes a long way….

with great respect….

rachel

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