Dancing with Diabetes

This last month has been all about my obsession with Ballet. It started when I was in the airport on my way back to Australia and Misty Copeland’s, Life in Motion miraculously leaped off the shelf and into my hands for the long flight ahead. Reading about her incredible talent and rise to stardom amidst a very unstable home life and her detailed descriptions of a life in Ballet, brought back vivid memories of what it was like to live and study dance in New York City during the early 80’s.

Back then I was an aspiring Ballerina and spent every spare minute either attending dance classes or watching the greats in American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. My own career in dance lasted well into my 30’s. I never made it to a big company, ( I danced with a regional dance in education company in Tasmania), but I did get to taste what it’s like to perform day in and day out.

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Don’t let anyone tell you that dancing is glamorous. It takes grit, hard work, and guts to do all that graceful stuff and nerves of steel…not only to face external criticism but one’s own nagging self-doubt, fear of failure and much more.

Initially, when I was diagnosed with diabetes, I tried to dance down my blood sugar levels. I’d wake up, head to my yoga room, blast out music and thrash about for 20 minutes hoping for the best.  It worked quite well in the beginning stages when I was still producing quite a bit of insulin but later, not so much. After a while, any kind of exercise raised my levels and depleted my adrenals and sadly I stopped dancing.

Reading Misty’s book made me wonder. Are there other dancers out there who live with Type 1 Diabetes?

Enter, Zippora Karz, a former ballerina with the New York City Ballet who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just as her career was taking off within the company. Lucky for me she is also a writer so to continue my passion for all things Ballet I couldn’t help devouring her book, The Sugarless Plum. It’s such a great read and perfect for anyone living with type 1 diabetes who also loves all the intrigue of the Ballet. I soared along with Zippora as she realised her dream of joining the company, and then crashed when she was diagnosed, misdiagnosed and re-diagnosed again. Her journey to health and wellbeing is remarkable, her courage unshakable and her persistence in living her dream in spite of the many challenges and unknowns awe inspiring. Can you tell I love this book!

So after a month of watching videos of Ballet, reading about Ballet and thinking seriously about attending an Adult Ballet class, I decided it was time to digress from my usual yoga for diabetes topic and share with you a short interpretive dance about what it feels like sometimes to live with diabetes.

I’d love to know how you find creative ways to manage the many emotions that arise in a life with diabetes so feel free to 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

We are all in this boat together

It’s still Diabetes blog week and I’m a bit late today with my submission. That’s what happens when you fly thousands of miles and have to do everything on your to-do list first before you can write!

Now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and how do you cope?  

I often wonder what life would have been like if I hadn’t been on the slow boat to diabetes. I mean what if it had never happened? Would I have ended up visiting a naturopath at 18? Would I have started yoga? I guess I’ll never know.

So many of the choices I made as a young adult were based on the fact that I never really felt healthy. There was always something wrong with my digestion or with my energy levels. Looking back I know it was all to do with the fact that my onset of type 1 was super slow.

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As a young adult, I was racked with anxiety, shame, and guilt and there was often a feeling in and around the area of my spleen that felt like I was being sucked into a vortex.

I’m convinced that every health issue was related to the demise of a beta cell. The weird emotional feelings were probably also related. As a young person, I didn’t really know what to make of it. As an adult thankfully I do.

I’ve never really been a depressive type but since diabetes, that’s changed. It’s not that I get so depressed that I can’t get out of bed, it’s just that the whole thing gets so overwhelming sometimes that I feel a sense of hopelessness and despair. The worst part is I keep those crappy feelings to myself.

I know it would do me good to talk it out but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered. Being a yoga teacher and having a reputation has some stigma attached to it. We are the ones others look to for inspiration. We are supposed to rise above it all. Well, surprise, surprise… trying to hold myself to some sort of standard doesn’t work at all!

Diabetes is by far the single most challenging thing I have ever had to deal with and I can do yoga till the cows come home and still feel pissed off, moody, angry and down about it.

So how do I climb out of my own hole when the going gets rough?

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By cutting myself some slack. By taking it one day at a time, one step at a time, one insulin dose at a time.

And writing. Writing it out is like talking it out, only better. When I write I don’t care about the reader.  I write for myself. As I write I can see what it is I actually think and feel. Once it’s out there I can decide if it’s true for me or not. Words are a beautiful mirror in which one can objectively reflect.  What that axiom? The mirror never lies.

Another thing I love about self-expression through the written word is that it connects me with other writers. In the Diabetes space, we are all passengers on the same boat. We may have different cabins and have brought our own belongings but we share the same trajectory. I love meeting with my fellow passengers on deck. This week has been especially healing for me. Reading everyone’s blogs, and commenting and receiving comments has helped to heal the wounds of diagnosis and beyond.

When it comes down to it we all face this disease in our own unique way. But knowing I’m not alone, that there is a thriving community has made all the difference.

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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

With great respect…Rachel

The worst visit ever

I’m sitting here in the airport in Johannesburg after 10 hours of non-stop flying. With a couple of hours before my next flight, I have time to share my 3rd post for Diabetes Blog Week 

Having diabetes often makes a visit to the doctor a dreaded experience, as there is invariably bad news of one kind or another.  And sometimes the way the doctor talks to you can leave you feeling like you’re at fault.  Or maybe you have a fantastic healthcare team, but have experienced blame and judgment from someone else in your life – friend, loved one, complete stranger.  Think about a particularly bad instance, how that person talked to you, the words they used and the conversation you had.  Now, the game part.  Let’s turn this around.  If you could turn that person into a puppet, what would you have them say that would leave you feeling empowered and good about yourself?   Let’s help teach people how to support us, rather than blame us!

My GP had always been a cool guy. Into alternative things, he swam with dolphins, played the didgeridoo and always recommended herbs before meds. I’d been seeing him on and off since my son was born and we had a nice friendship outside of the doctor’s office.

The day of my diagnosis was just like any other day.  I’d been feeling fatigued, dizzy when I ate sweet things and my ex-husband had suggested we both get some blood tests. He’d gone to see the doctor first and was told that he had high blood pressure, but the news about me was way worse. The doctor wanted to see me straight away. “What do you think it could be?” I asked him. “Well I know it’s not Cancer but it is something to do with your blood.”

Sitting in the waiting room that day I was jittery. It seemed odd that I was that unwell. I’d always managed everything holistically with my health, hence seeing that sort of doctor.

As soon as I entered his office he told me to sit down. He swiveled back on forth on his chair and tapped his pencil on my blood test result form. I don’t know how to tell you this…but the news isn’t good.

And then he just blurted it out. You have diabetes!

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I can’t begin to tell you how I felt, my heart rate went through the roof, the bottom dropped out of my world. Diabetes is everywhere in my family, especially on my mother’s side. In fact, my great grandfather died from diabetes ( he was diagnosed before there was Insulin) Ironically, My birth date is the date he died.

It was hard to keep track of what the doctor said next. He told me that he had seen that my blood sugar levels were elevated so he checked my A1c. Sure enough, that was elevated too. “It’s a long journey to reverse this, you’ll have to find your own cure. I’m not quite sure how you got this…”

Next, he’s started telling me that I had to change my diet and exercise more while shoving pamphlets in direction. Then as a parting gift, he told me to Google diabetes.

As I drove home I just couldn’t believe what he was saying. It couldn’t be diabetes.

I think things could have gone really differently that day and if they had I might not have gone on to deny my diagnosis. It took almost 6 years to have actual diabetes symptoms so it was easy to shove his diagnosis under the rug.

If he had sat me down and explained to me that the beta cells in my pancreas were attacking themselves and that it couldn’t possibly be my fault. If he had asked me if there had been some really stressful event that may have triggered the onset.  If he’d told me that there were resources and tools to help me manage this and a worldwide community for support. That I could live a full happy healthy life. That there were people just like me that I could connect with, who could mentor me through the little things. Even just a few words of support and encouragement could have made all the difference.

Luckily in spite of that god awful doctor,  I survived!  In a way, diabetes has grown on me. I no longer blame myself for getting sick.

After nine years of living with diabetes, a lot of yoga and study of traditional yoga teachings, I’ve realized that there is no ‘ rhyme or reason’  for anything. Rather the whole of life, whatever happens, whether we call it good or bad… is a reminder to enjoy everything exactly as it is.

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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

With great respect…Rachel

What can I do to make a difference

Today is Day 2 of Diabetes Blog Week and already it’s been amazing to read and share with our thriving #DOC. I feel completely inspired and in awe of the writing talent out there and if you are reading this, you guys are my diabetes heroes! Even though I was diagnosed 9 years ago I still feel like the new kid on the block when it comes to managing this disease. After yesterday’s topic,  I feel armed with a whole new arsenal of tools to manage my diabetes. Thank you!

Here’s today’s prompt…

 So today, let’s discuss how cost impacts our diabetes care.  Do you have advice to share?  For those outside the US, is cost a concern?  Are there other factors such as accessibility or education that cause barriers to your diabetes care?

I feel like I am one of the lucky ones. I was born in Holland, grew up in the U.S and moved to Australia when I was 18. I can still remember the day I received my medicare card and my shock at how anything related to doctors and medical tests was free. While my siblings and parents complained about the costs of doctors and insurance in the States and worried about my health care, I told them not to worry. Australia isn’t called the lucky country for nothing.

That was when I was 18… things are definitely more costly now, but as my friend, Frank from Type 1 writes  just shared on his blog,

” If I have to have diabetes, then there’s no place I’d rather have it than in Australia.”

Living in Australia with Diabetes has been affordable and it’s one of the reasons I feel grateful to call it my home. But I do live and travel often to other countries and have come to realize that Insulin, test strips, needles and diabetes devices aren’t always on tap and don’t come gift-wrapped.

Recently I’ve been living in South Africa. It’s a land of contradictions with a huge disparity between the people who have and the people who have not. I’m basically a tourist here so not really part of the medical system but recently the harsh reality of what it’s like for the people here hit home.

A friend came for a visit and with her was Abongile.  Somehow it came up in conversation that I had type 1 diabetes. Abongile just happened to be a dietician in a clinic in Johannesburg for about 30 kids with type 1 diabetes. I was showing her my freestyle libre flash glucose monitor and how it worked. She was astonished. The kids she cares for and their parents can’t even afford the insulin they need to survive. Not only that, because there is no awareness of type 1 in the school system, the kids can’t take the risk of being on more than two shots a day. Apparently, hypos are a no go because the teachers don’t have the skills to respond appropriately. So all the kids in the clinic are on mixed insulin and do something called ‘carb blocking.’ They are allowed a certain number of carbs per day, based on the types of foods they eat. A packet of sweets is one block, a bag of potato chips another.

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As a nutritionist, Abongile works hard to educate parents about the types of foods that are good to help the kids manage their levels. But some parents can’t even afford healthy fruits and vegetables. When I asked her if there was any money from the government to help the kids she laughed and shook her head. The one thing they have been able to achieve is to give each child a glucometer.

After speaking with Abongile I was completely floored and felt ashamed. How could I even consider complaining about the fact that the freestyle libre was $90 out of pocket, or that my favourite brand of test strips was on back order, or that I have to pay very little for a years supply of Insulin when these kids don’t even get to take the Insulin they need.

It immediately made me want to help. Before Abongile left I made sure I had her contact details I told her about an organization called Type 1 International which helps people get access to Insulin and medical supplies. I wrote a letter to one of the founders about the clinic and my meeting with Abongile. It felt good to put them in contact with each other and that somehow I could make a difference.

Abongile wrote back to me a few days later…

“Thank you very much for your quick connection with the T1 international on my hospital’s behalf. I am very grateful for your keeping to your word as well :). I will keep you updated with any/all positive developments for the clinic from the T1 foundation. “

Something I learned from my exchange with Abongile was that whatever we can do to help others have access to Insulin and diabetes-related supplies we must do. Whether it’s helping someone with less access, lobbying our governments, writing about it or networking to spread awareness.

Even the smallest action helps.

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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

With great respect…Rachel

The wonder and magic of a life with diabetes

Woohoo! It’s here! Diabetes Blog Week!

For the next 5 days I’ll be writing on a specific topic along with other diabetes bloggers, sharing how I navigate the world of diabetes. Below is the first topic and my corresponding thoughts.

Tell us about some good things diabetes has brought into your life that you never could have expected?

The nervous system is a delicate thing, tiny fibers that crisscross the body and send signals from your brain to different key areas, telling it to move, breath, digest, feel etc. For some reason nine years ago, mine started to go haywire. Being a long time yogi I consulted my yoga books to see what the problem might be. After months of research, I reached my conclusion.

I was in the middle of a spiritual crisis.

Thinking that I was on the fast track to enlightenment wasn’t necessarily the best approach. For starters, it kept me from questioning my physical symptoms or seeking medical answers. If I had known that diabetes isn’t something you get from poor diet and lifestyle, or that it doesn’t just affect children, I would have dug deeper.

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Back then there wasn’t much awareness about the signs and symptoms of diabetes.  Even now when I tell people I have Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults ( LADA) they scratch their heads and look at me funny.

Finding out that there was a reason for the strange jittery sensations, erratic digestion, food sensitivities, a constant sugary taste on my tongue and the feelings of exhaustion was a total relief. It’s not that I was happy to have diabetes, it’s just that my search for answers caused so much internal havoc, that having an actual diagnosis released the pressure valve.

I cried a lot those first few weeks after diagnosis. It felt so good to let go.

It’s been quite a journey since then and aside from those initial feelings of relief, I spent years trying everything I could to conquer the beast. What I’ve learned though is that you can’t ‘conquer’ diabetes. It’s not a country you can invade and call home.

Am I the proud owner of a life with diabetes? hmmm….it’s hard to put that answer into words…

What I can say is that diabetes has changed me for the better. It’s made me raw, honest and put my feet on the ground.  It’s also motivated me to open up and share through my writing more about what it means to live with chronic illness and spread awareness about the disease.

Diabetes has also inspired me to be deeply grateful. I used to take life for granted. I’d wake up every morning, dive into the day and never stop and think. Wow! I’m alive.

Now, I make a concerted effort to stop, look around me, drink in the beauty of this life and remember…

Life is precious. It’s not a given.

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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

With great respect…Rachel

Yoga for Diabetes is not one size fits all

When I first started yoga in my teens I knew very little about the postures and practices. I would throw myself into the practice and hope for the best. Some days the practice made me feel great and other days it seemed to make me feel worse. It took almost ten years for me to learn that the type of yoga I was practicing wasn’t actually right for my type. Luckily providence steered me towards a teacher who knew exactly what I needed. He introduced me to the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda and encouraged me to slow down, cool down and practice poses that were nourishing to my system. Since my diagnosis, I’ve realised that there is a practice that’s perfect for my constitution and the type of diabetes I have. I’ve also learned that what might support me in lowering blood sugar might have the opposite reaction in someone else.

After a big spike in blood sugar levels this morning I did this VLOG  to share a bit more about why yoga for diabetes is not one size fits all.

If you’d like to find out more about Ayurveda and your constitution you can get the first chapter of my book for free here

with great respect…Rachel

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.

Yoga mudras for diabetes

When most people think of yoga they think of a physical practice involving stretches and strengthening exercises to create flexibility and balance.  But there is another way that yogis approach their practice. Rather than seeing the practice as postural, they think of the practice as a way to build energy. This energy is called Prana and it’s our life force.

The physical postures help to detoxify the system while the breathing practices cleanse and purify the system. Once energy flows freely we can start to absorb prana more readily and seal it into our nervous system. The more prana we retain the easier it is to manage our stress.

In yoga, mudras are the postures we use to seal energy into the body. These can be physical postures or they can be hand gestures.

Mudras have been around for thousands of years. In fact, before there was language we used gestures (sign language) to communicate. That’s why we still use our hands when we talk.

Mudras are the perfect way to calm the emotions and settle the mind and they are super easy to do. No prior experience needed!

Perfect for supporting us in our diabetes care.

I decided to create a vlog of a short mudra sequence that you can practice right away.

Want to know more about how I used yoga to help me come to terms with my diagnosis? Check out my free ebook Surviving Insulin. Would you like to find the perfect practice to make living with diabetes that little bit easier? Why not work with me