Chair yoga for everybody

There have been two times in my life where no matter how much I wanted to I couldn’t do yoga. Near the end of my pregnancy and 2003. Late stage pregnancy for me was a killer. Every joint and muscle had softened to the point where stretching just caused more pain. The baby was sitting low and towards the back of my spine. It felt like I was carrying around a bowling ball. Every try to do yoga with a bowling ball in your belly? Forget it.

2003 was the year the sh..t hit the fan with my nervous system. I had been having strange symptoms after 9/11 in 2001, but things really got heavy after holding my breath too long in a yoga class. A few hours later I was out with my girlfriends at dinner and started to get crazy dizzy. The six of us ended up in the ladies room, with me stooped over the sink feeling like my whole world had upended. A few days later I had some sort of heart arrhythmia in the middle of the night. My yoga mentor thought I might be dealing with a nervous system overload and looking back he was sort of right. It was most likely the beginning of my beta cell breakdown, but not knowing anything about diabetes I assumed it was some sort of spiritual emergency. You know…WOO WOO stuff.

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I now know it wasn’t but at the time I found anything that made me feel ungrounded which included yoga, breathing and meditation a no go zone.

Many of us diagnosed with diabetes struggle with all sorts of physical issues. We might have tight muscles, restricted joints, injuries or trouble getting up and down from the floor unassisted. Luckily there are simple ways to get around these challenges by practicing yoga on a chair.

When I work one on one I like to tailor a practice to what’s supportive and accessible. A group class doesn’t give me as much leeway, so in the practice below there might be some things that still feel challenging. I encourage you to do what you can and leave the rest.

As always your feedback is invaluable. Let me know how you travel.

see you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Diabetes is an opportunity

It’s burning in the hills behind the town where I live in Australia. I am grateful not to have to evacuate but am concerned for those who do. The entire valley all the way to the beach is in a blanket of smoke. It’s hard to breathe. We just went to the beach for some relief but there was none. It was strange to see people out and about in cafe’s and shops as per normal. Apparently it’s only going to get worse. So many more friends are leaving their homes to be safe. It’s heartbreaking.

I feel this way about Diabetes too. Even though I live with it myself I feel for every single person who lives with this condition. It’s heartbreaking when anyone is diagnosed. I know all too well the challenges ahead. Every day can feels like Russian roulette. It’s a massive learning curve and you can’t get away from it.

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In spite of all the feelings that come up after diagnosis I also see diabetes as an opportunity to live differently. Instead of taking things for granted I wake up each day grateful to be alive, I’m learning through yoga and other modalities to regulate my nervous system, to react less to the stress of variable blood sugar levels. My diet is refined and I maintain an active life. This kind of approach takes focus and sustained effort and there are plenty of times where I feel frustrated and defeated.  But I try not to let my down days take over. I have always been an enthusiastic participant in life.

Today as the smoke chokes the air around us I think about all the people all over the world in crisis. How do we rise above, stay resilient and not give up in the face of uncertainty? How can we make a difference in spite of circumstances beyond our control? I draw strength from a simple Ayurvedic principle.

You can’t fight fire with fire. The softness of water is what douses the flame.

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The softness of water is about slowing down, tuning in and calmly moving forward. Flowing with change rather than pushing against it. Connecting with water is about dispersion and delegation. In the face of disaster it’s coming together in community and supporting each other. If we all share the burden we’re stronger together.

It’s the same with diabetes. When I reach out into the diabetes online community I find like minded friends managing their health in myriad ways. All of this forms my pool of inspiration. Even better is going to a support group or event where we all meet and share. I’ve learned more about my condition from these brief in person events than I have from my doctors and diabetes educators.

Knowing there is a community out there to answer a question, share a technique, help me find the best product or device is priceless. Before diabetes I would never have outsourced, researched or informed myself in this way. Diabetes has literally inspired a whole new me. My mission for diabetes awareness month is to share from the heart how diabetes affects me personally but its also about sharing how yoga is an incredible balm.

In this very difficult time, no matter what the struggle, it is my prayer that the varied practices and teachings of yoga become an important part of the healing journey.

More on that tomorrow…  #NDAM, #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Sailing unchartered waters

Today I’d like to share for Diabetes Awareness Month, a bit more about how diabetes affects the nervous system and why yoga is so beneficial.

Imagine…you’ve lost a ton of weight, been super thirsty, you can’t stop peeing and your exhausted. You know somethings wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Then BOOM you are in the hospital hooked up to drips and on the fastest learning curve of your life. Your family and friends can’t believe it and neither can you. Or if you’re like me, you find out from your GP that your blood sugar is not in range as it should be and it looks suspiciously like diabetes. Whether you have a sudden diagnosis, or gradual diagnosis, the shock to the nervous system is the same.

Your life as you knew it is gone. Without any prior skills to rely on you have to navigate dangerous medication (too much or too little could put you in a coma or kill you), change your diet and exercise habits and possibly even rethink your vocation. From the moment you wake up till the moment you go to sleep and even through the night, vigilance is key. Diabetes technology has definitely reduced the burden but it isn’t a cure.

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Every single day the body is in hyperdrive at some point or other. It’s especially notable when it comes to low and high blood sugars. As I’ve experienced since my horrible hypo less than a week ago and my rebound high which keeps on keeping on, being in range and giving my nervous system the chance to rest and regroup has been just that little bit more out of reach.

Autonomic nervous system dysregulation (spending more time in the fight or flight reflex and not being able to calm down and rest and digest) can be the cause of more erratic blood sugars. So taming the beast is always the first order of business. I.e lots of breath work, restorative yoga and other nervous system balancing modalities.

One of the quickest and most specific tools I use is full complete breathing. This calms and soothes, enhances digestion, massages all the abdominal organs and gives the mind a focus out of its habitual tendency to identify with conscious stressful thoughts. When we have an extreme low or high it’s is not necessarily something we tap into consciously, having a quick fix on hand that can be done anywhere, is invaluable.

Just like I used the Ujayii breath to calm me down during my low, full complete breath can be practiced at any time. It’s even helpful when you’re not in a stressed state . It can be done lying down or sitting in a chair. You can even spend some time with your hand on your belly while standing if you can’t get into the other positions. The more tools we have to bring our nervous system back to balance the easier it is to navigate future challenges and teach the body to do what it’s designed to do, relax.

Below is a short video where I share the practice. Give it a try and let me know how it feels.

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

7 Things or thereabouts

There are a lot of things that influence blood sugar.  42 to be exact, according to Adam Brown from diatribe.org . If you’re keen to know what those are you can check out his handy chart here.

In the spirit of Diabetes Awareness Month and to share more about what its like to live with diabetes, I’ve put together my own short list based on personal trial and error. For those who don’t have diabetes and are just coming along for the ride, your blood sugar levels might also be influenced by these ‘things’ the only difference between you and someone with diabetes is. When your blood sugar rises your pancreas produces insulin to lower your blood sugar level, mine doesn’t. So unless I inject insulin or do something else to lower my level like exercise, I can’t just kick back and let my body do the work. When blood sugar levels go low in a non-diabetic , the liver kicks in with a drip feed of glycogen, to bring them back to homeostasis. My liver kicks in too, but as there is no insulin to meet the liver dump my blood sugar goes up again, hence the need for more insulin and round and round I go. Fun, fun fun…NOT!

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So here’s my list in no particular order.

  1. The Sun. Every time I lie in the sun for more than 20 minutes, I have higher levels for 24-48 hours afterwards. Apparently its the oxidative stress. It’s a double edged sword because if I avoid the sun I don’t get enough Vitamin D. I’ve worked out that if I limit exposure to 15-20 min and only sunbathe every two days I stay in range.
  2. High Fat Foods. I absolutely love my avocados and olive oil. I also love Haloumi and Feta cheese. My blood sugar however is very fussy when it comes to what I eat when. I’ve learned to avoid fatty dairy products before bed because I go high over  night and for 24 hours after. Avocados are a little more friendly, they actually help me keep my blood sugar from tanking while I sleep. So I load up on a hefty avocado with my dinner. But sometimes it backfires and I am still high when I wake up. I’m still trying to work out how to dose for fat. I feel like if I could figure it out I’d eat pizza again.
  3. Not enough sleep affects everything. Sleeping less than 7 hours a night for me definitely messes with my levels. I wake up about 1-2 times a night too so not sure what would happen to my levels if I was able to sleep through the night. I’d probably have lower levels in general.
  4.  A Daily Walk can either reduce my blood sugar level, which can be a bonus when I’m high, or raise my blood sugar level which is not ideal. When I walk, for how long and at what pace is also a factor. Walking directly uses the thigh muscles which burn glucose for fuel. It’s suggested that when levels are higher, or you’ve had a carb heavy meal, a walk will help insulin to work more effectively and reduce blood sugar. In my case a long walk (over an hour) on flat terrain  raises my blood sugar whereas a short 20 minutes hike up and down hills reduces my levels.
  5. Cleaning definitely drops my blood sugar in spades. All I have to do is look at the vacuum and I’m low. No joke!
  6. Travel. This is also very specific to the type of travel. When we travel by car anywhere over long distances I have lows. When we fly I usually have lows and then struggle with a stubborn high when we land. Jet lag is included in travel and wreaks havoc.
  7. Any kind of stressor like unexpected news, seeing a snake on the path, (that  happened yesterday) a loud noise, change in routine, fears, emotions, frustrations. So that covers the gamut right? All of this always gives me higher levels. Especially emotional outbursts.

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The one thing that doesn’t affect my levels is my yoga practice. That includes postural yoga, breathing and meditation as well as adhering to an ayurvedic daily regime. No matter how often, or how intense the practice my levels stay steady. In fact they flat line. That’s why I personally use yoga as my goto when I’m getting stressed out about my blood sugar levels. It’s like pushing the reset button.

It may not lower a stubborn high or fix a scary low, but it will calm me down enough to handle it.

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

A horrible hypo

I titled this post at 2 am this morning after a sudden hypo around dinner time. At 2 am I was thinking clearly, taking time to make a note on my phone so I wouldn’t forget. At 7.15 pm things were a whole lot more chaotic. Well not at first….

I was cruising nicely through my evening yoga practice after taking my basal shot (long acting insulin which keeps my blood sugar level over night) about 30 minutes prior. I’ve been playing around with where to take the shot to avoid insulin absorption issues, and decided to inject in the soft fleshy area in the top part of my bum. There was a sting on entry and when I pulled the needle out quite a bit of bleeding so I knew I hit a capillary. I wasn’t concerned. Usually this means the insulin won’t absorb as well and I’ll sustain a higher level overnight.

I hopped on my mat, forgetting all about the shot. It was towards the end of my practice that I noticed some itchy sensations around my waist. This is usually a sign that I am going low but sometimes that itch comes when I’m high. I actually find the itch super annoying. It’s not at all useful in helping me determine whether I should check my level or not. Luckily I checked.

3.4 mmol flashed large on my blood glucose meter. This is NOT a good result. This is a scary result. The last time I had checked I was 5.4 and usually it would stay that number until dinner. This sudden and fast drop could only mean one thing. My long acting insulin had hit my blood stream and was absorbing all at once. If I’d been wearing a CGM ( continuous glucose monitor) I could have seen the trend. Arrow pointing down on an angle means I can treat it with around 8 grams of fast acting carbs and it would come up in 20 minutes. Arrow pointing straight down would mean taking 15 grams and still having to wait 20 minutes.

Sadly I cannot afford a CGM. I had to fly blind.

After cramming two tabs in my mouth at once I sat back down on my mat. By now the itch had turned into a crawl which went from head to toe. My husband who was sitting next to me and in the middle of his own yoga practice reminded me to breathe.

I engaged whats called Ujayii breath a slow whispering breath, which sounds almost like a snore and tried to focus on lengthening my exhalation. It worked and I stayed calm but it did little to budge the numbers on my meter. I took another tab and a half and started raving and ranting This is the point where someone telling me to calm down doesn’t  work.  Me telling me to calm down doesn’t work.

Telling myself, “don’t react, don’t eat more tabs, just be here, it will pass, your blood sugar will come up” is like that feeling on the edge of orgasm when the thought comes “don’t do it… hold off… keep enjoying…” and then you go for it anyway.

Not the best analogy, because sex feels good while hypos are horrible, a total brain melt. 

It took 30 minutes and three and half glucose tabs to come out of the tail spin. The graph on the app which measures my data went straight up. When I pulled out my syringe to take some fast acting insulin for dinner my husband was confused. Why are you taking insulin when insulin just caused the problem? How to explain that if I don’t take some insulin to cover the meal I’ll rebound even higher.

Living with diabetes is a fine and tenuous balancing act between the horror of lows and the haunting of highs. No matter which way you look at it you can’t win. Best not to try. Thankfully I rarely have these testing moments. I chalk this up to a consistent and daily yoga routine. More of which I’ll share with you here during #diabetesawarenessmonth.

Want to learn the ujayii breathing technique I use to calm myself during a low? Watch this short video below and join in.

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

It’s here! diabetes awareness month

Diabetes! The one word in the english dictionary I never really wanted to focus on. I can remember the day I was introduced to the word by my high school girlfriend. She wore a medical bracelet around her wrist and ate sugar free candy. She told me it wasn’t much fun having it, but little else. It wasn’t until my own diagnosis, thirty years later that I understood the gravity of the burden she carried. Living with diabetes isn’t like living with a slightly annoying flatmate. It’s a 24/7 alarm bell that never stops ringing.

After diagnosis I tried to ignore it, big mistake! For me ignorance has meant nerve damage and digestive issues that don’t abate. But I’m not bitter. I’m grateful.

This month is #DiabetesAwarenessMonth. I’ll be posting every day sharing how yoga and mindset has helped me to navigate this journey.  I’m not sure how I’ll fare, it’s a big task but I’m going to give it a shot (no pun intended).

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So why should everybody know about Diabetes?

Well for starters 425 million people worldwide have the condition. That’s a lot of people. And that’s not counting those with undiagnosed or misdiagnosed type 1 and type 2. Diabetes is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world. It’s also a disease with no known cause or cure and with ridiculously high priced medication in a country, like the US.  Managing diabetes also has no set treatment rules. I.e Insulin is not a cure! It’s like managing Jello. There’s a whole lotta wobbling going on.

Lately I haven’t been waving my diabetes flag here on the blog or elsewhere. For personal reasons I needed to jump off the bandwagon for a while. I worked pretty hard for most of the year on getting my numbers in range. For non diabetes friends, that means I’ve worked towards having normal in range blood glucose levels. When I achieved my goal halfway through the year I took a writing break. It’s been a good exercise for me in looking at the topics which really matter to me. It’s also given me a chance to step back from all things diabetes and just be.

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Whether you know about diabetes, live with diabetes or know absolutely nada being is seriously cool. Being means being okay with the ups and downs. Being is all about taking each day as it comes. Without doing anything being is always happening anyway. So being conscious of being takes it to a whole new level.

After quite a lot of being…I’m feeling like doing again…Phew!

I hope you’ll join me this month here and on my social media channels. Do comment below if you’d like me to post about something specific like what postures I choose to do, what I eat to manage my levels or anything else.

See you tomorrow!

with great respect

rachel

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Tips to help people with diabetes sleep well

Today I am sharing a guest post from Alicia Potts the founder of The Deep Sleep Co.  I reached out to Alicia because as someone living with diabetes the biggest challenge I have is managing my sleep. I love her doable tips and I hope you will too.

Take it away Alicia…

Beautiful Afro American Woman

This post may contain affiliate links to products I trust. Please read Disclaimer for more info

There is no doubt that good sleep is vital for good health.  It is generally believed that a human can go longer without food than they can without sleep.  Although, I’m pretty sure they haven’t tested that on someone living with diabetes!

Recent research by the Australian Sleep Foundation found that 33% to 45% of adults are either not getting enough sleep, or getting a poor quality of sleep.  This means that more than a third of us are going about our day feeling exhausted not performing at our peak.

If you are one of the millions of Australians who aren’t waking up refreshed and ready to conquer the day, then read on.

Diabetes and Sleep

The relationship between diabetes and sleep is complicated and multifaceted.  Both insomnia and lethargy can be related to blood sugar control.  According to Diabetes.co.uk “Sleep can affect your blood sugar levels and your blood glucose control can also affect your sleep.”  The symptoms of diabetes can make it harder to sleep and lack of sleep can make diabetes symptoms worse.

Unfortunately, sleep problems are more common in people with diabetes than people without diabetes.  Having diabetes raises the risk of sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.  In turn, sleep deprivation can increase the likelihood of developing diabetes or intensify the symptoms in someone who already has diabetes.

Your sleep can be affected by a variety of things from hypos at night, to high blood sugars to painful neuropathy.  Waking up during the night to check blood sugar levels or frequent bathroom trips, cause broken sleep which can leave you feeling tired in the morning.  Having techniques to get back to sleep quickly and promote deep restorative sleep can make all the difference.

sleeping-girl-in-the-bed_t20_PQJ9g8Tips to promote better sleep

Maintain proper blood sugar levels. This one goes without saying, but keeping your blood glucose levels under control, as much as possible, will help you sleep better at night.

Keep the room cool. Sweating and hot flushes can be a problem during the night.  Keeping the room cool can help to prevent these and allow you to react to them quickly by removing layers.  Experts suggest a bedroom temperature of around 18°

Make your room as dark and quiet as possible. If your environment is unavoidably bright or noisy, invest in a sleep mask and earplugs.

Eat right and get some exercise each day. Obvious? Maybe. Important? Definitely! Diet and exercise have a profound effect on your quality of sleep.  Try not to eat or exercise just before bed, though.

Cut out the afternoon coffee. Studies have shown that consuming caffeine late in the day stimulates your nervous system which prevents you from relaxing at night.  The actual amount of time caffeine stays in your system varies from person to person.  However, sleep experts will tell you not to have coffee after about 3pm if you don’t want it to affect your sleep.

Have a tech-free time before bed. Working late on your computer or scrolling through your phone in bed sends light cues to your brain telling it that it is time to be awake.  Try cutting out technology an hour before bed to see what a difference it can make.  It might be time to pick up that book you keep meaning to read.

Use relaxation techniques to help you fall asleep or go back to sleep after waking during the night. This is the part where we suggest yoga to help you sleep.  Yoga Nidra is a relaxation tool that helps calm the mind and body and is great for assisting sleep.  Other techniques to try are meditation, hypnosis, visualisation and controlled breathing.  I like the 4-7-8 breathing technique, but there are lots of other good ones, so do what works for you.

Don’t be a clock watcher. You know that moment at 3am when you think ‘even if I went to sleep right now, I’d only get 3 ½ hours sleep’.  Watching the time as you are trying to sleep makes you anxious about not being asleep.  If possible, turn the clock face away from you at night to promote more relaxing thoughts.

Keep a regular routine. Last, but actually, the most important sleep tip is to have a sleep/wake routine. Sleep psychologists agree that the most powerful thing you can do for your sleep health is to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.  This trains your mind and body to expect sleep at certain times and preserves your natural circadian rhythm.

The tips above are meant as a guide only.  If you are worried that you may have a sleep condition, such as sleep apnea, see your doctor as soon as possible.

alicia-pottsAlicia Potts is the founder of The Deep Sleep Co.  She is a mum of two from Sydney, with a degree in Social Science. Alicia is passionate about helping people find the value of quality sleep.

 

 

Loving the new weighted blanket trend. Check this one out it has rave reviews 🙂
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That Low Blood Sugar

This post may contain affiliate links to products I trust. Please read Disclaimer for more info

It started just like any other day. Well not quite. I still hadn’t experienced a low low blood sugar even though I’d been taking Insulin for almost two years. To be honest I was terrified of the unknown. I’d hear the horror stories. People fainting, not being able to talk, brains not functioning. If you’ve ever had a low blood sugar you know exactly what I’m talking about.

But here’s the thing; having never experienced a hypoglycemic event I actually had no idea what people were talking about. I mean I could imagine it being awful, but I had never actually felt it for myself. So my fears weren’t based in fact. But that didn’t mean I didn’t have them.

And then it happened!

So randomly and for no reason. It wasn’t about over injecting, it wasn’t about exercising too much. I just started to feel really anxious and shaky and itchy all over. I assumed I was having an overdue panic attack. Except I was just standing over the sink, lost in quite a pleasant thought so what the F…ck. What was there to freak out about? I went over to my husband and mentioned I was feeling a rush of panic. He suggested we go outside and talk it through.

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I didn’t think to check my blood glucose levels, forgot my glucometer, didn’t bring a juice box with me. NADA

For the next 15 minutes or so while my sweet husband talked me through my ‘anxiety’ nothing budged.

Luckily I decided to check my levels. Casually, well not that casually because I was shaking from the inside out, I pricked my finger. The number that stared back at me was nothing like I’d ever seen before.

2.7 mmol!

Seriously? 2.7?

The strange thing was even though mentally I knew that was way too low and I was itchy and shaky and wanting to eliminate everything from my body with a good trip to the loo, I wasn’t frightened. I felt frustrated and curious instead.

Even though I’m sure it was only a matter of seconds, the walk from the living room to the kitchen to get some juice, felt like a lifetime.

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Photo by Pâmela Lima on Unsplash

It was only while I was waiting for my levels to come back to normal that I started to feel the terror. Why didn’t I check my blood sugar sooner? Why did I think it was something else? Why didn’t I do the most obvious thing? Where was my rational mind?

Umm… yep, that’s a low blood sugar event. You don’t think properly.

After my blood sugar came back to normal and in the subsequent years, I’ve had so much gratitude for that first scary low blood sugar. It helped me to face my fear and to lessen my anxiety about my levels in general. I was able to watch my blood sugar rebound and to see that I was okay. I learned subsequently to test how many grams of glucose I need to bring my blood sugar back to a safe range.

As someone who lives with LADA ( Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) and still producing a tiny amount of insulin I can get away with ½ a glucose tab, sometimes even a ¼  when I am just below where I’d like to be. I love the idea of sugar surfing keeping my levels in range with a little bit of sugar and a little bit of insulin.

I’ve also become more vigilant about checking blood glucose levels regularly especially when I feel slightly off. I.e. itchy around my tummy or vague in my thinking. And I’ve learned to let go of expecting perfection with my blood sugar management.

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So if I’m about to teach a yoga class and my blood sugar is at 4.3 I don’t hesitate to treat it. I’d rather not be checking my levels in the middle of demonstrating down dog.

Another super cool tool I use for soothing anxiety and settling the nervous system during and after a low blood sugar event is mudra. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know how passionate I am about mudra for diabetes. A user-friendly tool which is literally at our fingertips.

In a recent interview with Lesley O’Brien from Ayurbotanicals, I go through mudras which help engender fearlessness, increase circulation and give pause for self-reflection.

Join me in the practice below

with great respect…

Rachel

P.s I’ve tried these gummies below and they work effectively to bring up my levels fast 🙂

Warming up to warm-up

OMG, it’s Freezing in Queensland! We moved here because of the climate. Tropical breezes, diamond coastlines, a mix of liquid gum trees, rainforest and heavenly vistas of mountains, lakes, and rivers. Last month it was beyond hot, we were sweating it out in the ’30s (that’s Celsius for our northern hemisphere friends) and then from one day to the next. WHAM…icy winds, well not quite icy but COLD.

The houses here aren’t built for the cold so I’m wandering around in two layers, wooly socks and complaining. “It’s just too darn cold for my blood sugars and I swear I’m coming down with something.”

A few finger pricks reveal my blood sugars are just fine with the temperature. It’s me that has the issue. I guess it a bit like how I feel about the up and down swing of my levels. I prefer coasting on a flat line. A 27 ºC temperature suits me fine. Just like riding a unicorn at 100 mg/dl aka 5.5 mmol would be pretty cool.

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So what do I do when I’m freezing my socks off? ( love that expression which I learned from my Australian born step-mother when I was little)

YOGA!

I like to do something fast to get my fingers and toes warm. Then, I feel motivated to do a longer slower more focused practice. If you don’t have the time to devote an hour to yoga no problemo! I’ve created this super quick 3 pose practice to get you to feel warm and tingly all over.

Let me know what yoga poses you like to do to get motivated and warm in the comments below.

With great respect…

rachel 

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….

Rachel Portraits 2015-4

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