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

I’m a real person

Hey everyone it’s been a while…We’ve been travelling all over Europe for the last month. Spending four days on average in one place and by the time we’ve landed, practiced, checked our emails, cooked, slept and taught there’s honestly not much time to roll out a blog.

A few days ago we stopped and my body tanked. I broke out in shingles, stubbed my toe and almost lost my voice. Everything’s on the mend now and thank god for yoga practice. I know I say this all the time, but this time I really mean it. I’ve been rolling out my mat twice a day and absolutely treasuring every stretch, every breath, every minute that I have to take my mind out of its usual and habitual preoccupations.

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Having diabetes means I often get carried away in the general freak outs about my blood sugar levels, why it’s going up or down, how much insulin is the right amount of insulin and what the heck am I going to eat next.

When I am not bogged down in the details I’m thinking about advocacy and how to get more people excited about the benefits of yoga for diabetes and then I remember, I didn’t always live like this. I have to be careful not to let the disease define me. I’m still the same enthusiastic person I was before my diagnosis.

Do I ever forget that I live with diabetes?

No.

Every now and then I forget to check my blood sugar, which is par for the course. And sometimes I lash out with my diet and wear the consequences. But so far living with diabetes is my new normal and I’m okay with that.

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I still burnout at times, but I do it quietly. Kind of like one of those bathroom candles that fizzles out when nobody’s watching. I say this because on the outside no one would know how frustrated I am. It always takes people by surprise when I casually mention that I have diabetes. And something that I’ve noticed, here in Europe especially, is that there seems to be a certain taboo around taking the conversation further. Like it would be impolite to pry. But I also think it makes people uncomfortable. I remember being absolutely clueless about the disease even when I knew a few people who had it. I wouldn’t dare ask more because I didn’t want to upset the person, or have to deal with some emotional outburst.

As a person who lives with diabetes I can honestly say it feels good to be open about it and to educate people. I actually feel really heartened when someone comes away from a conversation inspired to take action in some way.

In my own small way, I try and spread the word and donate to organizations like insulin4allbeyondtype1 and a sweet life.  I also enjoy making personal connections with the founders and organizers. What I love most about the T1D community is that we are real people living with this disease. When you send out an email, people respond and want you to get involved. It’s so different to other types of businesses where you have to be somebody, or know somebody. This is the kind of club that no one really wants to be in but everyone can join. (If you know what I mean)

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My other deepest and most passionate offering is Yoga. It’s the one thing I can rely on to support me when my pancreas doesn’t.

Yoga is not one size fits all and you do have to shop around a bit to find something that works for you. Sometimes a practice can be too intense for your constitution. Maybe you have adrenal burnout, or more than one autoimmune disease. Maybe you are dealing with insulin resistance or hormonal changes. No matter what’s going on there is a practice that’s perfect for you. It just takes a bit of research and trial and error to find what works. A bit like calculating the right insulin dose.

As this is a blog about yoga and yoga practices the one thing I do every day to slow down and recharge is full complete breathing. It’s a beautiful practice and very simple.

Check out this excerpt below from my upcoming book. I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below or send me a message and if you’d like a free copy of the first chapter of my new book click here …. with great respect, Rachel

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Unleash your Diabetes Dominator!

I’ve just spent the last week in overdrive. That’s overdrive in a good way. As part of my interest in this disease and how Yoga can help, I’ve decided to start a study. It’s been fascinating to meet with Type 1 diabetics from all walks of life and to hear about how they manage their diabetes.

In asking questions like; what are you goals with diabetes management or what’s your relationship to diabetes. It’s crystal clear that no matter how frustrating the disease, everyone want’s to find a way to accept it. And as I’ve been discovering, as much as I want yoga to be the solution, it can only ever be one of the many tools at our disposal.

Yoga for Diabetes Unleash your diabetes Dominator

One of the biggest and most important tools is having support. Knowing that someone out there completely understands whats happening to you. I found that support online.  But maybe you don’t have the time or don’t even know that that’s what you’re looking for?

When I first went on Insulin I did everything I could do get my hands on books that would help me understand what it meant to be insulin dependent. It didn’t take long to discover that there are many leading lights out there in the diabetes online community ( DOC).

One of those is the author of a new book ( being launched TODAY) called ” Unleash your Diabetes Dominator” The Author Daniele Hargenrader is a powerhouse!  One of the first things she shares in her book is – Diabetes didn’t happen to you, it happened FOR you.

Daniele’s story is one of true triumph over adversity. I’ve never met someone whose enthusiasm is so contagious. Without a doubt this book WILL inspire you and change your life for the better.

And Guess what? Yoga for Diabetes is in the book too. I entered a contest to be interviewed for the book, so I could share my story, and I was one of the people who won the contest!

So it is with total excitement that I urge you to check out Daniele’s book here and find out how she and many others manage to Dominate Diabetes every single day.

With great respect….Rachel

Unleash Your Diabetes Dominator

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

A Breath A Day Keeps the Stress Away

Wouldn’t that be the best if one breath really melted all the stress away? In Yoga it is said that if one is able to breathe easily without any discomfort then the body is in complete harmony and health. For most of us it’s hard to know what our breath is doing from moment to moment. Every thought, emotion or situation elicits a corresponding breath. Have you ever noticed how you breathe in a traffic jam? Take a moment right now and notice your breath; is it soft and slow? Fast and tense? Is it easier to breathe into the chest or belly? There is never a problem with our breath it does what it does through years of habitual responses to the everyday stresses that life presents. But if you watch a baby’s natural breath you’ll see it rests in the belly.

Abdominal breathing is the most healing and calming breath and perfect for settling us down. Teaching the body to breathe as fully and completely as possible using both abdominal breathing and chest breathing balances the nervous system. A chest breath engages the sympathetic nervous system, the energising part of the system and the abdominal breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system or the relaxed part of the system. Balance between energy and relaxation brings a sense of calm to the body, mind and emotions. Qualities needed to deal with a challenging and sometimes frustrating disease like Diabetes.

Follow the photos and instructions below to learn a Full Complete Yogic Breath. Even practicing this for a few minutes when you first wake up or at the end of the day will remind your body to breathe better in times of stress… have a beautiful breathing day… with respect Rachel

Rachel Zinman Yoga the importance of breath

Lie on the back with knees bent feet slightly forward of the hips. Place both hands on the abdomen, tips of the middle fingers touching. Become aware of the breath. Notice the inhale and the exhale

On the inhalation expand the abdomen so that the fingers come apart. On the exhalation feel the abdomen releasing and relaxing, fingers coming together. Repeat this a few times

Rachel Zinman Yoga the Importance of  Breath

Place your hands on the sides of the ribs. Have your thumbs at the back of the ribcage and your four fingers at the front

On the inhalation feel how the sides of the ribs expand and lift. On the exhalation notice how the ribs come together and the abdomen relaxes as per above.  Repeat a few times

Rachel Zinman Yoga Importance of Breath

Place one hand on the belly and one hand just below the collarbones

On the inhalation feel the abdomen expand, the side ribs expand and lift and the upper chest and collarbones lift. On the exhalation, feel the abdomen; ribcage and upper chest relax all at the same time. One movement melting into the next. Practice this Full Complete Breath a few times. Then relax and come back to a natural breath