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.
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.
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…
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
P.s I’ve tried these gummies below and they work effectively to bring up my levels fast 🙂
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.
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)
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.
You’d think I’d be used to being on the razor’s edge but I’m not. Like a mother who forgets the pain of childbirth, I keep forgetting what a fine line it is to live with diabetes. Maybe it’s because my memory is selective, or that I still find myself going into denial. More likely it’s because I’m burnt out from all the nitty gritty stuff I have to do to stay alive.
Hypos are the worst. Every time a low comes on I think, “Sh…t I’m going low. What time is it? Can I wait 15 minutes and then eat lunch. Nope? Ok, just take ½ a tab. That’s probably not enough. Wait 15 min. Sh…t still going low take another ½… No, strike that, take 1 tab. Wait 15 more minutes (by now I actually feel low… sensation of ants crawling all over my body, mind like a wobbly wet piece of jelly). Ok, just take another tab and be done with it. (check my blood sugar 10 times in 15 minutes). Crap my fingers hurt.
After it comes back up I cry a lot. Later I think about adjusting my basal but worry that if I do I’ll go high. Eventually, I adjust my basal, wait to see what happens and tell myself, “Next time I’m going to take ¼ tab. Next time I’ll trust my body and my intuition. Next time I’ll take less insulin.”
My last big hypo happened right before I was supposed to teach a yoga workshop on mudras ( yogic hand gestures). I was sitting in front of 15 experienced yoga teachers while furiously checking my blood sugar. The trend arrow on my mySugr app wasn’t looking good.
I freaked out! I’d driven all that way, spent weeks preparing had gathered an awesome group of yogis, only to have the whole thing crumble because of my broken pancreas and stupid carb to insulin miscalculation. I kept telling myself, “Push through you’re stronger than this maybe it won’t keep plummeting. Start teaching you’ll be fine.” But no matter how strong I thought I was, I couldn’t fight reality. My body wasn’t going to kick in and save the day. I had to share through my vulnerability. It was either that or bale.
Stepping up meant sharing with the group that I was in the middle of a hypo, that I’d taken some glucose tabs and had to wait 15 minutes before I could teach. I felt awkward, my brain wasn’t clear enough to communicate, but the smiling and compassionate faces of the group gave me heart.
“Living yoga is about being with what is,” I continued, “and sometimes ‘what is’ sucks.”
Luckily within a few minutes, I could feel the glucose bringing my brain back online. The class flew by and was loads of fun, but later I felt drained, weak and really emotional.
Before my diagnosis, I would get tired after teaching, but it was a good tired. The kind where you knew you had worked hard enough to deserve a rest. Hypo fatigue is something else. 24 hours later I still find it hard to focus, my nervous system is overly sensitive and I’m prone to panic attacks. In a way, it’s akin to burning oneself accidentally. At contact, it burns sharp and hot, but that’s not the problem. It’s the lingering throbbing pain that’s tough to withstand. Plus Hypos aren’t always just a one-off thing. When a Hypo, builds on another Hypo it takes days to recover. It’s a challenge not to lose heart or worry that I’ll never get on top of things.
As I mention continuously in my blog posts I really have to take my hat off to yoga. The physical practices of posture and breathing definitely help. Lately, I have been using the deeper practices like mudra (gesture) and mantra (sound) too. Holding my hands in certain positions really calms my emotions and repeating a mantra like OM is soothing for all the systems in the body. In fact, so soothing that chanting lowers my blood sugar.
In honor of being a Hypo Hot Mess, this weeks offering is a simple 5 element mudra sequence. As you go through each mudra feel harmony coming into the body, relax and breathe. You can do this anywhere anytime, focusing on one element for your practice or including all five.
A few days ago I hurt my back. I was overzealous and lifted a couch and twisted slightly the wrong way. Immediately my back went into spasm and I had to lie down. Never mind the fact that I had to teach two classes the next day, or that I hadn’t even landed in our new home or unpacked my bags.
I don’t hurt myself often but when I do I get annoyed. The frustration is in the fact that I could see it coming. I am a compulsive over-doer, overachiever and I have been working for years to curb my enthusiasm. My husband calls me “Squirrel”. He says it’s because I never stop moving.
In yoga, the ones who love to do are called Pitta types. Pitta is composed of fire and a small amount of water. We are literally on fire, passionate, hot and often don’t stop until it’s too late.
With all the excitement of the last 9 months, I am so glad I live and breathe yoga. Without my practice, I’d probably have done more damage than strain my back for a day or two. No matter what goes on in my life, no matter how tough things get having a variety of yoga practices in my toolkit means I never hit empty.
My first stop is always the breath. Whether it’s waiting for my levels to come up from a low, or dealing with a dreaded hot flush ( yep… I am post-menopausal) or just feeling like it’s all getting too much. Stopping, dropping and taking ten slow breaths are my kind of pushups.
And it’s not just any kind of breaths it’s ten full complete breaths. I wrote about it a while back in this post and video practice. You’ll love it!
Next, I get my stretch on. Stretching is much more than just a feel-good exercise. It super connects you to the highway of your nervous system. The nervous system is designed to be your ally. When you need energy it ignites you so you have the fuel you need to get stuff done. It’s also your ultimate chill pill, enabling you to move through life without ‘sweating the small stuff”. The nervous system takes quite a beating when you live with diabetes. All the fluctuating blood sugars wreak havoc throwing you into the fight or flight response. Most of us, diabetes or not spend about 80% of our time in flight or flight. It should be the reverse. Stretching signals the nervous system to relax. Clasping your hands and reaching your arms up overhead and leaning from side to side is enough to bring you back to the relaxed part of your nervous system.
My last and most favorite practice is to work with Mudra. Mudras are hand gestures which also work with the nervous system. Bringing the hands into specific positions concentrates the mind and calms the emotions. Learning to do yoga with your hands is the easiest and best kind because you don’t have to be fit or flexible to practice. Recently I shared a mudra sequence with patients recovering from various forms of cancer. Most had limited mobility and energy. Being able to bring the hands into a shape was blissfully relaxing and restorative. Here’s a short mudra practice I posted on the blog if you’d like to try it.
With some deep breath work, stretching and my mudra practice I’m no longer flat on my back. Phew, it feels good to be pain-free again.
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