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!

The Book is Here!

Ok… here goes…. this is my first ever shameless self- promotion post.

My book, Yoga for Diabetes How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda is in stock on Amazon and right now it’s on sale for $20.70 US that means $7 off the list price.

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This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! A chance to learn first hand how yoga can support you in living your best with diabetes. It doesn’t matter what sort of diabetes you have, your age or level of fitness you will love this easy to implement approach which includes the perfect tools to manage stress, reduce cortisol levels and increase insulin sensitivity. Find the right postural practice for you and your type of diabetes and learn basic breathing and concentration techniques to enhance happiness.

As I am currently in the US to promote the book you can also catch me live in stereo at an event in a city near you. Head to the events page to find out more

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And If you’re in or near Los Angeles why not come and join me for the official launch party at Mystic Journey Bookstore 6.30-8.30 pm in Venice.

I’ll also be talking about the book and my personal journey with diabetes on KTLA on Wednesday, October 11 at 9.45 am PST.  Tune in and be part of the virtual celebrations!

Besides all the exciting stuff to do with the book, my blood sugars have been misbehaving. My body craves routine, so early starts and late night flights are playing absolute havoc. Luckily I do practice what I preach so my twice daily yoga practice has been an absolute lifesaver. As I write, I’m back in range, but the reading below (on my way to the book launch at Book Passage in Corte Madera) was not ideal.

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I guess I just wanted to share that like anyone living with diabetes this is the reality.  Trying to think like a pancreas is no picnic.

And as I share in the book,

Throughout my life, I have always wanted to help others, but simultaneously found it difficult to take responsibility for helping myself. Taking up a yoga practice, eating wholesome and nurturing foods, living life with devotion and reverence are just some of the ways I consciously give back to myself on a day-to-day basis. My life as a yogi is not a fad. And having a disease like diabetes, I can’t afford to be part of a trend anyway. That’s why I feel strongly that the simplicity and discipline of yoga, plus the lifestyle guidelines from Ayurveda are the perfect starting point no matter what type of diabetes you have. The postural sequences, breathing and meditation techniques, thoughts on yoga and its deeper meaning, and the Ayurvedic lifestyle suggestions are there to support you in facing some of the challenges that come with the disease. And top of that list, of course, are stress and burnout. I am confident that like me you will discover that yoga is a life-changing and life-enhancing system. And a great friend and companion that will hold your hand through all the ups and downs you are bound to experience.”

With great respect,

rachel

That Mysterious low

It finally happened! I’d heard about it, read about it, feared it, even dreaded it. But one can’t stave off the inevitable. At some point, if you live with diabetes and take insulin you’re going to have a mysterious low. Today it was my turn.

It would have made sense if I’d had lower levels when I woke up or hadn’t thought I’d seen the number 8 mmol just 20 minutes before. I’m not someone who ever crashes fast. In fact most of the time I’m a big flat line. Being a LADA ( Someone who lives with Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) I still produce some insulin and use a low carb diet with moderate protein and fats to keep things balanced. I take a small dose of long acting insulin and time my walks and yoga practice around the time my insulin begins to wear off. Usually, if I am heading towards a low, I feel hungry. So I’ll grab a high protein, hi fat snack to keep things in check. Plus I check my blood sugar all the time. I mean, I use test strips like Candy!

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So what the heck happened?

I have no idea! I noticed my hands were shaking when I sat down at my computer around 6.45 am. I checked my blood sugar levels, had my morning injection, (which had burst a small capillary, but I’d made sure there was no bubble or bruising under the skin) and decided that I should eat something to get grounded. I chose a small avocado which had a bit of a bitter taste, didn’t think much of it until I started feeling like I was itchy under my skin.  I never feel like that… usually, if I’m itchy it’s on my skin and I can see hives or something… but this was like a slow skin crawl… and I was shaking… I cooked an egg to have with the avocado and sat down to eat it and offhandedly remarked to my husband that I was shaking while I was eating which was weird. I didn’t think to check my blood sugar. Instead, I went to the bathroom ( probably too much information here but anyway…) and had a panic attack. Heart racing out of my chest, feeling even weirder I called out to my husband… “I’m feeling weird and now I’m having a panic attack.!”

My husband says, “Let’s go outside and sit in the sun.” So we sit down and he asks me what I’m worried about? I say, “I don’t feel worried it feels physical”…then I lift up my shirt to examine my imaginary hives…the skin keep crawling and I keep feeling weird. But the panic has subsided…we sit in the sun for about 10 minutes and then I think about checking my blood sugar.

My husband is standing right there when we get the results 4.1 mmol…I panic. My husband says, “Check again.” I pull out my other meter, it says 3.8 mmol…I panic more… my husband says, “Check one more time just to be sure.” I check again on my first meter…3.9 mmol.

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I RUN TO THE FRIDGE

My husband is trailing behind saying, “Stay calm don’t panic.”

I don’t listen, I open the fridge find my juice popper ( we have our juice in small bags here in Australia) The straw is missing! URGH!!! I get the scissors and cut the bag open and drink a big gulp. My husband says, “Okay stop there, it will be enough.” I’m like, ” NO! I can drink the whole thing.” I guzzle down the entire 200 gms of juice in about 1 minute. Then I lean against the counter, wild eyed.

I’m thinking to myself… and how long do I have to wait for my blood sugar level to come up?

I carry another juice bag and my meter back to the living room and sit on the couch… trying to figure out what happened. I was sure that the last time I’d checked my level was right before I ate. So I went through the log on my meter. I was shocked! I checked at 6.45 am… and then checked at 8.07 which was when I saw the low.

I’d started having breakfast at 7.30 am… so couldn’t have checked just before I ate. Had I imagined the whole thing?

I’ve heard people say that when you’re low you don’t think like you normally do. But I had no idea what that meant. I remember feeling completely aware of everything that was going on. So it seemed super weird that I didn’t do the one thing I was supposed to do…

CHECK MY BLOOD SUGAR!

And my husband used to me reacting to foods or having panic attacks in the loo didn’t think to ask me to check either.

Once my levels had returned to normal… (well not quite I did overshoot with the 200 gms of juice and am now running at about 9 mmol)  I’ve had a chance to reflect on what worked for me during the mystery low.

  1. I didn’t freak about the skin crawling sensation. I stayed calm and tried to figure out what it was
  2. When I started having the panic attack the first thing I did was calm down and breathe deeply, Then I called my husband
  3. I went outside into nature and put my bare feet on the earth
  4. When I finally did check my blood sugar level, I checked a few times just to make sure it wasn’t a mistake on the meter
  5. I knew exactly where to go to get what I needed, took the remedy and managed not to eat everything in site
  6.  I waited calmly for my levels to return to normal, watched my breath and trusted my body
  7. I decided to do a yoga practice to support my adrenals and to bring more circulation and blood to my brain to help stabilize my levels after the low
  8. I drank quite a bit of water knowing that I would go a bit higher than I liked from the juice to flush excess sugar out of my system
  9.  Lastly, I hugged my husband and counted my blessings for all of the above!

Being a force for positive change

For most of my life, I’ve wanted to be a force for positive change. Instilled in me by my grandfather, he would often remind us how important it was to speak our minds and to question. He taught me to be respectful, thoughtful and to give back and never ever take privilege for granted. Everything can change in a heartbeat.

Last night, when I was sharing with a fellow type 1 friend about my upcoming online yoga challenge, she said: “this challenge is so needed in the world!” It was a sweet compliment but it made me think.

I’ve always seen yoga and yoga practices as life changing, transformative and something that anyone can benefit from. In fact, I can remember when I started teaching teachers I had this goal of training enough people so that everybody in the whole world would do yoga. Nearly 17 years later just about everyone in the world does do yoga.

Well almost.

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So besides all the hype, how can yoga make a difference? Why is it so needed? Because whether we live with a chronic disease or not. We are all suffering from stress and burnout. Everywhere we turn we are bombarded. Bombarded with must do’s and have’s. Sometimes trying to decide where to put my energy, money and time is enough to make me want to sit down, cover my ears and scream, “Enough!”

In my personal experience if yoga can offer one thing it’s simplification

When I keep things simple and eliminate the complications it gives me breathing space. Instead of long drawn out yoga postures which include bending into pretzel shapes. I do the same easy routine every day. It’s nice to add in a more complex move every now and then but I’ve learned it’s not necessary. Some forward bends before dinner and a few moments of quiet reflection prepare me for a good night’s sleep.

Living with diabetes means it’s even more important to stay calm and balanced.

As a yogi and yoga teacher, I’ve learned that understanding how the mind works is key in handling stress and achieving balance. When I first started practicing I learned to meditate and observe my thoughts. Later I learned that watching my thoughts (mindfulness) is just the beginning.

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Even more powerful is knowing who is having the thoughts. Knowing the thinker. No matter how big the thought, the thinker has to be there. Without the thinker what thought?

When life gets overwhelming reminding myself that I am the thinker of the thoughts, puts everything in perspective.

We spend our whole lives obsessed with our thoughts, trying to banish them or tame them. And when we can’t resolve the thoughts our mental health suffers. I can sometimes spend way too long obsessing about my thoughts about diabetes. The quicker I catch myself going off the rails the better. I like to think of it as fishing for thoughts. If a thought starts to swim away I catch it and hold it close. When you try to hang on to a thought it quickly dissipates. Thoughts are ephemeral like that. But when you try not to think about something all you do is think about it more.

Yoga is so powerful in meeting the mind head on. Instead of trying to squash thoughts we can focus on something like the breath, or a sound, or a posture or even work with hand gestures. There are so many ways to bring the mind into a one pointed focus. And the cool thing is that these practices are for everybody.

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When I tell people that I teach yoga I can get a variety of responses but the most common one is Yoga? I’m not good at that. I love sharing that yoga is so much more than the physical practice.

In general, the physical practice is designed to:

  • detoxify and purify the physical body bringing it back to its natural state.
  • help the mind to slow down

On a deeper level, yoga practice suspends for a moment all the ideas, thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves. That’s why we feel so good when we finish the practice. All the thoughts we’ve been getting lost in seem to disappear and we feel calm and peaceful.

Once the nervous system gets the hint that we don’t always need to be in the stress response (fight or flight) we spend more time in the relaxed part of our nervous system.  This means our tendency to habitually react to stressful thoughts, events and experiences also relaxes. This is so helpful when we live with diabetes. The more I can look at the numbers on my meter and stay calm. The less I react to my feelings about diabetes and the better I feel no matter what’s happening.

When I was putting together my upcoming yoga challenge, Better Diabetes Management in 7 steps with Yoga, I thought about what sorts of things I wanted to share. Rather than making each step about a physical postural practice I wanted to focus on the core of what yoga actually does, balance and calm the nervous system.

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In the challenge I’ll be sharing:

About Ayurveda and how to discover your ayurvedic type

A short physical practice to improve circulation

Mudras (hand gestures) for balancing the emotions

How sound (mantra) works to heal the nervous system

A calming breathing practice that you can do anywhere anytime

How to give yourself a nurturing foot massage that promotes deep sleep

And a creative mandala (yantra) exercise to inspire gratitude and devotion

These are the practices I do every day to be a positive force for change in my own life with diabetes and I am so excited to share them with you too.

If you’d like to join the challenge its free and you can sign up here.  

 

 

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.