The 5 go-to yoga practices that saved my life

For todays post as part of Diabetes Awareness Month I am reposting a segment of an article I wrote for Beyond Type 1 in 2015. Make sure to read more on their site to find out what yoga practices are perfect for Diabetes management

I’ve been practicing Yoga since I was 17; right up until my sudden diagnosis of Type 1 at the age of 42, I was convinced that Yoga made me invincible. After my diagnosis everything changed. Instead of thinking Yoga would stave off the boogieman, I took responsibility and came to terms with the role that Yoga played in my life.

I discovered that Yoga is more than a good stretch. It’s a tree with many branches, each limb a path back to harmony and balance, a way to mitigate stress. Yoga is not a trend, it’s been around for over 5000 years.

The Yoga practices are powerful because they are subtle. The physical aspect is just one component of a multilayered methodology that looks at the flow of energy in the body. Life force and immunity can be cultivated and built through posture, breathing, meditation, the right diet and lifestyle adjustments.

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The word Yoga means, “wholeness, completeness, oneness.” Yoga is not a state. Rather it is the natural state of everything in the creation including ourselves. We are naturally peaceful, happy and whole. It’s only our thoughts about something, and our identification with those thoughts that create a sense of incompletion.

Yoga practice does two things — it pulls us out of the habit of identifying with our thoughts and reminds us of our true nature. When you feel all “zen” after class … it’s not the practice that’s doing it. The practices merely remind you that the peace, stillness and harmony you feel at the end of a practice are your natural state. For me, going deeper with Yoga has enabled me to better manage my relationship to diabetes and manage the stress associated with diabetes.

So what are my five Go-to Yoga practices that put me in the zone each and every day?

Read more  on Beyond Type 1

see you tomorrow…#NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

The Good News

I’m not one to write about the latest news on diabetes. It’s not because there aren’t amazing new technologies, cures and treatment protocols on the horizon. It’s just that I’d rather focus on what’s tangible and practical in my personal day to day management. When someone sends me a message with the latest ‘cinnamon’ cure I find myself ranting about the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes and how there is no cure for type 1. There are only useful management protocols that may or may not consistently work. A lot of my friends who were diagnosed years ago were told not to worry because a cure was coming in five years.  More than five years have come and gone and we are all still waiting.

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One of the biggest and scariest moments for me was realising that I had a life threatening, incurable disease. I was on the yoga mat in a pose when it dawned on me. I cannot adequately describe that moment. It was a mixture of shock, disbelief, denial and confusion. Coming to terms with that feeling and finding acceptance has been the core of my practice since.  I guess anyone when faced with any kind of diagnosis, or crisis goes through this. That’s why community and support are so needed.

What I am excited about in the diabetes space is how we can thrive with diabetes. There are some really cool organisations out there to tap into. As a regular contributor to Beyond Type 1 I am inspired by how they raised awareness through brilliant community building campaigns. It isn’t just about finding a cure, it’s about networking, inspiration and collaboration. Another powerful resource is Diabetes Daily. Daily updates and articles on all types of diabetes, recipes and research and a thriving community, I feel blessed to have so much information and support on tap.

In fact, today I received an email from the team at Diabetes Daily about a large study that identifies the habits of successful diabetes management. Compiled by the thrivable insights research panel the study looked at what habits those with optimal glycemic have in common? They surveyed 1,938 people and I’m pretty sure I was one of them.

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The survey analysis data demonstrated that those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes who have optimal glycemic control are significantly more likely to:

  • utilize low-carbohydrate diets
  • use insulin pumps
  • exercise regularly

Moreover, patients with type 1 diabetes were significantly more likely to:

  • use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM)
  • eat consistent meals daily
  • incorporate the protein content of their meal in calculating their insulin doses

The comprehensive data report was published on October 16, 2019 and can be found here: Habits of a Great A1c Survey Data Report. The lead researcher, Maria Muccioli, Ph.D, is also available for interviews about the findings. 

To me the best way to control my diabetes is a no brainer. I have heard many people in the diabetes space talk about diabetes as carb intolerance. It’s not that we shouldn’t include carbs its just how much. I find that about 100 carbs per day is my maximum. In my last blog on diet I talked about eating at the same time and roughly the same thing every day. I have also emphasised how important it is to have some way of seeing blood glucose data in real time. The more I know what foods do what, the easier it is to manage my levels . And you know how much I love exercise. Yoga for diabetes is the bomb!

That’s why I get all nerdy about these kind of studies. The more evidence we have of what enables us to live well with this condition, the more health care providers will come onboard. Believe it or not up until a year or two ago my doctor was still giving me a hard time for my dietary choices. Luckily education around this is shifting.

When I personally reflect on how I feel about diabetes management and the resources we have available I feel lucky. When my great grandfather had diabetes, there was no insulin and no education around diabetes. He died of diabetes complications. Ironically my birthday falls on the month and day of his passing. A powerful reminder of how grateful I am to have the education, choices and support to live a long, healthy and happy life with diabetes. Thats the good news!

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Who am I without my diabetes?

What’s the single most powerful tool from yoga that’s helped me manage my diabetes? Atma Vidya. Atma Vidya is Self-Knowledge. Atma means Self and Vidya means knowledge. What do you think of when you hear these two words put together? Before I was led through these beautiful teachings I thought SELF meant me, my name, my ideas, my beliefs, my broken pancreas. KNOWLEDGE referred to knowing this, getting this.

I was mistaken.

It’s easy to know what I have. I have a name, a job, a relationship. I have thoughts, ideas and beliefs. I have a condition called diabetes. It’s obvious that I know about things that I have. The deeper question is who does the name, job, relationship, idea, disease belong to? Who is that?

I travelled to India and to the heart of the tradition to find out. The tradition I studied with is thousands of years old. Knowledge shared orally in an unbroken lineage. This kind of teaching is not available in your neighbourhood yoga studio. It has only just recently been brought out of orthodoxy and secrecy. It’s a legacy that was reserved for the priests in India. It’s only due to my teacher and his teacher breaking with tradition that enabled my partner John Weddepohl (who teaches this knowledge) to study this methodology for 7 years in India. And lucky me, after meeting John in 2011, also having the privilege of studying with his teacher.

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Going through the teaching on an ashram in India while dealing with diabetes wasn’t easy. I wasn’t on insulin at that stage and was trying to control my levels with diet. With special permission I was able to set up my room with a fridge and cooker. That way I could cook low carb meals and control my levels.

When I started the course, I was nervous about how I would manage. We were told we would have to sit in the teaching hall without leaving for the duration of the lecture. I needed to pee every hour so that freaked me out.

The structure of the course was three 1.5 hour lectures a day, in between we were expected to write out our understanding of the lecture and then hand those notes to our teacher. That way the teacher knew exactly how we were assimilating the teachings. Sitting on a cold marble floor 4.5 hours a day learning about the SELF that wasn’t what I thought it was was confronting.

We spent days dismantling our ideas about everything and I mean every single thing! Imagine being shown without a doubt that the idea that the body is sick, imperfect, unfixable is just that…an idea. Even my thoughts about my ideas where stripped bare. Revealing the ‘I’ thought. This idea I have about myself.

If you’re reading this and thinking…WHAT?

Yep that was me in India too. Until the whole teaching reached its peak.

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You know when you’re trying to untie a knot and how it takes ages to loosen and then finally you find that one part of the string which unravels the knot? That’s what it’s like when you are shown the nature of Self.

Once I understood the nature of Self, my relationship to diabetes completely shifted. I no longer felt burdened by it. Something my teacher emphasised when I met with him privately, was that the body is not our business. We don’t know why it does what it does. Our job is to get out of the way, to see the body as something that is happening in our presence. We can do one of two things hinder or aid the body. If the body requires food, water or sleep it’s up to us to provide that. If the body needs medication, again we must give it what it needs.

I have often shared in my posts that I have diabetes I am not my diabetes. The knowledge I gained in India is the essence of that phrase. I can never be what I have.

Knowing this has kept me sane.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

The one truth that can’t be faked

I have been obsessed with Twitter since September. Growing up in the United States in a liberal democratic family means I have a keen interest in U.S. politics. The election in 2016 floored me and I have watched the steady decline of ‘the facts’ over the ensuing three years. Not that facts are all they’re cracked up to be. Think about it, as much as science claims a finding to be reality that same theory can also be disproved. Guaranteed change is a constant. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim for justice and liberty and all those other principles though. It pains me to see so much division, hatred and frustration emerging in a country where I was taught that no matter what your circumstances you could achieve the fulfilment of your dreams.

In a new paradigm of ‘alternative facts’ it’s hard to know what to believe, who to trust and what’s real. With all the fake news out there I’d like to note there’s one truth that can’t be faked.

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Diabetes.

Diabetes is a fact. Pancreatic beta cells have tanked. Insulin is required. Life is on a knife’s edge.

I can remember thinking early on after my diagnosis that there must have been a mistake. Maybe the lab messed up my blood tests. I wasn’t the type to have this disease and I was so healthy. A few health care providers even corroborated my theory. Even as late as 2008 some practitioners in Australia didn’t know that out of the 40,000 people diagnosed each year with type 1 diabetes, 50% are adult onset.

Fact: “According to the ADA, 1.25 million Americans have this disorder. This is about 5 percent of all diagnosed cases. The ADA estimates that 40,000 people receive a type 1 diagnosis each year in the United States.” Source: Healthline

Swallowing this fact has been a total reality check. Coming out of denial changed everything.

When it comes to chronic health issues especially ones that are invisible it’s hard for people to validate or understand our struggles. Keep in mind it’s not up to anybody else to verify what we are going through. Empathy and compassion is a powerful ally but in the end when the bugger’s hunkered down and immovable. What to do?

Flush out the tiger!

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It’s only through coming out and spreading awareness that truth can come to light.
It’s why I’ve been posting relentlessly here and all over social media. Plus writing about diabetes is therapeutic. It gives a voice to my inner world.

It’s also how I feel about the state of the union at the moment. Lets get it all out in the open. Let’s get to the bottom of this whole debacle. Let’s see the naked truth.

Once you know the truth about anything you’re free.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

When I go Low, I reach Higher

I can remember having a conversation with my doctor early on about my condition. I kept telling him I was afraid of going low because I’d read about it online. He kept telling me not to worry. “You can’t go low because your problem is high blood sugar. You’re not on insulin so we don’t need to even go there.”  

Now that I’ve been properly diagnosed as a Type 1 LADA and on insulin things are different. I’ve learned that balancing your blood sugar is like playing Russian roulette and that a low blood sugar happens because I’ve either miscalculated the amount of insulin I need to match the number of carbs in a meal, or I’ve exercised and injected too much insulin, or my basal insulin ( long-acting insulin) is set too high.  

Luckily I’m not hypo unaware (a condition that occurs when your body can no longer sense a low blood sugar due to repeated hypoglycemic events) but that doesn’t mean I don’t have anxiety around a low.

Being hypo unaware is probably the single biggest issue anyone has living with type 1. To remedy this we prick our fingers and check our meter’s incessantly, use CGM’s, have something called Glucagon (a shot which has to be mixed and prepared on the spot by someone else to get glucose into the blood stream fast) or have special diabetes alert dogs who can smell the change in our blood sugar levels, to remind us through barks and nudges to check that we are going low.Parents of young kids who live with diabetes set their alarms throughout the night to finger prick their kids, or check their CGM’s making sure they are in range. Imagine a young mum waking through the night year after year hoping their little one is still alive.

I don’t want to paint a horrific picture but it IS horrific.

So what happens when we are conscious enough to treat a low? Well often the fear and impatience of having to wait 20 minutes to see if your levels rise means 2 sips of juice turn into eating the entire contents of the fridge (no joke) By then, your blood sugar is screaming high and you have to inject again to bring it back down.Because I still produce that little bit of insulin and because I eat such a low carb diet my levels are very stable.

I’ve only gone below 3.9 a few times and have experimented enough to know exactly what will raise my levels. But I have had a few fridge binge moments that I’m not proud of. Like the time my meter said I was below 3.9 and I actually wasn’t and by the time I checked again it was too late!

For me having a steady yoga practice to help me deal with the stresses associated with the complexity of this disease has absolutely saved me.

It’s the number one reason why I jump on my mat, work with my breath and explore all aspects of this beautiful and ancient discipline. When I go low I reach higher inside myself to be grateful and accepting of whatever comes along. And sometimes a little thing like a flower on my afternoon walks makes all the difference.

 

Is that the bad kind?

The first time I encountered diabetes was when one of my teenage classmates had it. I can remember asking her what the diabetic alert bracelet she wore was for and why she couldn’t eat sugar. I never once saw her have a hypo, she never complained and to me she seemed completely normal.

Now that I live with type 1 diabetes I get how naïve I was and how amazing she was. She woke up every day and dealt with so many calculations, lows and highs. She was a super hero.

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When I was first diagnosed as pre-diabetic I thought I had type 2 diabetes. To me that meant I had every chance of reversing my diagnosis and the opportunity to continue living my life as I saw fit. Sure I’d have to eat a low glycemic diet and exercise more but that was easy. I’d been disciplined my whole life. It didn’t occur to me that because I didn’t fit the typical profile for a type 2 diabetic, something was awry.

It didn’t take long for things to come unhinged. About 6 months after my diagnosis the doctor let me know it was an autoimmune condition. “Your pancreas isn’t going to miraculously start producing insulin,” the doctor stressed, “eventually you’ll be on medication.” I can remember sitting in that office and feeling like I was being handed a death sentence. I was angry, confused and convinced myself he was wrong.

I didn’t want to admit that I had the same diabetes my childhood friend had. That kind of diabetes happens to kids, not too adults in their 40’s.  That’s the bad kind.

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Recently at a wedding I was caught in the act of eating my home cooked quiche and asked why I’d brought my own food. “I have diabetes,” I shared.

“Is that because you ate too much candy as a kid?”.

“No, sugar does not cause this kind of diabetes,” I replied, It’s autoimmune, my pancreas doesn’t produce insulin I have to control my carbs, inject or die!”

A bit dramatic I know, but I wanted to drive the point home.

I admit at times I find myself being envious of people who live with type 2. Somehow I imagine they must struggle less. But in reality I am sure they deal with as much stress as a type 1 diabetic. It just has different moods and flavours.

It’s not my fault that fate has lumped me with this condition. And at times I feel like such a failure. I can’t predict how each injection will be absorbed, how much is the right amount to take for travel, the weather or that lunch out with friends.

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As a young yoga teacher, when working with pregnant woman, I’d get them into a posture and encourage them to breathe through the intensity explaining that this was what childbirth was like. After having my own child, I felt like such a fraud.  Nothing can prepare you for childbirth, certainly not a prenatal yoga class!

And that’s exactly how I feel about living with diabetes. No matter how much I quizzed my type 1 friend, read about it or watched stuff on YouTube nothing could prepare me for what’s happening now as my beta cells slowly call it quits.

The one thing that has helped, besides my awesome yoga practice, is keeping my sense of humour. As I troll Facebook groups and connect with other type 1’s those clever type 1 memes get me going!

Here’s one of my favorites

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Something that my yoga teacher used to say, is that the joy is felt in the space after the laughter ends. With regards to keeping it upbeat in the face of the daily diabetes challenges his words certainly ring true for me. No matter what goes on joy, stillness, peace, love,  and all that good stuff are ever available.

That’s one thing having “the bad kind” can’t undo!

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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Do your best, get feedback and begin again

“Again! Let’s take it from D.” The young conductor was standing in front of a world class orchestra and a world famous conductor, my Dad and about to cast the first downbeat.

Young conductors know that this is the only way to improve. They do their best, get feedback and begin again. Watching the class and listening to my Dad’s comments it hit me; he has worked hard like this his whole life.

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When I was little, my dad was often hunched over a score at the piano making pencil markings, or waving his arms around with headphones on. I knew that we were supposed to be quiet and patient while Dad was studying, but I never quite ‘got’ why. I attended a dizzying amount of concerts and rehearsals as a kid and it all seemed so effortless.

It’s only now as an adult, living with diabetes, that I get it. What appears normal to others is actually a well thought out micromanaged existence designed to give the appearance of effortlessness.  If you knew that a conductor stopped the orchestra multiple times to correct a tempo, adjust the volume, or ask for more emotion, I wonder how you might listen to the final performance.

Knowing what goes on behind the scenes with my Dad makes me more sensitive and compassionate. These guys have worked their butts off. I also understand that making music is a true labor of love. Musicians use their bodies, their arms, legs, lips and voices to produce sound and hours of practice and effort takes its toll. Necks get sore, lips wear out, elbows get strained. But the orchestra keeps on going. The music survives and we the audience are entertained. It’s all worth it in the end.

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As someone who definitely micromanages their diabetes, I can relate. I’m not taking injections for meals yet, but I’m definitely on the verge. And I’m busy learning from my peers. I have to admit not only do I spend hours on my yoga mat, but an equal amount of hours reading articles on diabetes, chatting in facebook and twitter groups and staying abreast of the latest management strategies. Ideally I’d love to sit in on a master class with some of the greats.

Then last week it happened. I caught up with Hanna Boethius, a coach, writer and speaker who has lived with type 1 Diabetes for over 30 years. She offers motivational and inspiring ways to bring about change in diabetes management and has a profound understanding of how nutrition and lifestyle choices can balance diabetes.

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The first thing Hanna said to me, when I shared how often I check my blood sugar, was to remember that long acting insulin just slowly trickles through hour after hour. Without fast acting on board, I won’t suddenly drop low. If it hasn’t done it over the last 18 months, it’s not going to suddenly start now. With a gentle smile she suggested I trust my body more and give my fingers a rest.

We also discussed food and low carb diets. We both agreed that it has helped us immensely. But we also agreed it’s not for everyone. After nearly an hour and a half of sharing our insights on food and yoga in diabetes management, Hanna suggested we offer up our conversation as a webinar/google  hangout. We’d already planned a workshop in Zurich on how food and yoga can control diabetes, but thought it would be even better to spread our ‘masterclass’ to the worldwide DOC ( diabetes online community)

Hanna truly lives what she shares, which became even mores obvious when I headed over to her gorgeous and welcoming home on Lake Zurich for our webinar. She complained a little at the size of her kitchen, as it was too small for the amount of food they love to prepare at home, but we agreed that having a beautiful place makes up for it. She also shared with me later, as she walked me back to the train, that living in Switzerland has its perks when it comes to insurance. “I can have the sorts of medicines and equipment as I want and need it.”  I admit I’m envious. In Australia so many things aren’t covered (like CGM’s) and I would definitely have more confidence with my management if I knew I could afford to.

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Riding home after our webinar, reflecting on what I had learned from Hanna I thought again about my Dad and his mastery. When he steps out on stage and seamlessly conducts, the orchestra becomes one. One sound, One voice.

The word Yoga, as I described it in our webinar, also means oneness, wholeness. Understanding that the body is not separate from creation. Rather we are inseparably part of creation. And we can’t get out of creation either. Even if you get in a spaceship and head to Jupiter you’re still in creation.

With chronic illness we often isolate ourselves or feel like we’ve done something wrong. But the truth is there is no such thing as imperfection in creation. There’s just variations on a theme. In music those variations are celebrated, played with and teased out.

That’s how I work with my diabetes management as well.  In an upcycle (where my levels are stable) I think about what’s working and try and repeat that. In a downcycle (where my levels are more erratic) I can come back to what worked before or try something different to start again.

I can’t stress enough that no matter where you are on your journey with diabetes it’s important to reach out, be creative and keep exploring.  It’s something I learned from Dad when I was quite young and something I’m deeply grateful for today…

If you’d like to learn more about how food and yoga can help you control your diabetes check out our webinar below and if you want  to watch my awesome Dad go here

We’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

 

The day the world stood still

While the rest of the world still thinks it’s April 6th and is sending me birthday greetings from far and wide the dawn is breaking on a  very different kind of celebration for me. The 39th anniversary of my Mothers passing. 

It’s always been a conundrum celebrating the excitement of my birthday with the bittersweet of my mothers death.

I can remember so vividly my dad and step mother talking with me about the arrangement to fly across the country for my mothers funeral and me insisting I didn’t want to know about it. Who wants to talk about death on the day of their 11th birthday.

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What I love about living down under is that even though the sun has set on April 6th here, it continues on in other parts of the world and the spilling over of my birthday into a second day, means I just get to keep celebrating. Before I know it its April 8 and tragedy, loss and all the other associated emotions are merely faded memories.

That doesn’t mean I don’t mark the moment, I just don’t let it cast a shadow over the excitement of a new year ahead, the challenges to overcome,  the new friends to make and  all the exciting places to go.

This year is a little more special than others.

I’ve been here 50 years, nearly 40 of those without my mother. How has time moved so fast? It seems like just yesterday that she was brushing my cheek to wake me up for school. Driving me to various dance lessons or scolding me for running away that time with my friends. I wish I could remember more about her, but the loss of a parent at 11 means the memories have grown fainter.

My dreams of her however, have stayed clear.  Like the time she spoke to me when I  was pregnant or her long embrace during my divorce. In my dreams her hair is long and her smile wide. When I look at my cousins daughters I see that smile. Beautiful, happy and expectant.

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When I turned 40 I remember thinking that was it: my mother had only just made it past her own 40th birthday before passing and I was absolutely convinced the same fate awaited me. I’ve heard similar stories from friends… and how once you cruise past that date you feel invincible.  That’s why my own feelings as I approached my 50th surprised me. I found myself asking questions like; have I done enough? Explored every corner of possibility?

Is this happiness and contentment I feel the beginning of the end?

Catching up with my grade school friend, she asked me what were my plans for my 50th? She was thinking of doing something daring.  I admire her gumption but I’m definitely not a spills and thrills kinda gal. I wanted to do something simple, personal and meaningful. I wanted to be with my beautiful beloved in nature with time to reflect, watch the ocean and just be.

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It was a truly special day, a secret beach, warm ocean, circling hawks, we stripped bare and dove in. Letting the ocean wash away the previous 49 years. Feeling purified we couldn’t stop remarking on the perfection of the day.

And I know that if my mom were alive today  she’d be proud of the woman I have become.

Her legacy lives on in me.

with great respect…Rachel

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Yoga is the bridge that works

Konichiwa! I just landed in Japan for a 21 day yoga teaching tour and I am truly excited to dive in to teaching again. Travelling and teaching means I won’t be able to write as much so I wanted to share this uber cool guest post from Bella Girovich who is an inspiring type 1 yogini and blogger. Here’s her story AND her personal insights on the value of yoga for  diabetes. Take it away Bella…. 

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This all started in the winter of 2012. It was just around New Year’s Eve, and my family and I were getting a head-start on those New Year’s resolutions by taking a two week sabbatical (can you call it that in college!?) from life at a beautiful yoga center in Tulum, Mexico. The resort we were staying at is essentially a yogi’s paradise, complete with 2+ yoga practices per day, an unlimited supply of juices and smoothies, and sunshine and ocean to soothe the soul. The perfect set up for anyone to reboot and feel in the best shape of his/her life… right?

Well, for some of us, this was right. My mother, brother, and even my father (who was reluctant to try yoga but we eventually convinced him because he felt left out by day two) felt amazing. Me, on the other hand, is another story entirely. I woke up every morning at 7:30 for our 8 AM practice feeling tired, groggy, and lethargic, even though I had gotten plenty of sleep. For some reason, I had the strangest craving for bananas that I could not shake, and disturbed every morning practice by walking in late like a chimp with three bananas in tow. So why did I feel so awful? I was on vacation on the beach in Mexico, after all! My family poked fun at me because going on a yoga retreat was my idea in the first place, and I was the one complaining!

I blew this off as nothing, perhaps my body just reacting to a lot of physical practice in a short amount of time. Back at college in Washington, D.C., one of my friends and I decided to try out eating a raw food diet. We were both marginally interested in nutrition, and had started working at a local juice bar. How hard could it be, we thought? Well, I thought I would have it easy, being that my friend doing the diet with me was about a foot taller, 30 pounds heavier, and a male. For the first few days, we struggled through it together, laughing our way through the college dining hall with our huge bowls of spinach and raw veggies as people cast sideways glances our way. After about three days, my friend woke up and texted me how amazing he felt, and I could barely keep my eyes open. I had just joined a sorority at my university, and I attributed my lethargy to having hundreds of conversations with peppy strangers.

After about a week of feeling “off,” I was putting on mascara in my friend’s room on Friday morning, and my hand was shaking so much that I ended up looking more like a raccoon than the smoky eye I had intended. My friends looked at me anxiously, but I was too busy trying to steady my hand that I did not even notice.

“We are taking you to the health center,” they asserted, as if I did not have a choice.

“No way!” I exclaimed. “I have class in 20 minutes. Besides, they’re going to tell me I’m pregnant or have cancer,” I joked, mostly to ease my own nerves.

Being 1/3 the size of my friends, there was no fighting it- they physically dragged me across our small campus to the health center. The walk was probably only under a mile, but felt like it took an eternity.

We arrived at the health center at 8:45, 15 minutes before opening. After begging someone to see me, a nurse came in and barely looked me in the eyes as she took all of my vitals. Eventually, she went to prick my finger and check my blood glucose levels.

“Umm… can you skip that part?” I anxiously joked. I was always in Chicago, with my mom, when I had to go to the doctor’s office, and was a little squeamish around blood.

The nurse laughed at me as if I had said something hilarious, and proceeded to prick my finger. “I’ll be back in two minutes,” she stated, as if I was a nuisance.

She didn’t come back for twenty.

I could go through the gory details of my week spent in the hospital, but this was essentially how I found out I am a type one diabetic. At 18 years old, I was already an established “human” in the world, with my own diet, lifestyle habits, and yoga practice. I had already completed a teacher training and had a fairly regular practice.

After diagnosis, I had no idea how to effectively manage my blood glucose levels. Starting on insulin caused me to gain 20 pounds in a few short months, which made me even less inclined to make it to the studio, let alone even put on yoga pants.

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It took almost an entire year and the accumulation of a solid group of “yoga buddies” for me to feel comfortable walking into a studio again. However, as soon as I did, my mind remembered what my body had been missing the entire time.

Asana is incredibly effective for controlling blood glucose levels, in diabetics and non-diabetics alike. However, to me, yoga is so much more than twisting my body in this and that way. If my diagnosis with diabetes was the severing of my mind’s connection with my body, yoga was the bridge that worked (and is still working) to reconnect these two distant parts that make up “me.”

On more days than I would like to admit, I feel that my body is betraying me. Knowing that my beta cells are being blocked by my white blood cells every single day is pretty discouraging. However, every day, I come to my mat, and begin to feel again. I feel appreciation for my physical body; for my feet for carrying me into the studio, my hands for holding me in downward dog, my legs for holding me in warrior two, and my heart for opening up in my backbends more and more with each and every practice.

Without yoga, I would carry myself through the world filled with resentment and bitterness for the deck of cards I have been played. Instead, I can walk with my heart open and my head held high with gratitude for all that I do have, and for the practice of yoga that humbles me each and every day.

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Forever a student of the world, Bella is interested in the intersection of all forms of health, be it Western science, holistic nutrition, or ancient practices. Growing up in Chicago has shaped her yoga practice in that she found solace on her mat in the middle of a bustling city, and took this inner peace with her to D.C, Israel, India, and now to Atlanta where she is getting her Masters in Public Health at Emory University.  https://unsweetnlo.wordpress.com/