yogafordiabetesblog

Boy how things have changed

People still think I’m the same as I was pre diagnosis. It’s hard for them to wrap their head around the fact that I’m not in control anymore.There was the life I had before diabetes, the one where I ate pretzel croissants, pizza bread and chocolate and the one I have now; low carb meals, afternoon walks and 15 finger pricks a day.

The only diabetic I ever knew was in high school. I can still remember her ID bracelet circling her wrist and the diabetic friendly sweets she ate on the bus. She never complained and never explained. I knew it was something awful but how can anyone understand what it’s like to live with a disease that requires your attention all day, every day. I have never felt so guilty about food in my life. Always asking myself; did I eat too much? too little? did I walk enough? inject enough?

And by the way…. I am sick of people telling me how strong and brave I am. F-k that! If I could jump off the dia-boat I would. Who wouldn’t? Bravery and strength have nothing to do with it. How would you feel if you got lumped with something you didn’t ask for and didn’t do anything to get?

That’s why I get so frustrated when everyone keeps asking why it took me so long to go on Insulin. If you’d been in my shoes? Wouldn’t you have tried everything too?

I don’t regret one minute of trying something alternative. Each practitioner gave me hope. I think that’s what someone who doesn’t have diabetes doesn’t quite grasp. It’s hard not to equate the words “no cure” with “no hope”. I’m still hopeful, but I’ve learnt to be realistic.

I’m a realistic optimist.

I take my time with just about everything now and it’s not because I’m into “self care.” If I rush out the door and don’t have everything I need its a disaster. People say they admire my discipline. But the truth is… if I could drink martinis and pig out on ice cream I would.

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So do I believe in fate? Not really…. It’s like you get what you get. And YES I’m angry enough about the unfairness of it all to punch a wall. But I also feel grateful.

Before my diagnosis there was no off switch. I was used to doing, eating and behaving as I saw fit. I made up my own rules and lived my idea of what it meant to be healthy. I ignored the medical establishment and put my faith in things that eventually wore thin. That’s not to say that I don’t use alternative health and healing methods to accompany my allopathic regime. It just means I’m no longer hiding in the cupboard at the thought of taking a Panadol.

And Gratitude has been a big plus in my life. Everyday I literally imagine humbling myself at the unknown machinations of creation. There are some things that can’t be answered. Understanding that I’m not alone in having unanswerable questions makes things easier to bear.

But that doesn’t mean that some days aren’t crappy. So… If you don’t feel like being grateful or couldn’t be bothered with self care and wind up telling your friend to go jump in a pond because they’re just not getting it?

You’ll survive….

With great respect…. Rachel

The Healing Power of Sound

Concentration. It’s necessary for just about everything. Think about how it is when you are engaged in doing something you love. All your attention and all your energy is there. Concentration is one of the first things we work with when we start a Yoga practice. Because we are putting our bodies into challenging positions and asked to breathe deeply we have to bring all our awareness to that one point. And what happens? Eventually the mind relaxes and we feel calm, light and relaxed.

What we learn in Yoga is that deep focus leads to deep relaxation. So what about when we are stressed? That requires concentration as well. We have to identify with the stress to perpetuate it. The classic example in Yoga is the story of the Rope and the Snake. You’re walking along the road, it’s dark, you see something that looks like a Snake, you panic get out your flashlight and shine a light on the supposed Snake, which turns out to be Rope. Your panic turns to relief. For as long as you thought the Rope was a Snake, the stress perpetuated itself.

Concentration is the first and most important step to meditation. Students often share that they can’t meditate. You might even be thinking that right now. So I’ll let you in on a secret; in Yoga when we’re practicing meditation it’s actually concentration.

The word for concentration in sanskrit is Dharana. Any technique you learn in a Yoga class is a Dharana technique. It might be watching your breath or counting your breaths. Breathing while you are in a pose. visualising a light in between your eyebrows, chanting the sound Om. All these different practices are there to teach your mind to concentrate. Why? Because when the mind is occupied it lets go of its preoccupation with thoughts. In other words it stops concentrating on all the myriad stresses, worries, expectations and beliefs. It’s the same when you’re focussed on doing something you love. It’s relaxing and freeing. You feel completely open, happy and time disappears.

My favourite way to concentrate is to work with repetition of sound, In Yoga it’s called Mantra. I have always loved to sing, was an avid member of the choir and played the lead in several high school musicals. I began writing songs in my early twenties when I married a singer songwriter. While in a Yoga class with my teacher in New York City I discovered devotional chanting. Often at the end of a class our teacher would chant a series of Sanskrit words to a traditional tune. The sounds were soothing and uplifting and inspired me so much that I made it my mission to learn the meaning of the words and to add them to my own classes. I found that making up my own tunes to the Mantras was a great way for me to remember them and improved my concentration.

Sacred Chanting for healing

One of the first things I did after my diagnosis was  to work with Mantra. It didn’t matter what the Mantra was, it was the repetitive nature and my intention to let go of my need to identify with every worrisome thought, that brought me back to a calm frame of mind. The science behind it comes from a study done by Herbert Benson, who coined a phrase called the Relaxation Response. his studies demonstrated that when patients suffering from a variety of ailments were given sounds or phrases to repeat, from any religion or tradition, their nervous systems switched from the flight or flight response to the relaxation response, which in turn promoted pain relief, stress relief and immune system recovery.

I have always had a devotional nature so incorporating devotional singing and repeating mantras is food for my soul and something I do every day in my morning practice.  Not everyone feels comfortable repeating sounds in an unfamiliar language. So below is a simple mantra practice which you can adapt and adjust to your liking and belief system. The main component is the repetition of a word or phrase with the intention to let go of the preoccupation with the thoughts.

You may find yourself thinking during the practice, it’s not about stopping the thoughts. No matter what thoughts come, go back to the word or phrase you have chosen. Working with the practice for 40 days is enough to establish the habit of concentration so if you can set time aside every day, even 5 minutes you will notice a profound difference.  With great respect…Rachel

And…here’s one of the Chants I recorded with my band the Subway Bhaktis if you’d like some inspiration

Mantra practice

Sit quietly observing your breath for a few moments

Bring your awareness to the centre of your chest

Think of a word or phrase that is meaningful to you it could be Love, Peace, Joy, It could be a prayer in your faith. Choose something you would feel comfortable repeating. It does not have to be a positive affirmation. The purpose of the practice is to bring the mind to a one pointed focus and draw it out of its preoccupation with thought. 

Once you have chosen the word or phrase repeat it initially for 2 minutes, then increase to 3 minutes and work you way up to 5 minutes over 40 days. You can use a timer on your phone with an alarm or if you have a Mala or Rosary you can count the repetitions. 27 repetitions takes about 2 minutes, 54 about 10 minutes and 108 takes 20 minutes

Rachel Zinman Yoga

There will always be Beauty

When I was first diagnosed in 2008 it was a complete shock. I’ll never forget the moment my ex-husband rushed into my Yoga room and announced that the doctor had told him my blood work was odd and I needed to make an appointment straight away. I thought it was Yoga Burnout, working too hard for too many years, nothing a good rest and some herbs couldn’t cure. The doctor was tough, “You’re Diabetic and you’ll need to be responsible for your own cure if you don’t want to end up on Insulin.” He didn’t know what type of Diabetes I had, he assumed it was Type 2. But after visiting the specialist, who was equally puzzled we deduced it was Pre Diabetes and that it could be reversed. I was put on a strict diet and exercise regime, had to shun my vegetarian ways and build up my Iron, B12 and try and balance a host of other anomalies like pituitary and thyroid issues. Instead of pushing myself harder and doing more physical Yoga I turned to the devotional aspect, Bhakti.

Bhakti is the Yoga of emotion, devotion and surrender. If my Type A personality had driven me to this point surely I could learn to soften those rough edges through bringing more surrender to my daily life. I began to go for long walks enjoying the sights, smells and beauty of the flowers that lined the streets. Soon I began picking the flowers and bringing them home and shaping them into patterns called Yantras which represent the invisible and visible patterns we see all around us such as leaves, spiderwebs and snowflakes. Science tells us that when we concentrate on shapes it invokes the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that relaxes us after a stressful event). Sight is one of our predominate senses so any form of artistic activity calms and nurtures us, but according to studies children learn best when working with geometrical shapes and colours first, before moving on to letters and numbers.

For me, the daily absorption of placing flowers into simple geometrical designs took my mind out of its need to get lost in the fears and projections of what might be. It brought me to a place of acceptance and surrender. Even if I could not enjoy sweets like I used to I could still create something beautiful.

Rachel Zinman Yoga

Through my daily practice and the art of surrender I was able to make the choice to go on Insulin and accept my diagnosis. Now I see the sweetness in everything and feel lucky that there is something like Insulin to keep me alive and sharing what I love. Yoga, no matter what style or form, helps me to manage the disease on a daily basis. That’s why I am so passionate to share some of the things I have learned with you.

Why not take some time today to reconnect with your own beauty and sweetness and let me know how it went…with great respect Rachel

Rachel Zinman Yoga

When you go out into your day take some time to look at something beautiful. It could be a flower on the sidewalk, a tree, a bird, the face of a child – anything that touches your heart. Remind yourself that the beauty you see is how beautiful you are.  You are the beauty itself.  Find something beautiful to bring home with you. Something you could put in a special place so you will see it every day.

And a big thank you to Lauren Tober from Capturing Gratitude for the beautiful photos above