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

A horrible hypo

I titled this post at 2 am this morning after a sudden hypo around dinner time. At 2 am I was thinking clearly, taking time to make a note on my phone so I wouldn’t forget. At 7.15 pm things were a whole lot more chaotic. Well not at first….

I was cruising nicely through my evening yoga practice after taking my basal shot (long acting insulin which keeps my blood sugar level over night) about 30 minutes prior. I’ve been playing around with where to take the shot to avoid insulin absorption issues, and decided to inject in the soft fleshy area in the top part of my bum. There was a sting on entry and when I pulled the needle out quite a bit of bleeding so I knew I hit a capillary. I wasn’t concerned. Usually this means the insulin won’t absorb as well and I’ll sustain a higher level overnight.

I hopped on my mat, forgetting all about the shot. It was towards the end of my practice that I noticed some itchy sensations around my waist. This is usually a sign that I am going low but sometimes that itch comes when I’m high. I actually find the itch super annoying. It’s not at all useful in helping me determine whether I should check my level or not. Luckily I checked.

3.4 mmol flashed large on my blood glucose meter. This is NOT a good result. This is a scary result. The last time I had checked I was 5.4 and usually it would stay that number until dinner. This sudden and fast drop could only mean one thing. My long acting insulin had hit my blood stream and was absorbing all at once. If I’d been wearing a CGM ( continuous glucose monitor) I could have seen the trend. Arrow pointing down on an angle means I can treat it with around 8 grams of fast acting carbs and it would come up in 20 minutes. Arrow pointing straight down would mean taking 15 grams and still having to wait 20 minutes.

Sadly I cannot afford a CGM. I had to fly blind.

After cramming two tabs in my mouth at once I sat back down on my mat. By now the itch had turned into a crawl which went from head to toe. My husband who was sitting next to me and in the middle of his own yoga practice reminded me to breathe.

I engaged whats called Ujayii breath a slow whispering breath, which sounds almost like a snore and tried to focus on lengthening my exhalation. It worked and I stayed calm but it did little to budge the numbers on my meter. I took another tab and a half and started raving and ranting This is the point where someone telling me to calm down doesn’t  work.  Me telling me to calm down doesn’t work.

Telling myself, “don’t react, don’t eat more tabs, just be here, it will pass, your blood sugar will come up” is like that feeling on the edge of orgasm when the thought comes “don’t do it… hold off… keep enjoying…” and then you go for it anyway.

Not the best analogy, because sex feels good while hypos are horrible, a total brain melt. 

It took 30 minutes and three and half glucose tabs to come out of the tail spin. The graph on the app which measures my data went straight up. When I pulled out my syringe to take some fast acting insulin for dinner my husband was confused. Why are you taking insulin when insulin just caused the problem? How to explain that if I don’t take some insulin to cover the meal I’ll rebound even higher.

Living with diabetes is a fine and tenuous balancing act between the horror of lows and the haunting of highs. No matter which way you look at it you can’t win. Best not to try. Thankfully I rarely have these testing moments. I chalk this up to a consistent and daily yoga routine. More of which I’ll share with you here during #diabetesawarenessmonth.

Want to learn the ujayii breathing technique I use to calm myself during a low? Watch this short video below and join in.

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

Sex and Diabetes: the good news

This post may contain affiliate links to products I trust. Please read Disclaimer for more info

Chocolate is sexy. Wearing red is sexy. Deep conversations…..sexy. Diabetes? Not so much.

When I was first diagnosed I wasn’t on insulin which meant no low blood sugars. In fact, a good romp meant lower blood sugars and time in range. I always felt better after, healthier and relaxed. It was also a respite. A moment where I was no longer obsessed with my meter. Although FYI I always tested before and after just in case.

After starting insulin, sex felt daring. Even risque. I never knew what the outcome would be. Would my liver kick in and dump more sugar or would my own insulin take over and plummet me to the depths? Sex felt like Russian roulette. Instead of gazing into the eyes of my beloved I was in full panic mode, making sure my glucose tabs were handy ‘just in case’.

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So how did I recover my mojo from those early diagnosis days?

Yoga, breath, and meditation.

Not quite sexy, but oh so satisfying. Yoga and its varied practices are the best way I know to regulate the nervous system and here’s why.

The system that’s responsible for the stress response and the sex response are located in the same part of your brain. They function at the same time and in response to each other. The center for learning, feeling good and motivation are also located in the same area. That means that the nervous system is intimately involved in all the different aspects of our sexual experience. I.e. anticipation, build up, orgasm and release.

Living with diabetes is a major stressor. We’re dealing with unpredictable blood sugars on top of everyday life. Stress also inhibits our sexual sensitivity and sensuality.

According to Artemis School and anatomy project founder, Lara Catone, “When the nervous system feels safe and can enter a state of relaxed downregulation the body can enter the processes it needs for both physical and emotional healing as well as the opportunity to experience more flow, pleasure and “better” sex. “

So how can we support the body to feel safe?

Starting with the breath. Breath regulates the nervous system. It’s easy to use and foolproof. There’s not one second that you’re not breathing right? And not only that you can use it during sex. The next time you’re at it in the boudoir try and catch how your breathing.

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Are you panting? Sighing? Holding your breath? See if you can consciously breathe evenly and slowly. Even dare to increase the length of your exhalation which deliberately calms the nervous system. You’re probably thinking, c’mon that’s crazy… Sex is all about letting go.

And yes it is! However, when you work consciously with your breath during sex you can actually enhance and increase your sexual pleasure. Especially at the moment of orgasm and just after. There is a whole area of modern yoga dedicated to the idea of sacred sexuality which borrows from eastern mysticism streams like the Tao.

The simple practice of controlling your breath is just the first step in teaching your body to relax. Immediately after orgasm is another opportune moment to pause.

Try this meditation for maximum post sex relaxation

You’ve just put your body through the paces building up to a burst of heady pleasure and connection with your lover. Instead of falling asleep in the afterglow sit upright and find your most comfortable seat. Begin to watch your breath. Notice the initial pace and speed slowing down to a steady rhythm. Not trying to control the breath you let it wash over and soothe you tuning in to the sensations all over your body. Perhaps you feel lighter, more tingly, perhaps there is a feeling of profound relaxation.

Bring your awareness to the center of your chest and imagine a light there no bigger than the size of your thumb. Feel it expanding on inhalation and drawing back to a pinprick on exhalation. Keep increasing the expansion of light on inhalation until you feel it surrounding you then draw it back on exhalation to the smallest dot. As you continue to do this notice how calm and present you feel. Working with the heart center enhances feelings of love, connection, and trust. On that note, it might even be something you and your partner would like to practice together.

You can work with this meditation practice for any length of time. It could be a few minutes or as long as a good soak in a tub. It’s up to you.

After finishing the practice sink back into your beloved’s arms and relax further. Then do what needs to be done for your diabetes knowing that the relaxed part of your nervous system is tuned in and switched on.

In my personal experience, the practices of yoga continue to enhance my sensitivity and ability to cope with diabetes in any situation. It has even made my diabetes, SEXY!

Check out my heart light meditation as a guided visualization and if you’d like to enhance your practice with mudra for diabetes I recommend checking out my favorite book, Yoga for the Hands by Gertrud Hirschi

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Every day is a perfect day

One of my husband’s axioms is, “Every day is a perfect day. It just depends on what you do with it.” I love it. And it’s true, it’s up to me how I navigate this thing called life.

Take last week when we moved interstate. You might be thinking we packed a moving van, moved into a lovely house and spent the week unpacking all our stuff.

Nope.

We’ve been shacked up in an Airbnb fighting ant invasions while we house hunt, get to know the locals and continue our daily practice.

Before we moved everyone kept asking me if I was sad to be leaving where I’ve lived for 35 years. Trying to answer that is hard. John and I have been on the move for the last eight years. That’s eight years of living in Airbnb’s, sublets and house sits. As fun as it is to be a global yoga teacher, I’m ready to be in one place for long enough to teach weekly classes.

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I also get how I can’t make things happen just because I want them to.  It’s going to take time to find a place to live, to develop a reputation in the area and to find the right medical team as well. I can feel the tendency to want everything to be perfect right now. It’s tough facing my perfectionism. It follows me wherever I go.

Just before we moved I went to see my CDE to get my latest A1c. The results were even better than last time and a cause for celebration. But I didn’t celebrate. Not because I’m not proud of myself for smashing my goals, but because I can’t ignore how much work it takes to have a “normal” A1c.

A number is just that a number. It can’t reflect the sugar surfing, the micromanaging, sleepless glucose popping nights or the endless times I have to drag myself onto the mat and convince myself to practice because I know that if I don’t my levels will suffer.

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Being a yoga teacher doesn’t mean yoga comes naturally to me. Like everyone else, it takes discipline to keep it up. Even the most hardened practitioners admit they struggle. So how do I keep myself enthused?

I use my imagination and visualize myself going through my favorite postures, taking the time to slow my breath down.  Basking in the afterglow of meditation I imagine my day post-yoga. I picture my body strong and resilient.  I’m prepared knowing challenges will arise but trust I’ll be more accepting in my response.

As I visualize all these benefits from my practice I start to get excited about actually practicing and before I know it it’s happening. I’m on the mat making my dream a reality.

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So why not join me in a yoga for diabetes practice. We might not be able to outsmart our pancreas but we can sure as heck work on feeling our very best every day.

Because every day IS perfect…it’s all up to us!

with great respect…

rachel 

Back on track with yoga

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.

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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.

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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.

I love how Yoga always gets me back on track!

with great respect…

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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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All I really want to do is eat chocolate pizza!


Welcome to day two of Diabetes Blog Week. Already its been an intense smorgasboard of words and images to take in. I am absolutely loving this years posts and it’s only Tuesday. Huge thank you to Karen from Bitter Sweet Diabetes for making this happen. Todays theme is The other half of diabetes- Tuesday

We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk?

Oh my god I love diabetes- said no one EVER! But I can live with it. Why? Because I’ve worked for years to refine my attitude towards adversity. When I was a kid I was super competitive. If someone said I couldn’t do something I was determined to prove them wrong. Simple dares, like I bet you can’t climb to the top of that tree to complex ultimatums like; if you quit college you’ll never be a success were treated with equal merit. I made sure I climbed that tree, quit college and lived a successful happy life.

Living with a type A personality however is a double edged sword. I obsess about the numbers on my meter as much as I try and perfect my to-do list. I sweat over my doctors visit espousing to be the perfect Zen yogi when all I really want to do is eat chocolate pizza and give up!

I actually think my frustration helps me cope. Allowing myself to cry, be angry and feel hopeless gives me a break from the part of me that strives for perfection. In fact, every now and then I let myself be a disaster area. Test strips all over the floor, a handful of almonds (yep that’s my comfort food) and binge watching ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.’

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But besides slacking off I do see yoga and yoga practices as a lifeline. Having solid tools to calm my mind and nervous system makes a huge difference to my mental emotional state. Especially when I am dealing with a week of frustratingly high blood sugars or panicking over lows.

Coming back to my breath, slowing down and gaining perspective through quiet reflection are just some of the ways I cope. I also look to my partner for support and advice. He doesn’t have diabetes but he has incredible wisdom and knowledge and is always reminding me that even though the body has a disease, I can never be the disease and that my thoughts about the disease are much more trouble than the diabetes itself.

Learning to manage my thoughts, seeing them for what they are and knowing myself as that presence in whom all thoughts come and go creates a space for me to accept what’s happening. It’s not always easy but it helps.

And then there’s my absolute favourite tool for changing my attitude. The breath!

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 Try this simple technique to let go of stressful thoughts, worries and negativity

You can do this sitting in a chair, lying down or simply standing in line at the post office. Breathing in for an even count imagine you are breathing in love, joy, peace and calm Doubling the length of your exhalation breath out stress, negativity, fear or whatever it is that you want to let go of. Keep going until you find you’re hardly breathing and totally relaxed.

That’s it!

With great respect… Rachel

P.S Want to know more about my passion for yoga and diabetes? I’m offering the first chapter of my new book on Yoga for Diabetes for free. Find the right practice for your type by learning all about Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga.

Getting into your breath

Happy Spring!

When I started this blog 16 month’s ago my aim was to share tips and tricks on how yoga can help you manage your diabetes.  I was going to upload practices each week and create a body of work that would eventually lead to an online resource. Well … in my excitement I kind of got off track. I came across so many inspiring people who live with diabetes and do yoga that I wanted to share their insights too and then I wrote a book, which by the way is on the cusp of being ready.

But besides the diabetes related stuff I do I actually have a day job. I travel nationally and internationally teaching yoga workshops, retreats and teacher trainings with my partner and fellow yoga teacher, John Weddepohl.

Last month our work took us to Japan. It was my 10th visit and Johns 1st and besides teaching a ton of yoga we visited temples, Mt. Fuji, saw plum blossoms and went bowling! It was cold but refreshing and my blood sugar levels staying in range for the entire trip. You can imagine how exciting that was.

After spending 30 days writing, talking and sharing all about my life as a type 1 LADA diabetic in order to raise funds to publish the book, I had almost forgotten that most of the time my focus is on sharing yoga with people who don’t have diabetes. My trip to Japan was a great reminder. No matter what’s going on, yoga works. It worked for me before my diagnosis and it definitely works for me now. My emphasis on why might be different, but the results are the same.

As part of my day job I also teach private sessions and am currently working with someone who wants to increase their breath capacity. It’s been amazing to see instant results when I share how to feel and find the breath. Like how certain poses open up the chest to increase the lungs ability to take in more air, or how some postures release the muscles that can tighten up and restrict our breathing.

In my book on Yoga for Diabetes I devote a whole chapter to breath and breathing. But for todays blog I just wanted to share 3 simple postures that can improve your breath capacity and calm and restore your nervous system.
With great respect…Rachel

And … If you’d like to find out more about when the book is coming out and how to get your hands on a copy you can sign up for my newsletter here.

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1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet placed firmly on the floor inner hip width distance apart. Raise your arms up over your  head, backs of the palms touching the floor. Keep the arms wide so there is no tension in your shoulders. Notice how easy it is to breathe into your chest in this position. Hold and breathe for 10 breaths. Then lower your arms and breathe normally and notice if your breath feels lighter.

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2. Keeping your knees bent and your feet flat and have your arms relaxed alongside your torso, palms facing down. Raise your pelvis towards the sky. Make sure there is no pressure on the back of your neck. If there is, place a blanket under your shoulders. Begin to breathe into your belly. Watch it rise and fall. In this position your diaphragm (the muscle that sits underneath your rib cage and releases and contracts in order for your lungs to take in air) naturally releases. Hold here and take 10 deep belly breaths. Slowly lower your pelvis back down to the ground and relax.

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3.  Come on to your hands and knees. Step your left foot in between your hands lining up the heel of your front foot with the base of your thumbs. keep your belly connected to your front thigh and breathe. Deepen the bend in the front knee making sure your front knee and ankle stay in a straight line. ( If you bend your knee too far and extend over your front ankle you could strain the knee joint!) Feel the stretch on the opposite front  thigh and groin. This stretches the psoas which is the only muscle in the body which connects the upper half of the body to the lower half. When the psoas is tight it also restricts your breathing. Hold here for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.

 

 

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Taking on the World!

Today is World Diabetes Day. In just a little over a year my life and my understanding of Type 1 Diabetes has changed dramatically. A year ago I was in tears at the thought of having to inject for the rest of my life. I felt defeated and devastated, because I’d assumed that all the hard work I’d put into my health hadn’t paid off. But I was wrong. Having diabetes isn’t my fault. Type 1 Diabetes is an incurable autoimmune condition with a genetic componant. It runs in my family. My great grandfather had it, my great uncle had it and now so do I.

I try and be polite when someone insists there IS a cure, or that if I eat such and such I’ll feel better. If it hasn’t worked for 10% of the 380 million baby, it ain’t gonna work for me.

And I refuse to just act like everything’s normal. This is a fragile disease. I feel fragile. It’s okay.

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It’s that sense of fragility that drives me onto the mat. I’m convinced the practice of Yoga keeps me sane. Especially 365 injections later.

Oh my god…. did I just say that?

Last year I didn’t know anyone with Type 1. 365 days later I’ve met and made new friends, found a worldwide support network, started a blog, written for magazines like Insulin Nation and A Sweet Life, been an ambassador for BEYOND TYPE 1 and had my story and tips for thriving with diabetes published in a #1 Best Seller.

And I’ve managed to keep up my practice, teach yoga worldwide and enjoy the support of my loving partner John.

I can’t imagine what the next 365 days will bring but the future excites me.

As the technology improves to make life with this disease easier, as Insulin becomes smarter, as more of us contribute resources towards a cure and as our understanding of the causes of the disease refines, you never know. I might just be able to say that one day I used to have diabetes.

In honour of all the emotions, the challenges and struggles my offering to you for this special day is this simple heart balancing meditation…with great respect Rachel

Why Yoga for Diabetes?

When I was coming up with the name for my blog I came across a book about Yoga and Diabetes by Dr. Lisa Nelson and Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher Annie Kay. I subsequently ordered it.

I love it! A simple, down to earth manual to inspire both Types 1’s and 2’s to take up a yoga practice while learning about its profound benefits. I wrote to Lisa and Annie, told them my story and asked them to share why they wrote the book and include a simple practice.

The following piece is written by Lisa Nelson M.D

I have been teaching about the effectiveness of yoga as a tool for managing diabetes since 2012, when I first co-taught the Prevent and Reverse Diabetes program at the Kripalu School of Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, MA with the lovely Annie B. Kay (my co-author for Yoga and Diabetes).  This 6 day on-site immersion program is a blend of yoga, nutrition, mindful eating, meditation, group support, and diabetes management.  Though primarily geared toward people with Type 2 diabetes (hence the “prevent” in the title), the program is also useful for people with Type 1 DM who want to use lifestyle modifications to positively impact their health.

Rather than describe what I think guests got out of this program, I’d like to share an email I received from a graduate of our Spring 2014 program:

“My 4-month check-up with my endocrinologist was today. Both the nurse and my doctor separately told me how good I looked, which took me aback somewhat. They were not referring to my weight but my aspect – maybe a healthier glow? A more relaxed demeanor?  My A1C went from 7.1 in November to 5.8 today – this only 2 months post-Kripalu. My doctor and I are beyond pleased. I have fully ended my Victoza and cut my Metformin in half. My BP med is back down to a “whiff” and was 118/80 today. As far as other things beyond med reduction – I think I mentioned in class (to laughter) that I have the odd feeling of being taller. I guess that is really just a greater feeling of well being or a lightness of being – and this occurred before I lost weight. I think since Kripalu, I have lost approximately 20 pounds. Unlike the others in our group, I am 10+ years post diabetes diagnosis; so it shows that even a long-termer can get results. I can only imagine how the others’ numbers will look a month from now.”

yoga and diabetes

This story is not unique– we have heard from so many people over the years about how this yoga-based program helped numerous aspects of their lives, not just their “numbers.”  People come away feeling more resilient, more balanced, physically lighter, and better able to manage their diabetes.

Our experience with the transformative effect of yoga for people with chronic disease is what inspired Annie and I to work with the American Diabetes Association on our book, Yoga and Diabetes.  We believe that our program at Kripalu was successful because yoga is a powerful tool for life change.  So often, people know what they need to do to support their health, but they aren’t able to actually make the time or mental shift to allow it to happen.  The practice of yoga helps to create the space for healthy change to emerge.  It is transformative; it is a tool for self-healing.

It is our sincere hope that Yoga and Diabetes will help introduce this beautiful science and practice to a whole new audience, so they can reap the benefits of yoga’s healing power.

If you are new to yogic practices, here is one of the breathing practices that we discuss in our book. This practice is calming, balancing and relaxing.

Alternate nostril breathing (“Nadi Shodhana”)

This “sweet breath” is thought to calm and balance the nervous system.

Sit in a comfortable position. Notice the rhythm of your natural breath. Bend index and middle finger of your right hand toward your palm. Keep the other fingers and thumb straight. Press right thumb against your right nostril, blocking it off. Inhale thorough the left nostril.  B. Pause, then place the right ring finger over the left nostril, and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril. Pause, place the thumb back over the right nostril, and exhale through the left.

Begin with three cycles of this breath, and increase to 1 to 2 minutes, then work your way up to 10 minutes.

Yoga and Diabetes

Lisa Nelson MD is a practicing family physician and is the Director of Medical Education for the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA and Medical Director of The Nutrition Center, a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire a healthy relationship with food through counseling, nutrition, and culinary education for school aged children.  

Annie B. Kay MS RDN RYT is the author of the award-winning book Every Bite Is Divine, a licensed integrative Dietitian, master yoga teacher, and Lead Nutritionist at The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA. She has been writing and educating internationally on integrative lifestyle for over two decades. www.anniebkay.com