It’s been a huge month

Just the other day I received a note in my inbox from a high school buddy expressing concern over the escalating posts on my feed related to Diabetes, “Are you okay?” he asked, “just want to check you’re not getting worse.” I had to think about my reply.

Am I okay? Well of course. Is my condition worsening? It’s just the same as it ever was. But isn’t it great that somebody noticed.

If just one person is made more aware of the millions of us out there dealing with this incurable and sometimes unmanageable disease is that enough?

Yoga for diabetes

This month I made it my business to step up and share in as many ways as possible why I feel more people should know about Diabetes. The more we can advocate, the more likely others will come onboard and help raise much needed funds in all sorts of arenas. It’s not just that we need to raise money for a cure. We also need to raise money for those in countries less fortunate, where Insulin is unaffordable or where continuous glucose monitors are unavailable.

Diabetes should never be a death sentence but for some, without adequate medication, it is. Before I was diagnosed I never even considered the fall out from this disease and I assumed like everyone else that Insulin was the next best thing to a cure. But I have learned so much in the last year about how complicated and difficult management is. From the outside it looks easy, but from the inside? Not so much….

With just two days left to the end of Diabetes Awareness Month I wonder… did I press the like button enough?

Urged by my fellow advocates I scrolled back over my FB activity log and had a look at what I’d achieved. Bear with me it’s a bit of a roll call.

Beyond Type 1 fundraising campaign

  • Joined the JDRF Type 1 looks like me campaign and changed my profile Pic and shared a link for Diabetes Awareness Month
  • Shared the Beyond Type 1 Million Dollar campaign and made a donation
  • My personal story of how I thrive was published in a #1 Best Seller called “Unleash your Diabetes Dominator” by Daniele Hargenrader and was interviewed by Daniele for her YouTube Series
  • Had my story published in Insulin Nation
  • Created a survey to find out what would motivate diabetics to bring yoga into their daily management program
  • Participated in the Insulin4all campaign to put the world back in world diabetes day – a program created by Type 1 International
  • Published 3 blogs, posted memes, filled out surveys, voted for funding for projects like The Betes
  • Wrote a piece for Beyond Type 1
  • Wrote a story for Diabetes Counselling online here in Australia
  • Started a Yoga for Diabetes YouTube Channel
  • Sent out my first Yoga for Diabetes Newsletter
  • Started a study with Type 1 Diabetics to see how Yoga supports them in their daily management
  • Connected my cousin who runs a program called CrowdMed to see if he could help a young woman with Type 1 who also has a mystery illness, get closer to a cure
  • Celebrated my 7 year Diaversary  ( anniversary of my diagnosis)
  • Donated to A Sweet Life

meme for a sweet Life

Looking back on the last month I can’t help but feel proud. I’ve stayed focussed and committed to spreading more awareness in ways that are meaningful to me as a yogini and writer.  As the work of the last month makes room for the holiday season, I hope all of us whether diabetic or not will continue to spread the word. Lets bring Both types of diabetes to the forefront of peoples minds and truly work together towards a cure!

With great respect….Rachel

I believe I can fly

It’’s all very well and good for me to rave on about Yoga and how it keeps me calm in the face of a crisis. But ten minutes ago ?

Kinda hypocritical.

Maybe I could get away with two handfuls of almonds

WRONG

okay another two handfuls of almonds

Wrong again!

What about a quick grind of some chia, mixed with hemp and sesame seeds?

A quarter Apple?

Get REAL…..Theres no way a few nuts, seeds and a shriveled old apple from the back of the fridge are going to up a downward trend.

But hey I believe I can fly…..

meanwhile the kitchen looks like this

IMG_6896

and I look like this

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BUSTED!

I know you know what I’m thinking….maybe I should eat the fridge…

I pull out the OTHER glucometer. The one that’s reads slightly higher. It feels a bit like a thumb suck. But right now I’ll take any reassurance I can get. I calculate between the two, come up with a figure I can stomach. Plop myself on the couch and upload a pic to Instagram playing the waiting game.

30 minutes later…

the kitchen looks like thisIMG_6914

i look like this

IMG_6901

But my meter looks like this

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think I’ll do some yoga …..

 

 

 

 

 

Stop, Drop and BREATHE

Breath. We can’t live without it. So why is it that we forget the most essential ingredient in keeping every single part of the body working properly? I think it’s the very fact that we take breath for granted that’s actually the problem.  It’s only when we’re out of breath that we notice the breath. Like when you have a cold or an allergy and you’re gasping for air. That’s when you think,  “ hang on a second I’m not breathing all that well.” If you could take note of what’s happening moment by moment with your breath you’d be surprised. The breath has so many intriguing variations, waves and moods. It’s a whole culture unto itself.

I never really knew much about the breath until I took up yoga. Whenever we started breathing I wanted to run a mile. I kept feeling nervous and afraid every time we had to lie back over blankets and breathe. I didn’t really trust my body and was convinced that one day I’d get some sort of disease and die. My mother died when I was young. Her death had a huge impact on me not only emotionally but physically. It’s why I took up Yoga in the first place. Yoga was my lifeline, a way to tranquillize all my insecurities and fears and the breath was the starting point.

Pranayama for Diabetes Rachel Zinman Yoga

Accessing the breath and learning to breathe fully and deeply is even more of a priority now that I know I’m Diabetic. When the numbers go up I take a breath. When the numbers go low I take a breath. When I feel overwhelmed I take a breath. When I want to cry, scream and disappear….I take a breath.

One of my first teachers stressed that the breath could be manipulated and extended, but only once the body was completely relaxed and aligned. Another teacher said exactly the opposite, insisting that the body and its movements fit around the breath.

Whether the body guides the breath or the breath guides the body, working with the breath is a powerful tool in relaxing the nervous system.

Why is breathing so beneficial?

Besides the fact that breathing is the one thing we can’t do without,  Deep conscious breathing ‘called diaphragmatic breathing’ has a ton of benefits. 

  • It engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, regulating digestion, elimination and sexual function.
  • The steady exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide feeds the lungs and at the same time clears out toxins
  • Massages the internal organs
  • Breathing through the nose filters the air so that what comes in is free of dust and debris
  • Improves our ability to eliminate waste through the lymphatic system

What’s amazing about the breath is that is has two functions:

Unconscious, automatic breath, which continues regardless of whether we think about it or not

Conscious breath, where we are aware of the breath and can use the breath to change our response to any given situation.

For example: You test your sugar, it’s low, you freak out. Your heart rate goes up, breathing is agitated and the adrenaline is pumping. Taking a few slow deep breaths into the belly while getting what you need to raise your sugars can greatly improve the impact that the stress of a low has on your entire system.

Holding your breath, forgetting to breathe, being overly identified with emotional states, physical tension and external stressors all contribute to the dumbing down of the breath. Not breathing well limits your body’s ability to find balance. Without balance you don’t have the reserves to deal with the every day details of managing your condition.

Stop…take a moment….BREATHE…..you can do this!

Join me in the practice below and learn how to take a full complete breath….. with great respect, Rachel

For the Love of Habits

I’m super disciplined when it comes to managing my diabetes.That is until about four in the afternoon, when all hell breaks loose.

I can trace my troublesome behaviour back to my teenage years. I’d come home from school open the fridge and snack and snack….. and snack!

Do I blame my bad habits as a teen for my LADA diabetes? Of course not, but habits do die hard.

In yoga philosophy, a habit is called a vasana. Something you do over and over. It’s like carving a groove in a piece of wood, the more you do it, the deeper it goes. This can be as simple as the habit of driving a car or like mine, the habit of eating things that aren’t good for me at snack time.  A vasana isn’t good or bad. It’s innocent, natural, we are all at the effect of our habits.

The biggest habit of all is our identification with the body, this really comes into play with a chronic disease. Because we believe we are our bodies, habitually and innocently we’re identified with the body, hence everything that affects the body affects us. So when the body doesn’t feel well or something doesn’t work, we see ourselves as the problem.  The more we identify with the thoughts about our body, the more we identify with the body itself and this just intensifies the habit of identification. In the end it’s a tightly wound spring waiting to snap. We forget that we have a disease, we are not the disease.

One of the beautiful things about Yoga practice is that by merging breath with movement, the mind is happily occupied. Tools to harness the mind are invaluable when it comes to managing our habits. We need a strong and disciplined mind if we are going to maintain our health. For some, this comes naturally but for others, it’s not so easy. The physical and mental practices of yoga are brilliant for teaching the mind to concentrate, to move beyond distraction and develop will power.

When the mind is focussed in on one thing it loses itself in the object. In everyday life this is completely unconscious. Losing yourself in cravings for this or that, stressful thoughts, even losing yourself in your expectations of how things should be in relationship to your diabetes management.

Taking the mind out of its preoccupation allows you to take a breather. To step back and just be. Something we find hard to do when we are on call 24/7.

Rachel Zinman Yoga candle meditation

As the theme for the week I offer you this simple candle gazing meditation called Tratakam.

It’s a beautiful practice to do before bed. It helps to trigger the hormones that induce sleep as well as prime the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxed part of the nervous system) it’s calming, nourishing for the eyes and develops your will power and concentration if practiced regularly

With great respect….. Rachel

1. Light a candle and place it at eye level in a darkened room or in the evening before bed with the lights out

2. Take a comfortable seat and gaze at the candle. Be aware of the breath but don’t try and control the breath. Keep your eyes open trying not to blink

3. When you feel the eyes begin to tear, close them and see the flame as a reflected image at the point in between the eyebrows

4. When the image of the flame fades open your eyes again and repeat steps 1-3

5. Your candle gazing meditation doesn’t need to be more than 10 minutes but you can go longer if you like

6. On completion of the meditation, lie down relax and let yourself float into a deep rest

Rachel Zinman Yoga

Your Body as Perfectly Imperfect

It’s so easy to forget the absolute miracle that we are when facing the daily onslaught of Diabetes. While most people are taking their bodies for granted we wage war. Well…let me speak for myself, at the worst of times I do.

War for me has to do with self doubt and uncertainty and the feeling like nothing is ever enough. Even with the tools of Yoga and Meditation under my belt I forget that the body has an intelligence, a living awareness that keeps everything going regardless of what my pancreas is doing.

To remember the preciousness of the body I think about my son and when he was a newborn. I marvelled at his perfection and innocence. I remember thinking what if I do something wrong? What if he breaks. But I learned fast that he was way more resilient than that. While I was freaking out about this, that or the other he was just being himself which included a perfectly functioning immune system

In Yoga when we want to describe the quality of immunity we call it Ojas. Ojas comes from the densest tissue in the body, reproductive fluid. It’s the densest tissue because it carries the seed of life. Without reproductive fluid? No propagation of the species. That some of us are born with less immunity then others or develop immune system problems as we age has to do with the loss of Ojas. In Ayurveda it’s believed that everyone is born with just 12 drops. It’s easy to lose Ojas and very hard to build once its lost.

So how do we lose Ojas?

Stress! It’s a no brainer. Stress can be physical, mental, environmental, seasonal, time specific and deeply emotional. You name it, just about everything is stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. When your Ojas is strong the stresses might come knocking but they can’t come in.

So how do we build Ojas?

As a Diabetic it’s impossible to change the stressor, we can’t snap our fingers and be un-diabetic. We can change our diets, use medications, do all sorts of things to manage the disease but we are living in imperfect perfection.

Our mental attitudes, environmental conditions, exposure to toxins even our relationships all play a part in depleting Ojas. But what’s important to acknowledge is it’s our reaction to the disease that matters. Not the disease itself.

Rachel Zinman Yoga

Yoga offers a brilliant solution. Because purely as a physical practice it teaches us to respond rather than react. It takes the mind and focusses it on one thing, YOU. YOU expressing yourself in the practice as the breath, as movement, as flow. And stretching the muscles and activating them releases excess toxins and takes glucose out of the blood stream. It’s a win win situation.

If Yoga isn’t for you. Then any physical activity has the same ability. But Yoga is a great place to start because it works so specifically with breath and movement.

For todays blog I’ve put together a simple breathing exercise via YOUTUBE that you can do anywhere anytime. It’s called Vinyasa- movement on the breath

All you need is enough room to raise and lower your arms. You can do the exercise seated in a chair, standing or sitting on the floor. Just a few minutes a day will calm the mind and enable you to be with yourself…. with great respect Rachel

ARE YOU CREATING THE BEST POSSIBLE START TO YOUR DAY ?

A Guest blog from Yogi and Ayurvedic Chef, Jody Vassallo

I believe that mornings are the foundation of our day, it is when our feet first come in contact with the earth and we can consciously set our intentions for the day ahead. Taking time out to sit and really take in the morning is so important, this is when I make decisions about the food that I will prepare and eat and how I will approach my day. I check in with my body and allow myself to notice how it is feeling, not comparing it to yesterday but giving its own voice on this day. I look outside and see what the weather is doing as this really forms the basis of the choices I make for my day, if it’s hot I will have a cooling breakfast, perhaps a salad or two that day, if it’s cooler, a cooked breakfast is a must, then a warming soup for lunch and something spicy and satisfying for dinner.

Reading a passage from a book and meditating are habits that now come naturally to me though this has not always been the case, when I was in a crazy, busy, overworked Vata phase of my life I resisted settling and being still as this was too confronting for me, my driven ambitious pitta brain was more focused on result based living and unless things instantly made me feel better they were tossed aside.

Because I was so busy I often skipped breakfast or quickly fed myself but there wasn’t a lot of nourishment in the meal, there may have been nutrients but the whole meal was eaten without awareness or appreciation. After years of doing this, my head just got crazier, the seat of Vata is in the head and in the gut so too much rushing, skipping or mindlessly eating meals will eventually cause a life riddled with anxiety, fear and gut problems.

These days more and more people are experiencing digestive issues – coeliac disease, food allergies or diabetes. All of these diseases mean that food becomes the focus of ones life which can be stressful and overwhelming. There is so much info out there on what not to have. I think the most important thing for anyone to keep in mind is that simplicity is the key.

Certain food nourish us without needing the help of too many other ingredients. I am a huge fan of eggs because they provide me with fat and protein and they leave me feeling satisfied and nourished, if I want to jazz them up  I throw in some herbs or ricotta cheese or scramble them with some spring onions and black sesame seeds, eggs are both warming and grounding in nature so they are the perfect breakfast choice on windy cooler mornings. In summer I like to start my day with a coconut based breakfast, it is cooling and really satisfying.

So I encourage you to slow your mornings down, take time out to create a calmer approach to the ritual of breaking your fast. If it is a cool morning  put on the appropriate clothes,  make yourself a warm cup of ginger tea or if the morning is hotter have a refreshing mint tea. And then lovingly prepare yourself a nourishing meal that will  provide you with the fuel that takes you up to your next meal. I avoid high carbohydrate breakfast as they cause my blood sugar to spike and I find myself hungry again soon after breakfast.

I would like to share a cooling recipe with you a low carb, high fat brekkie which is very simple to prepare and great for those warmer mornings.

Beautiful Food p. 33Beautiful Food p. 34

Raspberries chia pots with maple coconut tops

500 g (1 lb) frozen raspberries, thawed

3 tablespoons white chia seeds

1/2 cup (125 ml/ 4 fl oz) coconut cream

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons white chia seeds

Use a fork to crush the raspberries. Stir in the chia seeds and mix to combine. Divide the mixture between four 1/2 cup capacity ramekins, cover and chill for 4 hours or until just set.

Put the coconut cream, maple syrup and chia seeds into a bowl and mix to combine. Spoon over the raspberry mixture cover and chill for 2 hours or until set.

Serves 4

My approach to food and life is based on the traditional Indian medical system of Ayurveda which encourages people to live a holistic way of life based on their body type and the five elements.

There are 3 body types Vata – a combination of air and space, Pitta – a mixture of fire and water and Kapha – earth and water. These body types influence or body shape and our personalities and behaviours. For more info on this you can purchase my book Beautiful Food

9781743569016_1014_BeautifulFood_CVR-1

www.jodyvassallo.com

Jody Vassallo is a passionate foodie who believes in the power of food to heal and transform ones life. She dedicates her life to sharing her message with the world.

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Routine Routine Routine

Routine, we love to hate it, especially with a demanding disease like Diabetes which requires hyper-vigilance. No sane person would set their alarm to wake through the night to check their blood sugar, diligently count carbs before a meal or force themselves on the treadmill at 9 pm. But we do it because without the effort? The science speaks for itself.

So how can we turn a have to into a want to. This is where the sister science of Yoga, Ayurveda takes centre stage. The word Ayurveda means the science of life.  As a traditional Indian method of healing, it uses the natural world to help us understand what creates balance and imbalance.

Ayurveda works with the five elements; earth, water, fire, air and space. We have all 5 elements in our constitution but usually only two hold the limelight.The combination of elements are called Doshas. Vata dosha being the predominance of air and space, Pitta dosha, fire with a small amount of water and Kapha dosha, the predominance of water and earth.

It follows suit that Diabetes is not a one size fits all disease. In medical terminology we have type 1 (Juvenile onset) Type 2 ( Diet and lifestyle related) and 1.5 LADA ( Late Autoimmune Diabetes of Adulthood) and as I write more types of diabetes are being categorised.

In Ayurveda, Diabetes is classified by the Doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Kapha Diabetes is treatable through diet and exercise. Pitta Diabetes can be controlled with strict management where as Vata Diabetes is much harder to treat and stabilise  My understanding after working with several different Vaidya’s ( ayurvedic doctors)  is that both Vata and Pitta Diabetes deplete the  nervous system. Whereas Kapha Diabetes clogs the system and is a disease of excess.

So what simple things can we do everyday to bring harmony and balance to our lives?

In Ayurveda, setting a regular rhythm is key. In our fast paced life it’s easy to ignore our natural rhythms . We go to bed late, wake up late, eat on the go, spend too much time on devices and work at odd hours. With a disease which is already depleting and/or clogging our systems it’s doubly challenging and we feel pressured to get it right.

Here are three simple ayurvedic practices you can implement right now no matter what your constitution.

Ayurveda for Diabetes

1. Wake up before the sun rises and greet the day with gratitude. Rising before the sun means you will have more energy available to you throughout the day. At dawn the prana (life energy) is still low in the atmosphere and easily absorbed by the body. Perfect for Type 1’s who need to build energy. For Type 2’s it’s a great time for dynamic breathing or a beach walk.

2. Sip hot water instead of tea throughout the day. Plain hot water is cleansing and eliminates toxins and is also warming and nurturing. For Type 1’s it lubricates and soothes the nervous system, for Type 2’s it eliminates accumulated waste.

3. Give your self a nurturing foot massage before bed. No matter what your type, massaging the feet before bed balances the nervous system and promotes sound sleep. In Ayurveda specific oils are used depending on your constitution. But to keep it simple any plain massage oil will work or any cream you use to keep your feet soft especially if you suffer from skin cracks or neuropathy. Make sure to massage the whole foot focussing on the pads of the feet, around the heel and achilles tendon and between the toes.

Implement these three simple practices every day and notice how you feel and stay tuned for more Ayurvedic tips along the way…with great respect Rachel