For the love of a body

I’ve never been someone to feel at home in my body. For as long as I can remember I’ve dealt with feelings of discomfort. The feeling that everything that’s supposed to work in the usual way doesn’t. Digestion, breathing, and vital organs. I’m pretty sure the whole shebang was caused by the sudden death of my mother when I was 11, but I also remember a time before that when my mom threatened to use an enema bag on me when I refused to go to the toilet. I was terrified that my body wouldn’t do what it was ‘supposed’ to do.

Feeling frustrated and disconnected from one’s body isn’t unusual. It seems to be a general trend especially now with autoimmune and chronic health conditions on the rise. When we are conditioned to be comfortable living through our smartphones and laptops. Where productivity and quantity matter more than quality of life. Where we’ve forgotten the vital ingredient for existence. A body.

Stop, take a breath, think. How would you be reading this blog if you didn’t have a body, how would you be able to eat your lunch, without a body? How could you do anything without your body!

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Photo by Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho on Unsplash

As a dancer from a young age, I grew up understanding that my body was an instrument to be pressed and moulded into shape, to be moved into submission. Starved and folded, propelled and pulled my body had to be perfect. In my eyes, this seemed impossible. There were so many imperfections from flat feet to short legs to rounded bits where there should have been bones. So as a teenager I went to war with my body. Expecting the impossible.

Learning to suppress my feelings about my body became the norm for me. As long as I didn’t pay attention it wasn’t there. I longed to feel more comfortable and healthy, but it always felt out of reach.

And then I found Yoga. Yoga changed my life and my relationship with my body. When I first tried the practice I felt awkward, embarrassed, it was nothing like a plie at the barre or a jump on center stage. It was precision, alignment, breath, extension. A feeling of swoosh and whoosh as organs came back to life. It was release and relaxation. Tension easing. And the biggest takeaway was the malleability of the muscles and ligaments. For the first time in my life, my body felt fluid, I literally changed the shape of my muscles.

When I went to an audition for a dance company the year after I started practicing yoga the choreographer mentioned how my dancing had changed. How I moved more gracefully and my physique was lithe. It was nice to be acknowledged but it also terrified me. What if I couldn’t keep it up or worse what if my body failed me altogether.

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Many years later it did. Type 1 diabetes takes no prisoners. I have never felt more let down by my body than on the day of my diagnosis. It hurt, it really did.

Climbing out of a hole is no easy feat. I know I’m not the only one who lives with a chronic illness or has had to face the reality of a body that isn’t functioning as it should. It takes courage to see things for what they are. To let go of blaming oneself or feeling ashamed of doing something that may have caused the breakdown.

I am reminded of a story told by W. Timothy Gallway

“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.” We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.

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Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

Learning to see the body for what it is, is the first step in coming back to body love. It’s your vehicle, your temple, the altar upon which you are able to experience the wonder of creation. It has given you 5 senses to enjoy your surroundings. It has given you a heart to love, lungs to breathe. The ability to experience pleasure, sensuality and the depth of connection. As a woman, you gestate and nurture life, as a man you help to create life. Everybody is unique, a love bomb exploding with passionate expression. Whether healthy or ill, you the enjoyer occupy the body, one of a kind and yet inexorably part of the whole. Take yourself out of creation and the whole creation is incomplete. Watching the dancer nothing gets added to the dancer in the dance.

Loving others comes easily, not loving ourselves can seem like the core issue. I truly believe that in a life with chronic illness trying to ‘love” ourselves can feel too much like a concept. So instead of beating yourself up about not loving yourself enough or that you lack self-love.  Try this simple visualisation practice below….

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You can record this in your own voice so you can practice it without reading it.

Take a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Imagine that you are walking in a forest. In the middle of the forest, you see a clearing. Step into the clearing and just be present with all your senses alert. Notice what’s in the clearing. What do you see? How does it make you feel? Now gaze intently at the circle of trees surrounding the clearing and imagine that behind each tree is a role, a persona, something you tell yourself about your diabetes or chronic issue, something you tell yourself about your body. Imagine calling those identities, thoughts and roles to come out from behind the trees and call them back to you. As they come to you embrace them. Recognizing them for what they are thoughts, ideas, identities, beliefs, projections. Things that you’ve given energy to. Call them back and let them dissolve in your heart. You are not the beliefs, or ideas about your body. You can never be what you have. You have thoughts about your body. Your thoughts cannot be you. As you recall all these fractured parts of yourself notice how it feels to embrace them and integrate them. Keep calling out to the identities behind the trees until there are none left. Once each one has found its home in you. Imagine yourself filling from your toes to your crown with pure golden light. Pure gold, impenetrable light. Feel your body, strong, resilient, calm and centered. Notice how this makes you feel. Keep feeling the strength of this gold light feeding every cell, bringing you back to total body harmony. Take as long as you need to bask in this light. Then when you are ready. Gently open your eyes and come back to normal waking consciousness…

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Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

May the light of who you are be the reminder that gives you the courage to meet every day exactly as it is.

With great respect…

rachel

Transform your greatest challenge

Today I am sharing a guest post from yogini Evan Soroka. Some of you may remember her from the diayogi summit in October. Evan is a wise soul whose lived with type 1 diabetes for the past 20 years and is living proof that yoga is an alchemical and transformational modality to completely revolutionize your life with diabetes. Everything Evan shares from her presence on social media, to her work with groups and individuals both on and offline, is infused with a calm wisdom that will transform how you see yourself and your diabetes. Her program Rise above T1D launches today and I am super excited to share her story with you. Take it away Evan…

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I have always been and will continue to always be a curious adventurer at heart. Growing up in the mountains much of my free time was spent under the influence of nature. It is no wonder that the story of my diagnosis revolves around adventure and the continued success of my journey with type 1 diabetes is due to that same ardor to know more.

The summer leading up to diagnosis was a season of flux. I had spent the previous year preparing for my Bat Mitzvah; a much anticipated coming of age ceremony in Jewish tradition. My body was under rapid permutation from girl to woman and the obvious signs of illness passed under the radar. Looking back I remember a rabid thirst that could not be quenched. The day before my Bat Mitzvah I wet the bed. My parent’s passed it off as nerves. There were a number of other subtle red flags, which would have been more obvious had I of been older and more self-aware. I kept a lot of the symptoms to myself. I was diagnosed at the end of that summer after a backpacking trip in the Colorado wilderness. It was not until this trip, quiet under the influence of Mother Nature, did I perceive of something being wrong with me.

After diagnosis, I did not understand the magnitude of the change to come. I enjoyed the spotlight and lavished attention. I was too young to conceive of my own mortality to be fearful and too curious to be upset by the doctors, hospital beds and needles. However, the limelight did not last and soon I was unhinged by my reality. The emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows, the tension of child/parent dominance, unresolved insecurities and emotions left me a shell of my former self. I struggled to learn new eating habits and became increasing obsessive with my weight, body image and stopped enjoying outdoor activities that I had once cherished. Two years after diagnosis I moved to rural Brazil on a Rotary Youth Exchange Program. My dad still jokes that I did not give my parents another alternative. I was determined to face the world and diabetes on my own. The year abroad was necessary for my own self-development and growth. I learned how to live on my own with T1D in a new culture, climate and explain my condition in a foreign language. I was confident but defiant, self-sufficient yet completely incompetent. Thankfully I found yoga.

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Yoga bridged the gap from my head to my heart. It was the first thing that I learned to do for myself since diagnosis that granted me a sense of freedom. It was a connection to a natural part of me that was beyond all insecurities, pain, and sadness. With practice, I learned how to use yoga as a tool to manage the symptoms and side effects of T1D.  Since those early years I have dedicated my life’s work to yoga.

A full-time teacher since 2007, I have received some of the highest credentials in yoga teaching, becoming an ERYT 500 (minimum 2000 hours of teaching) and a Certified Yoga Therapist (5-year program).

Yoga therapy, derived from yogic philosophy and Ayurvedic tradition, helps individuals facing health challenges at any level manage their condition, reduce side effects, restore balance, increase vitality and elevate attitude about life.

Yoga therapy, unlike Western medicine, considers the individual a whole multi-dimensional being addressing the physical, mental/emotional and spiritual levels. The tools of yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation promote awareness, discipline and grant the individual the power to cultivate true and lasting change. I am a dedicated practitioner as well as a patient of yoga therapy, with a daily practice. I teach from direct experience and influence my students with the same drive and compassion that I have learned for myself.

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Today I am launching my  6-Weeks Rise Above T1D online yoga therapy program. This program is a compilation of my life practice and aims to teach all diabetics how to skillfully navigate chronic illness.

You will learn how to:

  • Apply yoga directly to your symptoms and side effects.
  • Increase insulin sensitivity, reduce stress and anxiety, manage energy levels and elevate your attitude about T1D.
  • Unearth limiting belief patterns and fears that hold you back from achieving what you really want.
  • Use your body as a vehicle for transformation and freedom.
  • Create and maintain a daily yoga and meditation practice.

If not for a regular practice I would not be the successful diabetic that I am today. I am by no means a perfect diabetic but it does not control me. When I am not on my mat or teaching you can find me adventuring in my Colorado backyard.

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Evan Soroka is a certified yoga therapist and teacher based in Aspen, Colorado. When she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in early adolescence yoga was the only thing that helped her manage the uncomfortable emotional and physical side effects. Since then Evan has turned her greatest struggle into her life’s purpose. Through the practices and teachings of yoga therapy, she empowers others to use their own body as a vehicle for healing and transformation. www.evansoroka.com

Yoga; Beware All Ye who Enter.

My personal journey with diabetes was one of misdiagnosis and denial. It took me years to accept my diagnosis. When I did, my first step was to reach out and  find people like me who also practiced yoga. In the beginning, there weren’t many, but as my reach increased I found a community of practitioners and teachers thriving because of yoga. Anastasia Yatras is one of those lights. Her story is absolute gold and so inspiring! I can’t wait for you to read it. Take it away Anastasia

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In the grunge era of the 90’s, pre Instagram and Facebook, Yoga wasn’t as widespread as it is today. Back then, there was a clear division between alternative culture and the mainstream. In 1992, Yoga, along with shaved under cuts, sat absolutely in the first category.

In 1992, a university friend had invited me to yoga, in Newtown, Sydney, with the hook line that “Yoga made you sleep better”. As my life was a demanding schedule of missed lectures, all -nighters and endless rounds of stove- top coffee, I was intrigued.

With no idea what I was in for, (remember there was no You Tube Yoga back then), the exposed brick yoga room, felt austere.  The mysterious props including belts and wooden blocks, inexplicable. There may as well have been a sign above our Birkenstock sandals at the entrance, “Beware all ye who enter.”

To my novice ears, we were guided by elusive phrases such as “…outer skirt of the heel” and “something..something…asana”. I rushed to perform handstand with the grunt of an NRL player, breathing hard and fast, so as not to topple sideways with my jellied elbows. Lying with a wooden block underneath my shrieking sacrum (no foam bricks as yet), it felt akin to a medieval torture.

Yet, within the insufferably long silences, there it was, the gold; the gradual realisation that awareness could move to different parts of the body. It could be held there, diffuse or sharp pointed, and more so, it could be directed from the outside, in.

Those poses were a tangible reflection, not just of my body, but of something more profound, deeper still.

My friend didn’t return to Yoga. I never left.

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Diagnosis.

My relationship with Diabetes began 12 months before my official diagnosis. Tragically, in 1997, my then boyfriend’s dad, collapsed into a three day diabetic coma, until finally discovered by his second son.  A talented illustrator for Hanna and Barbara cartoons, I loved this man’s hallway- a veritable fortress of VHS cassettes.  For then reasons unknown, I studied the literature on diabetes, left abandoned by his dining room side table.

Precisely 12 months later, recalling those very symptoms I had read about, (excess thirst-tick, excess urination-tick, affected eyesight- tick), I took myself to the medical centre. “I think I have diabetes!” I pronounced, somewhat proud of my self-diagnostic abilities.  A blood test there and then showed a reading of 26 mmol/L and so off to the Illawarra Diabetes Service, I went, where I was shown how to inject with oranges.

It was November of 1998, the very year I had enrolled as an Iyengar Teacher trainee in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Upon my teacher’s advice, I took time off to “lay low”.  Upon returning to teacher training, I was unable to focus. “You look haunted” my teacher said. “Go home”. Yet, he also said, diabetes gave my yoga purpose. Through the nebulousness of my grief, I recognised the truth of those words. That Yoga was the big circle and diabetes was a smaller one within it and not the other way around.

Gradually, I began to see Yoga as a tool which could reframe how I saw diabetes; that I could bear a positive impact upon it rather than it all being a negative impact on me. Of course, it was a slow journey, full of trials, errors, failures and loneliness. No one else in class was worrying about their sugars testing frequently, afraid equally of an embarrassing hypo or of having to inject in full view.

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Turning Point.

In 2002, I was chosen as the diabetic student for a Sydney medical Yoga workshop given by the wonderful Iyengar teachers, Swati and Rajiv Chanchanni. This experience gave me a clear, systematic and confidence boosting framework which I continue to use to this day in my practice.

From the Iyengar perspective, it was taught that the pancreas needed to be taken through its full range of motion.

So, from a diseased organ, I realised my pancreas, was in fact, profoundly intelligent cellular tissue, fully capable of responding to precise adaptations within the regular poses, turbo charging blood flow and, equally, maximising relaxation and quietness of mind.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali speak of Yoga as a means to cease the fluctuations of mind. This is my standard operating procedure when checking my blood sugar levels, when heading off a high reading or a hypo.  To respond neutrally as possible which doesn’t equally translate as complacency.

Yoga is also defined as skill in action, something which as diabetics, we are constantly asked to practice, every waking and sleeping moment of our lives, it seems!

However, as my teacher Pixie Lillas says, we are not merely given the end destination in Yoga (good health, a quiet mind.). Yoga gives us the tools to get there.

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BIO
For the past 20 years, Anastasia’s Yoga practice has revolutionized her approach to living with Type 1 Diabetes. She began Yoga in 1992 where it fully resolved her dancer’s knee injury. At 26 years of age, in 1998, Anastasia embarked on two major life journeys. Iyengar Yoga Teacher training AND a diabetes diagnosis. Following the medical principles developed by world renown teacher of Yoga, B.K.S Iyengar, Anastasia has maintained HBA1C (averaged blood sugar levels)  of normal range (5-6mmol/L).

you can connect with Anastasia here 

Experience counts

Whenever I settle somewhere new I make sure to head to a yoga class. It’s a great way to meet people and find out more about the town and its culture. Here in Bellingen, I found my way to the Bellingen Yoga Studio, a purpose-built space with a view of the mountains.

Whenever I take a new class I always introduce myself to the teacher and explain that I have type 1 diabetes and that next to me on my mat I’ll have a bottle of glucose tabs and a glucose meter. Sometimes they know about diabetes but most often not. With a quick check from the teacher to make sure I’ve got my diabetes handled,  I head to my mat to settle in.

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I love learning and I especially love learning about yoga. Every teacher approaches postural yoga in a unique way. What I especially love about the classes here in Bellingen is that they are taught by an experienced teacher. A grounded and strong woman who has been doing yoga forever and it shows.

Our teacher was in her early sixties. I was too shy to ask when she started yoga and to be honest I didn’t care. Her words and demonstrations, the way she adjusted the students showed her years of experience. Yoga had obviously worked for her and she was passing that knowledge on. In short, experience counts.

Experience counts in more ways than one when you live with diabetes.  That’s why learning from those who have gone before is crucial. I recognize that the way we manage our diabetes is unique but it doesn’t hurt to reach out and ask someone who’s been through the ropes.

I have diabuddies out there that I call on for support. It helps to hear that that weird high I had overnight might be due to poor basal insulin absorption or that turning the pen upside down to release a test shot means I’m not dealing with extra drops of insulin all over my belly. I love having different friends with different diabetes experiences, It means I can ask about anything and everything and try new things.

But I digress. This post is about yoga

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There are so many opportunities out there and so many avenues to try your first yoga class. There’s gym yoga, online yoga, yoga in the pub, goat yoga, CBD yoga, OMG yoga,  You get the drift.

Wherever you live you’ll most likely find a local yoga studio and a yoga teacher fresh out of his or her teacher training all fired up and raring to go with cool leggings, rad music and an Instagram account with over 20K followers. You might feel intimidated by this or even reluctant to start. How can a twenty-something yogini know about you and your diabetes? I’ll be honest. They don’t! But they can learn.

Any yoga teacher started where you are, at the beginning. Something our Bellingen yoga teacher shared with us was that we experience the most transformation when we first start yoga. We go from feeling uncomfortable or tight in our bodies to feeling light and open. We start to see the value in stretching and breathing and how soothing it is for the nervous system. As we advance in practice the tendency is to plateau, lose momentum or feel like nothing is happening. This is where going back to the foundation is crucial.

If your teacher is worth anything they’ll remember this and share this with you. Why they started yoga, how they approached a difficult pose. What yoga means to them and why. If a teacher stays glued to their mat and doesn’t even look at the students my advice would be, run. Living with a chronic condition means you deserve better. Why pack yourself into a wall to wall yoga class with someone just because they can do some fancy handstand or backbend. Real yoga is not based on popular demand.

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Personally, I love a teacher with a personalized and simple approach. At my age, I wake up creaky, achy and drained from the stress of changing blood sugars overnight. There’s often a feeling of toxicity in my body as I move through poses. Simply lying in postures and working slowly into muscles feels way more calming and supportive then sweating my way through a flow work out. But that’s just me. if you need a hard vinyasa work out to tame your blood sugars, by all means, go for it.  Yoga is not one size fits all.

After my super simple senior yoga class this week I thought it would be fun to share some of the moves I learned here on the blog. Join me in this 6-minute sequence below and hit reply to let me know how it made you feel.

with great respect…

rachel

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10 awesome ways to get back your yoga mojo

If you’re like me you’ve probably spat the dummy on more than one occasion when it comes to living with diabetes. From feeling like you just can’t take another finger prick to wanting to consume the fridge, it can feel insurmountable.

When I was in total denial it was easy for me to ‘forget’ about my diabetes. But that only lasted for so long. Neuropathy was my cold hard slap in the face. As a yoga teacher I didn’t  want to lose the feeling in my hands and feet. I rely on that sensitivity.

Losing your diabetes management mojo is totally understandable. But what about your yoga mojo? Like when you tried yoga, loved it, signed up for that 6 week course and then somehow didn’t keep going.

Or maybe you attend weekly group classes but can’t seem to motivate yourself to practice at home. Once you’re stuck in a rut whether its blood sugar related or not it’s hard to see your way out.

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But here’s the thing. If you feel like you should make a change because you fear the consequences, you’ll never stick it out.  There has to be a strong motivator to step up.

So what are the 10 things I do when I feel like hiding under the covers?

  1. Keep my mat rolled out in quiet, clean spot. Preferably with a view and near a window
  2. Choose one posture that’s motivating, like down dog and hold it for at least 10 breaths. Then get on with my day
  3. Start with shoulder and arm stretches. Simply clasping my hands and lifting them up overhead immediately creates a feeling of expansion in the chest. It gets the prana (life force) circulating through the system.
  4. Head over to youtube and search for online yoga classes. There’s loads of free content on there. Not specific to diabetes, but supportive nevertheless. If you aren’t sure what kind of yoga is right for you check out this blogpost I wrote for Diabetes Sisters to get the gist. There are quite a few specific sequences on my youtube channel or you can head to our FB group and follow my live videos.
  5. Have a set practice, do the same sequence every day. You might want to practice at home but aren’t sure where to start. A set sequence takes care of that. This is the one I do every day.
  6. Invite friends over for a weekly at home yoga practice party. Share your favorite postures with each other. You don’t need to be teachers to do this. Roll out your mats, bring the kids, have fun and follow it with a bring a plate lunch. Yoga is all about community and what better way to get motivated than having fun with friends.
  7. Try a new style of yoga. Check out a new teacher or a new studio. Trying something new is a great way to get re-inspired to practice. Plus you can try out your new moves at home
  8. Go on a yoga holiday, retreat, weekend mini break. It’s amazing what a few days away from the hustle and bustle of life will do for you and your diabetes. We take diabetes with us everywhere we go but a change of scenery, down time and a focus on the yummy stress-reducing benefits can reinvigorate so many aspects of your day to day life. After a retreat, I am much more inclined to get on my mat. All of a sudden my reasons for practicing make sense again. If you live in Australia and would love to study with us check out our latest retreats and weekend getaways here 
  9. Read an inspirational yoga book. Reading about yoga, the why, what and how is an awesome motivator. My first yoga book was Light on Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar. For an awesome yoga reading list go here. And if you want a great book specific to yoga for diabetes check mine out.
  10. Take the practice out into nature. Fresh air, sunshine, ocean waves, a cool forest,  and birdsong create the perfect setting to feel inspired to breathe and move with intention. Better yet practice outside at sunrise or sunset. This is the most potent time to practice because the prana sits low to the earth and is more easily absorbed into the system.

So that’s it 10 ways I inspire myself to get on the mat every day. And it’s not just about getting back my yoga mojo, it spills over into my diabetes management too. When I feel alive, refreshed and strong I can handle those diabetes curveballs any which way they come.

P.S I’d love to know how do you get back your Yoga Mojo?

Comment below

with great respect…

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5 poses to power up your practice

Something I struggled with when I first started yoga was having the strength to hold postures for longer than a few seconds. My wrists ached, I fell out of postures and my thighs buckled. I even found it hard to lift up when we did backbends on our bellies. I don’t think I would have persisted if I didn’t have my teacher encouraging me to do yoga more than just one day a week. At first, I just didn’t see the point in wasting time and money on things I didn’t think I could change.

It was my competitive streak that turned the tides. When my teacher moved effortlessly from handstand into a backbend or balanced lightly in headstand, then folded into lotus I couldn’t help thinking, “I want to do that!”

I set a goal for myself. I would do yoga every day for six months. if I hadn’t built up my strength by the end of that time. I’d quit. Six months of relentless practice paid off. I was stronger, focused, my physique had transformed and I felt like a new person.

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Not only had my body completely rearranged itself in shape and capability but my mindset had shifted too. I no longer felt like things were cut in stone. I now understood that it was my commitment and persistence that made the difference. If I could do this in six months what could I achieve in a year? I was 23 when I decided to make yoga my life. From my own personal practice to teaching others I haven’t looked back.

Every day on the mat is a new day. A day to come back to myself, to reawaken my muscles, to stay grounded and strong. And as part of my daily practice, I always include five postures to maintain my strength.

These five poses are also perfect for increasing insulin sensitivity, developing willpower, burning up toxicity and strengthening immunity.

Down Dog
Classically labeled as a posture to open your hamstrings this pose is also a wrist strengthener.  If you have wrist issues you can practice on your fists or even use a prop like a wedge or folded blanket under your wrists to take the pressure off your wrists.

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  • Start in child’s pose stretching your arms out in front of you.
  • Spread your fingers and line up the crease line of your wrists with the end of the mat ( the straight edge).
  • Tuck your toes under and lift your sitting bones high to the ceiling.
  • Bend your knees as you draw your chest close to your thighs taking all the pressure off your hands and arms.
  • You don’t have to straighten your legs if it strains your hamstrings.
  • Try and hold the pose for at least five breaths.
  • Eventually, build up to longer and longer holds in the pose.

Warrior 2
This pose is my absolute favorite. It’s a hip opener and thigh buster all in one. It’s really powerful in building strength in your thigh muscles and it supports your knee. It’s also a great pose for developing focus. The longer you hold it the stronger you feel. If you have inner thigh or hip issues or hip restrictions please take care. The wider your stance along the midline the less pressure on the hips.

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  • Begin by taking a wide stance so you face sideways on the mat.
  • Turn your right foot out and your left foot in.
  • Line up the heels with each other.
  • Bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle making sure the front knee is stacked over the front ankle.
  • If it feels tight turn you back hip in towards your front foot and adjust the foot in even more.
  • Raise your arms to shoulder height and look over your middle finger.
  • Hold here for five breaths and build up to more.
  • Start with what feels comfortable.
  • Come out of the pose and repeat on the other side.

Chair 
I love the chair pose! It a total thigh strengthener, a forward bend and backbend all in one and develops core strength. It’s also awesome for getting the thigh muscles to uptake glucose for fuel helping to reduce blood sugars. Whenever I teach this in class my students grimace. They know we are going to hold this pose for a long time. Even better than being in the pose is coming out of it. You feel an incredible rush of energy through your whole body. After chair I feel stimulated, my mind is clear and my body feels warm and tingly all over.

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  • Start the pose with your toes touching and heels slightly apart.
  • Hinge at the hips, shift your sitting bones slightly back and imagine you’re about to sit in a  chair.
  • Make sure your knees are slightly apart and your chest stays open.
  • You can have your hands in prayer position at the heart, lengthened out in front our reaching overhead.
  • Keep your abdomen back to your chest and lengthen your lower back.
  • Breathe deeply and hold for five breaths.
  • Work up to a longer hold as you get more confident.

Plank
It’s time to get your plank on! This pose is perfect for building wrist, abdominal and shoulder strength. It’s also heating, intense and involves every muscle in the body. I love it because when I do it I feel like I’m doing something powerful. Even on the most challenging of days when my blood sugar feels out of control or I’m overwhelmed with the minutiae of daily diabetes management, plank gets me in the zone.

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  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • extend your right leg and then your left until you are balanced between the hands and the balls of the feet.
  • Press firmly into your thumb and forefinger and feel the weight spreading evenly throughout the palm of the hand.
  • Lift up out of the wrists in this pose
  • Round the upper back slightly to stabilize the shoulder blades on the back.
  • If it’s hard to hold, drop your knees to the floor.
  • Hold for five breaths working up to a longer hold.

Boat Pose
Boat pose is another great abdominal strengthener. It also works the inner thighs and opens the chest. Finding just the right place to put your balance for the pose is key. You’ll also want to make sure you keep your chest open to facilitate ease of breath. You can keep your legs bent or straight. Either way, you’re abdominals will get a workout. I often use my ability to hold this pose as a measure of how my strength is progressing. At first it can feel a little wobbly but eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and balance like a pro.

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  • Start in a seated position, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Shift your weight slightly back behind your sitting bones and gently lift your feet off the ground.
  • You can start by holding behind your thighs with your hands to find your point of balance.
  • Gradually lift your feet to line up with your knees so they are at a right angle.
  • Keep your chest open and extend your arms alongside your thighs
  • Eventually, work towards straightening the legs so you are in a V shape.
  • Hold for 5 breaths, gradually testing to see if you can hold it that little bit longer

If you’ve just completed the practice, Brilliant! Including these five poses into your workout routine is a guaranteed way to power up your practice and feel energized and ready for anything diabetes and life throws your way.

With great respect…

rachel

P.S Want to know more about Yoga and Diabetes and how to find the right practice for you? Check out my new book or sign up for my newsletter here and get the first chapter for free.

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The Power of Choice

Last week I was invited to an information day in preparation for the launch of the Ypsomed Insulin pump in Australia.

Full disclosure: Ypsomed paid for my hotel accommodation and transportation to attend the info day without any expectation that I would write about their product. Any of the opinions expressed here are my own and come fully locked and loaded.

From the onset, meeting the folks from Ypsomed was a sheer pleasure. The company is born and bred in Switzerland. Everything in Switzerland is nicely organized, the people are extremely polite and the scenery is stunning.

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The motto of the company is, “to make life easier and simpler with diabetes” Customer care is the forefront of their focus. Hence the reason for gathering a room full of diabetes bloggers to tell them about the pump and to garner opinions about the product.

I was impressed by the opening statements from Eberhard Bauer, the senior vice president in marketing and sales. Ypsomed is a family business making high-quality products. Pumps are manufactured in Switzerland and local customer support centers are in every country.

The look and feel of this pump is stunning. Lightweight with an easy touch screen, it’s discreet and easily tucked away in a pocket or bra. The inserter for the infusion set is similar to the freestyle libre inserter in that at the press of a button, it’s in. The glue used to secure the set is skin friendly too. The infusion set also has a 360 spin for the free flow of movement.

I haven’t tried a pump yet, but I am certainly interested in learning more about it. I’d have to change the insulin I’m on, which knowing me would require more bravery (I find it really hard to make changes to my diabetes management due to fear rather than just not liking a change in routine). In spite of my frustrating phobia, I am super curious to see how it would affect my diabetes management and even more interested as to how it would work with my active yoga practice.

Even though I am not a pumper I think everyone in Australia should have options to choose how they want to manage their diabetes. Ypsomed is definitely providing that freedom of choice.

If you’d like to know more about the product some of my fellow Aussie Diabetes Bloggers have written some great in-depth posts not only detailing the pros but the cons as well.

Check out Mel’s experiences hereAsh’s hereFrank’s here  David’s here and Renza’s here    

I came away from the event not only feeling inspired by the company and their mission but by my friends and fellow bloggers. They weren’t shy about asking questions or giving their opinions. As I continue to wade in deeper into a life with diabetes I am finding incredible value in peer support, trusting that my way of management is perfect for me and that we all deserve to have simple and effective management tools at our disposal.

photo for blog on ypsomed

with great respect…

rachel

 Go here to find out more about the Ypsomed pump.

When Gratitude Steps In

About two weeks ago I had my worst low ever. We were on the road driving. Luckily I wasn’t at the wheel but being somewhere between Jugiong and Gundagai (yes those are names of Aussie towns) it was still scary.

As it was happening I kept racking my brain trying to figure out the why. I hadn’t over injected for lunch or had I? Did I take an extra unit of basal insulin in the rush to leave that morning? I’d already had a near low the day before. Was I just that little bit more sensitive to Insulin from our sunset walk the evening before?

Whatever the reason, the one and a half tabs I popped weren’t working fast enough.

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I had to play the waiting game. We stopped at a fancy pub and I made an obligatory visit to the loo. Every time I go low I might as well have a tiger chasing me. The feeling is exactly the same. While in the lavatory I kept a close eye on my levels but sadly the numbers weren’t looking good. I couldn’t make my trusty mySugr app lie. The numbers surrounded in color-coded circles kept going lower. Orange had been replaced by red.

I popped another tab while my body began to shake. Everything looked blurry, I felt blurry and at the same time, my thoughts were like sharp bubbles that I could catch and get lost in. I made my way back to my husband who was waiting for me at a lone picnic table and told him I was still low. He held me and we waited. I kept testing and finally ten minutes later it came up a few points. We got back in the car. Disaster averted.

The rest of the day I felt fragile like I’d been poked with a stick. The days that followed were filled with unmanageable high readings. And I was scared to take insulin. I took it but I was still scared. I went to sleep at a higher level just to be on the safe side. And when I woke up higher I didn’t correct. Instead, I waited for it to gradually coast down by midday. Every time I tried to gather the courage to be a bit more accurate with my dosing I couldn’t do it.

And it dawned on me. This is what burnout looks and feels like.

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It’s taken me two weeks to find my confidence again. Gratitude has been the first step. In the depth of the low, I remember thinking quite clearly how grateful I was that I could still think clearly enough to test my blood sugar, that I had glucose tabs on hand, that my partner would come find me if I hadn’t come out. I felt grateful for my breath which I began to watch rising and falling in my chest. As the next two weeks unfolded, I was even more grateful for my daily yoga practice.

The ability to step on the mat and feel peace, calmness, stillness. The reminder that the experiencer, the seer, the one having the highs and lows is unaffected. As much as I want to believe I am my body, I cannot be my body. My body is something I have. As much as I think I am my thoughts about my disease. My thoughts are something I have. As much as I want to think that I am the disease, diabetes is something I have.

The depth of gratitude cannot be underestimated. I know it is a way of being that works in any situation, any crisis. I believe it is an essential yoga practice.

If you want to know more about gratitude and how it shapes my life with diabetes I recently sat down with my good friend Lauren Tober the creator of A Daily Dose of Bliss and A Grateful Life Podcast to share about Yoga, Diabetes and why I practice in my P.J’s.  Listen to the podcast and if you’d like to join us on a Daily Dose of Bliss registrations are open now.

Podcast on Gratitude with Rachel Zinman

with great respect…

rachel

 

Grace

There’s a lot of things I am supposed to be doing today. Writing three blog posts, sending out my newsletter, contacting media, calling a friend, organizing my travels and paying my bills. But I can’t.

I’m tired. Not just because I am on a steep learning curve with my diabetes management having added fast acting insulin to my regime, but because it’s too much to be a one person everything.  I wish I could press the slow-mo feature on my iPhone. Life and its pressure are relentless. I ache for simplicity.

When I first set out to write this blog I assumed I’d be sharing tons of yoga sequences, with tips and tricks for making life with diabetes easier. Even though that’s been the main focus, I’ve also realized that blogging about chronic illness and expressing my feelings about what it’s like to live with diabetes are as therapeutic as the practice itself.

When I write I find acceptance and gratitude.

There’s an image I use when things get tough. My yoga teacher gave it to me years ago as a way to let go and acquiesce to circumstances.

I imagine myself on the ground, belly down with arms outstretched at the feet of something greater.  Call it divinity, a deity, the beloved, creation. Whatever I call it for me, that image is grace. I literally “pray for grace”

And even if my prayers are not answered the way I would like I always feel lighter, more courageous and ready to try again.

With great respect…

rachel

Rachel Portraits 2015-96

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 

Rachel Portraits 2015-17