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

 

 

 

 

The Politics of Rest

Rest, we all need it. It’s one of the three essential ingredients in life. Along with food and water, we’d die without it. So why do we try and cheat the one thing we need the most?

In my younger years, I enjoyed staying up till 3 am while trawling the Sydney nightclub scene. Those were the days of pointy black boots and off the shoulder T-shirts and way too many Bloody Mary’s. I was a professional dancer and had to be in the class by 9 am. Sleep was something you fell into because not sleeping meant falling out of a pirouette the next day.

Being 19, I thought it was cool to dance, drink and sleep as little as possible. Luckily that attitude and approach didn’t last. Being sensitive my body suffered. My back began to hurt and a chiropractor recommended yoga and meditation.

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A few months later I took my first class. It was weird and awkward. The strangest part came at the end. The teacher told us to lie down and covered us in blankets. She didn’t say anything and the room went really quiet. After a few moments, I sat up, looked around and saw the teacher glaring at me. She motioned for me to lie back down. I felt like one of those kids in nursery school at nap time. You know the kid who is just too fidgety to stay still for more than two minutes? That was me!

Eventually, I got the hang of it. I went through stages of letting go. In the beginning, my mind would race from one thought to another, I’d feel a rush of energy through my nerves. Then slowly that sensation would fade. I’d begin to breathe deeply and visualize things that couldn’t be real. Like seeing people floating on clouds, or strange luminous lakes. After the visuals passed I’d hear myself snoring. Soft buzzing snores that kept me present but relaxed at the same time. Eventually, I’d disappear. The teacher’s voice would too and then the sound of singing, or gongs would bring me back. The rest of the day I’d feel more relaxed, more tuned in and rested. The relaxation at the end of a yoga class, called Savasana (corpse pose) was a reset for my body and mind.

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In 2018 the politics of rest has become an obsession. According to studies, we are exhausted. We are literally killing ourselves with lack of rest. In my personal opinion, it’s the lack of fresh air, organic food, and people interaction as well as the constant pressure to have and do more. I also think technology and our dependence on it plays a significant role.

We play, interact, eat and even sleep through our smart phones. Even if we want to rest we are encouraged to do it with an app. Just yesterday I saw an article with the headline “A sleep app on your phone? Maybe not such a good idea.”

This is where Savasana solves the problem, but not just any Savasana. Yoga nidra. Yoga nidra (yogic sleep) is a phrase to describe a deep and conscious state of rest. Unlike the corpse pose, you stay alert while relaxing different parts of the body, counting breaths and sensing and visualizing various physical and emotional states.

Benefits of yoga nidra are akin to going into a deep sleep. Our brain has the capacity to work in different states of awareness: waking state, relaxed state, dream state and deep sleep state. There is also a fifth state called the gamma state, which happens at the point of orgasm or during any ecstatic activity.

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Even though science has categorized these states as separate from each other, in reality, they’re all happening at once. We choose where to place our attention. For instance, when you’re hard at work nutting out a problem or completing a task you’re in the beta brainwave state. If you decide to take a break, watch TV or read a book, you can become so relaxed you’re nearly asleep. That’s the alpha wave. The alpha wave quite naturally takes you into the dream state which is the theta wave. Before you know it, you’re out for the count. This is the delta wave. Everything disappears. No thoughts, no ideas, no individuality, no problems. Bliss.

The theory behind yoga nidra is that as you are led through a series of steps, starting with relaxing different parts of the body, observing the breath and finally working with visualization, quite naturally you flow into the alpha wave, which relaxes the nervous system and reduces your stress.

What I love about this yoga practice is that anybody can do it. You don’t need to be fit or flexible. You just need a comfortable spot to lie down. You can do it in bed, or if you are at work seated in a chair with your eyes closed.

Join me in taking deep rest with this yoga nidra we recorded recently with my husband and fellow yogi John Weddepohl at Inhale Life in Sydney. The nidra is accompanied by the sound of singing bowls played by yoga teacher Romina DiFederico.

Start the practice by lying on your back.

Have your arms and legs slightly away from the body, palms facing upwards, feet relaxed and open.

Turn the head gently from side to side until it rests in the center.

If your chin juts up towards the sky, place a blanket underneath your head.

Relax completely.

Don’t worry about the breath or what the body is doing.

Feel how effortless it is to lie here.

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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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 🙂

New intentions for a new year

With just one day to go until New Year’s Eve every letter in my inbox and blog post is about reflecting on what’s been and looking to what’s ahead. It’s hard not to get caught up in the frenzy and to think I need to make resolutions too. If I could make a resolution that would eliminate diabetes from my life believe me I would. But sadly I can only manage my relationship to the disease which doesn’t have a sense of endings nor new beginnings.

I’ve decided to start my new year in a different way. A couple of days ago I signed up for the Mysugr bundle with the intention of getting support for adding fast-acting Insulin at meal times. I’ve been injecting Basal insulin for the last 3 years and my yoga practice combined with a low carb diet, daily walks, meditation and breathing have kept my levels in range.

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Now I want better control. My CDE suggested I start with a ½ unit of Apidra with my meals, but even with her instructions, I’ve been holding off because, to be honest, I AM FREAKING OUT! Just like I did when I started insulin therapy. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster working up the courage to take this next step. I’m learning that no matter the challenge, it doesn’t work to run in the other direction. Especially when my health and well-being are at stake.

Luckily peer support and diabetes technology can help to bridge the gap.

As soon as I signed up for the Mysugr bundle, which includes an accu-chek guide meter and unlimited test strips delivered to my door, my diabetes coach Gary Scheiner said “Hi” via the app. I was able to chat with him and get advice on when to dose according to my uploaded data within minutes. How cool is that!

I bought Gary’s book Think Like a Pancreas when I started Insulin in 2014. In fact, I took his book with me for my 8- month trip to South Africa and read it from cover to cover. I never thought I’d get his personal support in helping me to manage my health. But then I never thought I’d meet half the people who inspire me every day to live well with this condition. In my experience, the diabetes community is welcoming in a way that has gone beyond any other community I’ve been involved in (including the Yoga community.) It’s brought me to tears and opened my heart and had me in awe every single day.

It’s also why I want to spread awareness.

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This whole holiday season has been about that for me. Bringing my family into the reality of what its like for me to live with Type 1. Showing my Dad my snacks for lows, having my 11-year-old niece help me work out the carb count for my lunch or talking with my mom about why people with diabetes can tend to live in isolation. Awareness definitely breeds compassion and support.

As the holidays come to a close and I prepare for 2018 there is one resolution I’d like to share. It’s the tradition of practicing the Sankalpa meditation. Sankalpa means “ setting an intention” rather than being something we resolve to do, it’s something that arises from the ground of our being. Intentions for me in the past have been single words like love, support, authorship, openness. Whatever the intention I let it percolate until I feel its birth in me. It could be a week, a month or a year later.  Rather than worrying about when my intention will fruit I enjoy the adventure along the way.

 “You are the beginning of the journey, you are the journey itself and you are the destination.” John Weddepohl

Wishing each and every one of you a love filled, joy-filled healthy New Year.

With great respect…

rachel

Increase your vitality in winter

So I’ve been here in the US now for nearly three months and boy is it freeezingggg. I love romping around in the snow but I’m not loving how the colder weather affects my BG levels.

I’ve been trying to get my basal dose just right but it’s tricky. Some days I’m super insulin resistant and then yesterday I spent the whole day eating to just stay at 5 mmol (90 mg/dl).

The ups and downs of blood glucose management are not just taxing on mental/ emotional wellbeing. It directly affects the nervous system. In winter we contract more, do less and retreat into dry and hot environments. All of these things decrease our natural vitality and increase the elements of air and space in our system often causing restlessness, uncertainty, depression, and lethargy and even a physical sense of weakness.

That’s why winter is one of the best times to work on increasing the energy in your system. The best thing to feed your energy is something called Prana. Prana is defined as life force. You absorb prana through breathing, food, and your skin.

Usually, in a yoga practice, you’ll increase the prana through the physiological process of inhalation but you can also increase your ability to absorb prana by bringing awareness to the ribcage and the muscles in between the ribs, the intercostal muscles.  When you stretch these areas you’re working with the sympathetic/ fight or flight part of your nervous system.

Generally, we spend way too much time in this part because it’s constantly triggered when we are stressed. Many of the yoga practices focus on supporting us to spend more time in the relaxed part of our nervous system. ( I.e restorative yoga, yin yoga, passive postures, slow focused breathing) When it comes to the colder months, I like to make an exception and physically activate the energetic part to generate heat and increase my ability to absorb prana.

I jumped into the FB group this morning to share a short live practice that anyone can do to stretch the side muscles and increase energy and vitality. Why not join me and leave a comment to let me know how it made you feel.

 

Sweetness, beauty, and love

Today I offer you a guest post from my friend Sarah Tomlinson. Sarah and I met when I was planning the NYC leg of my book launch. We discovered that we both had a passion for yoga, yantras and all the wonderful tools that promote health and wellbeing. Sarah also lives with Type 1 Diabetes. I asked her to share how she has come to terms with her diagnosis and how she supports others to live well through working with the power and beauty of yantras.

Take it away Sarah!

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Venus is the planet of love, it is also known as the planet of Art and Beauty. Being an astrological ayurvedic counselor I am very much involved with the significance of the planets. I have been living with type one diabetes since I was 21years old. It struck in the middle of many years of healthy eating and yoga and meditation.

Type one is an interesting auto-immune disorder and the stress reduction technique I craved with this diagnosis was to do with soothing my emotions. I had the physical practices in place, as a longtime yogini and mindful nutritionist but I longed for something that would soothe my emotional unrest and allow me to, for a while, forget about the physical body. Could I be transported into a spiritual practice that was not focused on the physical body?

A few years later I met a renaissance man, his name was Harish Johari, not only was he at the forefront of bringing Eastern teachings of mysticism to the West, he also brought the knowledge of sacred geometric shapes, known as Yantras to us. Once I discovered that drawing and coloring these was a form of prayer I was hooked.

He gave me twenty-four Yantras to work with. Each one induces a calm yet specific vibration within the viewer. As I studied these, embracing each one fully, I started to notice that as my Yantra practice deepened, my blood sugar levels became more stable. By not focusing all of the time on the physical aspect of well-being I filled up my well of emotions, which had become somewhat of a destitute wasteland and regained some mental and emotional balance.

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Venus is the planet of sweetness. The sweet taste is associated with Venus. I wonder if there is something here, love, sweetness, beauty, and Art. Something that I felt was lacking when I became diabetic, and maybe even was the source of my imbalance when I developed this condition, was becoming fulfilled with this Venusian practice of creating Yantras.

And this spectacular practice draws me in daily. I draw, I color, for maybe 10 minutes and maybe two hours, each day. It is the time when I find the bliss of the present moment, I get to focus on me, the real me, the me that is happy, soothed and contented. From this place, I can move out into my day with grace. I am more in tune with the beauty and positive things around me.

I teach Yantra Painting to bring this practice to others and to continue to learn about the qualities each of the twenty-four Yantras has. This is an incredible practice that comes from the ancient tantrics, the mystics from northern India, and yet it has helpful implications for today.

Last year I created the book “Coloring Yantras” to teach more people than I can reach in my workshops, about the healing power of the twenty-four Yantras, their meaning, and benefit, and to invite people to pick up a colored pencil or pen and start to color.

Try it, maybe it will fill you up with sweetness, beauty, and love too.

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Sarah Tomlinson is an internationally acclaimed Yantrika (Yantra teacher and practitioner), yoga teacher and artist, with renowned fans across the globe including Elena Brower and Sharon Gannon, co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga. Sarah worked extensively with her mentor Harish Johari in India, he initiated her into the spiritual practice of painting Yantras. She leads retreats and Yantra workshops around the world and enjoys lots of time by the ocean with her husband and two young boys.

You can find out more about Sarah @ www.sarahyantra.com  and order her books here

 

Diabetes and Mindset

Diabetes is tough! Especially right now while I am on the road spreading the word about how Yoga is a lifesaver when it comes to the day to day management of diabetes. I’m using test strips like there’s no tomorrow while navigating unexpected lows, raging highs and doing my best to stick to daily routines amidst early morning flights and media calls.

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the opportunities but like anyone, there are good days and not so good days.

In the end, it comes down to mindset. How I respond to my life with diabetes is more important than the number on my meter, the daily grind of counting carbs or the overall physical drain from a week of higher levels or too many lows.

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What gives me the mental strength to weather the storm? YOGA

More specifically the art of meditation.

I started meditating when I was 23. It wasn’t something I had heard about or even planned to do. It was my best friend and my first yoga teacher who convinced me to try it. She suggested we head to a three-day meditation intensive with a former Buddhist monk. When I asked her what we would actually be doing she just smiled.

After sitting and watching my breath for three days straight and walking in slow meditative circles I soon discovered that meditation isn’t something that can be described. It’s intangible like space. Have you ever tried to describe space? Words like open, vast, infinite can’t really explain a feeling which has no words.

The feeling of meditating is very different to the act of practicing meditation which in yoga is called “concentration” or dharana. Dharana is described in the Miriam-Webster dictionary as “fixed attention; especiallya state of mental concentration on an object without wavering”

So what does that actually mean? Think about what it feels like when you do anything you love; it could be a physical activity like running, reading a book, performing a creative task like painting or writing, you couldn’t do that activity if it didn’t have your full attention. That’s exactly what’s happening when you practice dharana (concentration). You place your full attention on the breath, or an image or even a posture and immediately there is an opportunity for your mind to be in “the zone.”

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Ok…so when you are in the middle of a low is it appropriate to try and practice dharana? Let’s get real. It’s friggin impossible. Your brain is starving for glucose and you want to consume everything in sight.

Once you’ve treated the low you can make a start.  The more we teach the mind to focus in on one point the quicker the nervous system comes back into balance. Like training a dog, positive reinforcement and reminders enable the nervous system to find its feet faster and faster after a stressful event.

We are designed to be relaxed 80% of the time and to be ready to run from a tiger 20% of the time. In this day and age, we live the other way around. Put diabetes in the mix and it amps up the volume. Having simple tools to destress are super important.

But first, we have to want to relax. We need to know what relaxation feels like and understand how beneficial it is. Not only does it support the nervous system. We sleep, digest and feel better emotionally and mentally. Less stress means less cortisol circulating through the system and overall better blood glucose management.

I know for myself after years and years of being uptight, overly sensitive and riddled with anxiety, yoga was the only thing that gave me some respite. It’s taken years of mind over just about everything to get on top of myself. I’m convinced that if I hadn’t learned to meditate at a young age I’d be a basket case.

Knowing that meditation/concentration happens naturally helps to put the mind at ease. Anyone can meditate because anyone can relax. It’s about understanding what meditation is and what it is not.

Meditation is not a state or something that only happens when you are calm or peaceful. It is not a moment, place or goal to be attained.

The word meditation is interchangeable with the word peace, contentment, bliss, wholeness.

You being whole and complete…are the meditation itself.

You might not get what I’m saying right now but rest assured…nothing beats the feeling you get from taking time to slow down and be still.  Learning to concentrate is just the beginning.

For this week’s blog, I’ve included an excerpt from the chapter on contemplation from my new book Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda

151210_DAV6241The Soham meditation for pitta

As a fiery type, the act of trying to concentrate can often incite frustration. To balance that Pitta, we need to counteract that fire. And what counteracts fire? Water.

The sound of the ocean is like the sound of the breath when you cover your ears and listen carefully. To balance Pitta, you’ll be using sound (mantra) to focus your mind. One of the most profound mantras is the natural sound the breath makes as we breathe in and out. This is happening automatically 24,600 or so times a day. If you place your hands over your ears and breathe in, you’ll hear the sound So. Keeping your hands over your ears when you breathe out, you’ll hear the sound Ham.

The Soham Meditation is an ancient technique that works effectively to calm and cool the nervous system and mind.

Set an intention for your practice. It could be anything, something simple like “I want to feel relaxed at the end of the practice” or more personal like “I dedicate this practice to accepting things as they are”.

Technique

Engage ujjayi breath. Long slow inhalation, long slow exhalation.

Feel the breath become even. Even count for inhalation, even count for exhalation. Continue counting the breath.

Move the awareness to the pelvic floor, sensing the space between the pubic bone and the tailbone.

On your next inhalation, for an even count, visualise the breath flowing up the centre of the spine to the middle of the brain.

On the next exhalation, for an even count, visualise the breath flowing down the centre of the spine. Continue like this for as long as is comfortable.

Add the sound (mantra) So on the inhalation and Ham on the exhalation.

Chant the mantra internally to yourself.

Keep breathing in the sound So and breathing out the sound Ham for about 3 to 5 minutes or as comfortable.

Want to know more about how yoga can help you manage your life with diabetes? Order your very own copy of my book here and if you love it I would be so grateful for a review 🙂

With great respect…

rachel

 

If you can breathe you can do yoga

I’ve just returned from The Diabetes Sisters Weekend for Women conference in Virginia which was jam-packed with inspirational seminars on all things diabetes. It was both moving and motivating and gave me a sense of how big our diabetes community is and how events like these nurture and support us in ways that online connections can’t.

I came away feeling deeply fulfilled especially because I got to hang out with so many of my diabetes heroes. Seeing them in real life shining and full of passion made my day.

I was assigned the task of sharing yoga at the conference. People came from all walks of life and all abilities and I wanted to make sure that everyone felt comfortable.

I truly believe that Yoga is for everybody. If you can breathe you can do yoga and you don’t need to be fit or flexible either. Yoga is an integrated system that includes every aspect of wellbeing from breathing to meditation, voice and hand gestures, creativity and more to remember your true nature, oneness, wholeness, whatever you want to call that feeling where time seems to stop and you just can’t get unhappy about anything.

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Postural practice is important because when you gently move and open the body the fascia (the sheath of tissue around the muscles) is stretched and directly accesses the nervous system. But postures are just one limb on a multifaceted tree.

I came to understand this for myself when I practiced a more vigorous form of yoga called Ashtanga.  No matter how much I stretched and opened myself, the bigger questions like why am I here, who am I and what is life about remained unanswered. And after being diagnosed with diabetes I had to admit that even the “physical” aspect of yoga could not fix me.

But that didn’t mean I gave up on yoga. I just had to view it through a different lens.

Yoga is not designed to fix anything, it’s a reminder that completeness is our birthright. We only need to remember this and yoga is that reminder. So whether you take a moment to stop and breathe, take the time to be mindful or whisper a silent prayer of gratitude that you’ve made it through another night. That’s yoga!

with great respect…

rachel

And speaking of introducing everyone to yoga I appeared on KTLA just the other day and had the anchor Frank Buckley down on the floor doing some postures.  So much fun!