When I go Low, I reach Higher

I can remember having a conversation with my doctor early on about my condition. I kept telling him I was afraid of going low because I’d read about it online. He kept telling me not to worry. “You can’t go low because your problem is high blood sugar. You’re not on insulin so we don’t need to even go there.”  

Now that I’ve been properly diagnosed as a Type 1 LADA and on insulin things are different. I’ve learned that balancing your blood sugar is like playing Russian roulette and that a low blood sugar happens because I’ve either miscalculated the amount of insulin I need to match the number of carbs in a meal, or I’ve exercised and injected too much insulin, or my basal insulin ( long-acting insulin) is set too high.  

Luckily I’m not hypo unaware (a condition that occurs when your body can no longer sense a low blood sugar due to repeated hypoglycemic events) but that doesn’t mean I don’t have anxiety around a low.

Being hypo unaware is probably the single biggest issue anyone has living with type 1. To remedy this we prick our fingers and check our meter’s incessantly, use CGM’s, have something called Glucagon (a shot which has to be mixed and prepared on the spot by someone else to get glucose into the blood stream fast) or have special diabetes alert dogs who can smell the change in our blood sugar levels, to remind us through barks and nudges to check that we are going low.Parents of young kids who live with diabetes set their alarms throughout the night to finger prick their kids, or check their CGM’s making sure they are in range. Imagine a young mum waking through the night year after year hoping their little one is still alive.

I don’t want to paint a horrific picture but it IS horrific.

So what happens when we are conscious enough to treat a low? Well often the fear and impatience of having to wait 20 minutes to see if your levels rise means 2 sips of juice turn into eating the entire contents of the fridge (no joke) By then, your blood sugar is screaming high and you have to inject again to bring it back down.Because I still produce that little bit of insulin and because I eat such a low carb diet my levels are very stable.

I’ve only gone below 3.9 a few times and have experimented enough to know exactly what will raise my levels. But I have had a few fridge binge moments that I’m not proud of. Like the time my meter said I was below 3.9 and I actually wasn’t and by the time I checked again it was too late!

For me having a steady yoga practice to help me deal with the stresses associated with the complexity of this disease has absolutely saved me.

It’s the number one reason why I jump on my mat, work with my breath and explore all aspects of this beautiful and ancient discipline. When I go low I reach higher inside myself to be grateful and accepting of whatever comes along. And sometimes a little thing like a flower on my afternoon walks makes all the difference.

 

Letting go and relaxing in

I’d been dreading my visit to the Diabetes Educator ever since I decided to split my basal dose over three months ago. When the day came I was so tense that I must have gone to the restroom about 5 times. Every time I washed my hands and looked at myself in the mirror I told myself, “it’s going to be fine and even if your A1c isn’t perfect it’s not the end of the earth.”

As soon as I sat down in her office I burst into tears.

Handing me a tissue she asked me to talk about it. I explained how terrifying it was to split my basal, how I couldn’t seem to get the ratios right and that I couldn’t stand seeing higher readings on my meter. I admitted that I felt like a failure and added that when I read everyone’s posts on my diabetes facebook groups it made me feel even worse. “People seem to achieve such balance and even with everything I know it feels crazy that I should be struggling.”

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She listened compassionately and reminded me that people always put their best face forward on Facebook. She said that in reality, I had no idea how those people were achieving their awesome A1c’s and besides it’s not a competition. She suggested we look at the cold hard facts before we passed judgment on how I was managing my health.

When she had loaded up all my data she pointed to the flat line on the screen and said, “see that? You’re flat lining, no peaks and valleys, this means you have a high protective factor. Even though overall your levels are higher than we’d like they don’t fluctuate much, a sign that your body isn’t under constant stress from crashes and peaks.”

She added that the yoga practices, low carb diet and simple daily regimes are doing wonders to keep me balanced.  “It takes time for the body to adjust to a new regimen. Let’s give it another three months to see what happens before we adjust things further.”

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I felt so much lighter when I left the clinic and lucky to be able to work with someone open and progressive. She didn’t tell me to eat more, inject more or change my approach. Instead, she encouraged me not to give myself such a hard time and to trust the process.

As a yoga teacher, I’ve always encouraged my students to learn to relax. Some postures facilitate opening and others force us to work harder. If someone has a tendency to overdo things I always give them practices to chill down whereas if I can see a student finds it hard to get motivated I push them and cheer them on.

The practice I am going to share with you today is all about relaxing and letting go. I find that hip opening and inner thigh stretches are perfect for this. This sequence takes 4 minutes and definitely stretches and frees up the hips. I’m pretty open in the hips so just be aware you might find your body might not go as far as what you see in the practice.

I also filmed it spontaneously so yeah.. it was a wild hair day… But rather than get my self all made up and look glam. I thought better to show the real deal. I was doing my practice that day to cheer myself up after some hectic highs…. forcing myself to chill down and release my frustrations.

As always I’d love to know how it feels so drop me a comment below…

With great respect… Rachel

4 easy yoga poses for diabetes

After last weeks passionate blogging for diabetes blog week it’s time to return to the main reason I’m blogging here in the first place. To help you get motivated and inspired to incorporate yoga into your daily diabetes management plan.

For me, yoga is my life. I really notice the difference in my blood sugar levels, mood, and overall well-being if I even skip just one day of practice.

So what do I do when I’m super busy, wake up late or travel?

I do a pose or two to reduce my stress and increase my sensitivity to insulin.

Recently I was asked to share what postures I feel are best for diabetes? It’s so hard to choose just a few because all the postures are of benefit!

But if you twist my arm…the following 4 poses in the video below are my absolute favorite.

Have a great practice!…Rachel

If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

Why I dropped the ball

Hey there, it’s been a while! Firstly I want to apologise for the long break between blogs. I’ve been plowing through a few ‘moments’ in my life that have garnered my full attention.

Things like:

organising my book tour in the US

getting published in Elephant Journal

creating vlogs for Yoga for Fertility and Yoga for Adrenal support

hosting my parents first visit to South Africa

did I mention, marrying the man of my dreams?

and finally getting a printed advance readers copy of my book on Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda 

Here’s a little photo collage to put you in the picture….

Meanwhile, diabetes has been kicking my but!

I’ve been splitting my basal dose, upping ratios, wrestling with unexpected highs and lows and doubling down on my yoga practice to manage the associated stress.

Amidst all the celebrations, I’ve been dealing with a ton of fear. So much so that I found myself writing about it for Beyond Type 1, my favourite online yoga charity and community.

Here’s a little exerpt

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“Meeting my fear has never been easy. But slowly over time I’m getting better at taming the beast, especially now that I live with Type 1 diabetes.

My initial response to my diagnosis was to deny that I had diabetes. The theory being: what doesn’t exist can’t hurt me. It took time and courage to realize that the only thing standing in the way of me accepting my condition was fear.

Fear of hypoglycemia, fear of ketoacidosis. Fear of insulin. Fear of forgetting to take insulin. Fear of food, fear of what other people think about what I eat. Fear of getting fat or losing too much weight. Fear of complications. Fear of losing my livelihood. Fear of losing my relationships. And the biggest fear? Fear of dying. We all grapple with that one, diabetes or not…” read more here

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So… it’s been a crazy few months and I can’t wait for some sense of normalcy to return so I can keep sharing with you really great ways to use yoga to help you manage your diabetes.

….And I’d love to hear from you what kind of things you’d like to see more of on the blog.

Wishing you an absolutely beautiful day wherever you are!

with great respect

Rachel

Stretching is good for you

A while back I was asked to write an article about the value of yoga for people living with diabetes for Diabetes Health Magazine.  It was actually a challenging exercise because the editor asked me to cite research from various studies on yoga and its health benefits. Getting overly technical is not my forte but I gave it my best shot.

At one point while diving down the rabbit hole I discovered that restorative yoga does not switch on the relaxed part of our nervous system as I had previously been led to believe.

This floored me!

Apparently, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that lying around on cushy bolsters while your yoga teacher massages your temples with do-terra oils is of any use. Instead, the study suggested that the only thing that relaxes the nervous system is concentrated stretching of targeted muscle groups.

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To be honest, I am not interested in evidence based yoga. I am not even interested in evidence based science.  What gets me is that nobody really knows how the body works. We keep exploring the human body hoping to find answers and no matter how much we discover we are still a mystery.

Why are we here? Who are we? What is our purpose and our role in this vast creation? Do you know?

I can remember playing a game once where one person had to make a statement like, why is the sky blue? And the other person had to come up with a reason like because I can see it! Then the person would ask… and why can you see it? And the questions would go into infinite regress driving both players nuts!

Living with Diabetes is like that for me. Just when I think I’ve tapped into a reason why…I realize I haven’t got a clue

My yoga practice is a daily life saver, my solace and the place I go to be with myself. No matter what goes on with my levels or my emotions it levels the playing field. I finish my practice and I can face whatever comes.

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This week I’ve especially been focusing on stretching my inner thighs and hamstrings just to see if it really does help to relax the nervous system. We spend a lot of time sitting in chairs squashing the back of our legs and decreasing the venous blood return to the heart. It also limits circulation and can cause edema (swelling in the legs). Keeping the legs in one position may also hamper our ability to uptake insulin.

Stretching and opening the legs and inverting the body (taking the head lower than the heart) helps to relax the nervous system, increase circulation and lower blood pressure.

Fan posture is the perfect pose to facilitate all these things so I’ve put together an 8-minute sequence for you to practice. We head straight into the posture so if you’d like a warm up first I suggest you to do a few Sun Salutations or try my practice to beat insulin resistance .

I’ve made sure to add variations for beginners and advanced alike and remember continuous practice gets results. Give it a try and make sure to comment below. 🙂

With great respect…Rachel

Would you like me to design a practice specifically for you? Why not work with me this month. I’d love to be of service.

Beat Insulin Resistance with Yoga

I’m sitting here on the hottest day ever in the wilds of South Africa. I mean 38 degrees and climbing. They say when it gets hot like this here it’s a Berg wind blowing in from the desert. I’m trying to get excited about it, but it’s hard. The heat really affects my BG levels. They go high and then they go low…What to do!

Because I was diagnosed with type 1 well into my adult life I do battle with Insulin Resistance. It’s there on hot days, when I get sunburned, exercise too vigorously, don’t get enough sleep or inject too many times in the same place.

Instead of getting frustrated or feeling helpless I use my morning yoga practice to get my legs working so the uptake of insulin is more efficient. I find the routine below really helps.

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Being someone who regularly does yoga there are definitely some postures in this routine that are a little challenging for beginners so I suggest you watch the routine first and then decide which aspects you can do and leave out what’s challenging. I’ve included postures at the wall, seated and on the back for anyone who isn’t ready for the standing section.

I recommend you do this sequence every morning before breakfast for at least 7 days. If you can do it for longer that would be awesome!

Let me know how you go and have a wonderful start to 2017

with great respect…Rachel

If you’d like a personalized yoga routine to kick start your year and get motivated to incorporate yoga into your daily diabetes management plan why not Work with Me I have just 5 spots available for this month.

Letting it all go

I’ve been tearing up quite a lot lately. It could be that I finally have a home again after 6 years of non-stop travel. Or the fact that so many of my childhood dreams are bearing fruit. Or that, besides all the good in my life, I still find it hard to accept the daily ups and downs of diabetes. No matter what the reason for my tears I know that taking the time to sit and be with my vulnerable heart enables me to be stronger and to deal with whatever challenges come my way.

As my holiday gift to you, I’d love to share this simple technique to release the feelings that can threaten to overwhelm us during this sensitive time.

And…I wish you a very happy, settled and balanced holiday season!

with great respect…

Rachel

The Sat Yam meditation

Place your hand on your heart. Feel the warmth of your hand at your heart and notice your breath. Take a few moments here to let the mind settle.

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Bring the heels of your hands together and extend the fingers so your hands are in the shape of a cup or lotus (padma mudra).

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Imagine that inside your cup/lotus are all the emotions and feelings that haunt you. Don’t think too hard about it. See what arises.

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As you inhale, lift the cup/lotus by straightening your arms sending the emotions back to pure unconditioned awareness.

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As you exhale, open your arms to the side and surround yourself in a fine purple mist.

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Repeat this a few times, lifting the cup/lotus overhead on inhalation, surrounding yourself with a fine purple mist on exhalation.

Repeat the moving meditation a few more times silently adding the sound Sat on inhalation and Yam on exhalation.

Let go of the movement with the arms, resting the hands on the thighs.

Continue to chant internally: Sat as you feel the breath moving up the spine to the crown of the head on inhalation; Yam surrounding yourself in the fine purple mist on exhalation. Think of it like an internal fountain replenishing itself with every in and out breath.

Finally, feel the sound Satyam resting like a pulse at the centre of your heart. Rest there for another few moments.

When you’re ready, gently open your eyes and head into your day.

 

 

Highs and lows

Friday was a biggie, not in terms of my blood glucose numbers, but because I’ve finally realised a life long dream. In November 2017 a book I had no idea I would even write, when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes eight years ago, will be published worldwide.

If you’ve been following this blog over the last two years you’ll remember how busy I was last year writing Yoga for Diabetes Some of you even generously donated to the crowdfunding campaign I ran in February. I am beyond grateful for the outpouring of generosity from friends, family and people in the DOC.

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What I didn’t expect was to be approached by a publisher in the U.S after the campaign had finished and that our discussions over the last 7 months would lead to being offered a contract for world wide distribution. Obviously I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Prior to being offered the contract my plan was to have the book ready for print by May 2016. Being an absolute novice with self publishing I came up against all sorts of road blocks while sourcing quotes from printers. On the exact day that I received the best print quote I also received the contract offer from the publisher.

I have decided to go the traditional publishing route with the hope that my enthusiastic supporters from the crowdfunding campaign will celebrate this exciting turn of events, even if it means waiting a year to receive the book.

So the absolute high of the week? Signing that contract!

contract-signAnd the low?

Waking up up the next day with higher blood sugars. Heading to my mat hoping the numbers would fall. Turning up the dial on my nightly basal injection. Feeling sleepy, grumpy and frustrated because no matter what I do only trial and error will bring my blood sugar down again.

When I hit these emotional lows, the best yoga practice is one of surrender, acceptance and knowing that I can ‘try’ again tomorrow.

And what does that practice look like?

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I imagine myself at the feet of something greater and offer up my pain, frustration and sorrow to that force. I express absolute gratitude for the sweetness of life, the breath and this body, letting the emotions come.

This to me is the power of Yoga in the form of Bhakti. And one of the many ways I bring yoga into my daily diabetes management plan. No matter what your religion, culture or belief, surrender and gratitude are universal and a powerful daily practice.

with great respect…Rachel

And if you can’t wait for the book why not check out my free ebook on how I managed my first year on Insulin here.

A week in the wild

I’ve just returned from the Kruger National Park in South Africa, a vast tract of land teaming with wildlife. What a privilege to spend seven days watching the natural lifestyles of wild animals. And guess what…it’s all about the food.img_9488Animals are either ground grazers, tall leaf eaters or wild hunters (like leopards and lions) I’m talking rhinos battling it out in a nearly dry river bed, herds of elephants eating trees covered in thorns, giraffes crossing and re-crossing roads in search of the freshest and tastiest leaves. And not only do they eat, but they fight for the right to eat. We watched giraffes weaving their necks together, elephants pushing and shoving each other and kudus locking horns. My partner mentioned that it was all about survival of the fittest. If you win the battle you get your pick of the best. It made me think about living with diabetes and how we work twice as hard as someone with a functioning pancreas to stay fit and still we deal with that feeling that it’s never enough!img_9457Unlike our complex needs for exotic combinations on our dinner plates, animals keep it simple. Their primary directive is survival. If I can’t get it on the ground and I can reach it in a bush, I’ll eat that. Basically, like animals all a human body needs is nutrients to survive. I can get caught up in personal taste, be fussy about presentation, but if I was on a desert island? I’d probably behave like any wild animal and eat whatever!img_9555Besides watching all the munching and crunching there was a lot of digesting and sleeping going on too. We came across twenty crocodiles asleep in the sand along the banks of a watering hole, lions stretched out in a riverbed and a leopard straddling a high branch completely dead to the world.img_9496I never thought watching animals would be so soothing, fascinating and timeless. We spent over 6 hours in our car at one time and literally had to drag ourselves back to camp for a refresher before we jumped back in the car for more. Before the trip I worried that I’d get frustrated by sitting in the car all day. It’s completely against the rules to get out even for a pee (apparently a lion or some such other wild creature can come out of the bush at any moment and eat you up) But surprise, surprise it was easy. When you place your focus outside yourself time falls away and you forget all the little niggley things including the fact that your blood sugars might not be behaving.img_9631As the days went by I felt lighter and lighter and as a bonus my blood sugars levelled out. Maybe all any of us really need is a week away in the wild.

Check out these sweet little films below and if you’d like my free ebook on how I survived my first year on Insulin go here

Be the Sweetness You Are

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about loving kindness. We are told by countless self-help gurus that in order to move forward on ‘the path’ we have to love ourselves. I can remember way back in the 90’s having a counselling session where I was told that unless I learned to love myself I’d never find a way to move forward in my life. Looking back all I can say is, hogwash! I’ve realized through trial and error that loving oneself isn’t an action. We can’t do loving because we are the love itself.

Rachel Portraits 2015-6 copyBut what exactly does that mean?

Love is such a powerful feeling. Think about how it feels when you hug someone. Tingles and warm shoo-shoo feelings in the heart and a sense of safety and completion flooding every ounce of your being. Feeling love for someone is so powerful that somehow we are convinced that that’s what self love should feel like too. But what if love isn’t a feeling. What if love isn’t tangible and what if… we are loving ourselves 24/7 and the only thing standing in our way is that no one has ever told us that love is not an action.

Put simply, love is being yourself. And how hard is it to be yourself? It’s easy… you’re doing it every single day.

As a reminder I often think about when my son was born. Just a few minutes after his birth I understood something I couldn’t have possibly understood before. Babies are pure love. They ooze love, exude love just by simply existing. So what’s the difference between a baby and you? Absolutely nothing. That love baby is still looking out of your own eyes how ever many years later. If there is anything that separates you from the baby it’s the ideas, beliefs and conditions you’ve innocently absorbed and taken on. Sometimes it’s described as the layering affect. You identify with emotions, feelings, situations as yourself and then you believe you are the shame, guilt, depression, misery etc. But you can never be those things…they are just things you have.

IMG_8952It’s easier to drop what you have than what you are. Try dropping your awareness? I dare you. Try to be unconscious right now! Unless you hit yourself over the head with a hammer it’s impossible.

So being love is a no-brainer and loving yourself is effortless. What’s effortful is clinging to your concepts about love, about what love should look like and what it takes to love yourself. Think about how many times you’ve berated yourself for not taking care of yourself, for not going that extra mile, for not getting it “right’. Whose imposed those expectations? Where are those ideas about what self love should look like coming from? Un-peeling the layers is not some psychological process it’s not even about letting go, it’s actually the opposite of that.

By being you and and simply existing in the creation you are enough. In fact, you’re more than enough.

Think about it. What do you take with you when you drop your body? Do you take an emotion? An object? A relationship? Money? An idea or belief? At the moment of death, quite naturally you let go of everything. And imagine understanding that by simply existing, you are enough. How loving would you feel? Where would you need to direct love? What work would you have to put in to love yourself?

Absolutely none!

IMG_4490Love is already gained; like a drop in the vast ocean of water. No matter how much the drop thinks it’s a drop it can only ever be water. No matter how separate you feel from love the truth is, love is all there is.

So being sweet to yourself is easy because without trying, without even knowing it you are the sweetness itself.

I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below or send me a message and if you’d like a free copy of the first chapter of my new book click here …. with great respect, Rachel