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.

 

DIY wedding bells and diabetes

Last weekend I attend a three-day farm wedding with a twist. I can’t actually put into words what it means to see someone you love give their heart and soul to someone else.  But what I am bursting to say is… this was the best wedding I’ve ever been to!

The happy couple wanted all their friends to come together, meet each other and experience community and the power of co-creation. A Do-It-Yourself wedding.

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Gone were the wedding planners, elaborate tents, hired caterers and contracted musicians. Forget celebrants and fancy rings. Imagine 58 people staying in busses, tents and haylofts. From the moment we arrived the farm was a hive of activity. The farmhouse kitchen spilled over with home-grown lettuces and courgettes, homemade cakes and breads. Once we unpacked we were encouraged to roll up our sleeves and join in.

A huge barbecue was lit, picnic tables were erected and people began putting together vegan foil parcels to throw on the grill. By the time the sun went down the grill turned into a massive fire pit surrounded by laughing, smiling eyes.

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The next morning under a clear blue sky about 15 people showed up for early morning yoga. At the end of the practice I asked the group to place their hands on the earth and imagine planting seeds for the bride and groom. I decided to join in on the exercise and imagined them living a successful and heartfelt life together. It was hard not to cry.

After Yoga everyone contributed to brunch. Someone had made a giant fruit salad, someone else had cut slabs of cheese, the breads remerged as did vegan pancakes. My partner and I slipped out for a walk into the surrounding wheat and corn fields and by the time we returned the wedding preparations were in full swing. People were hanging photos of the happy couple from trees, Others were busy setting up a photo automat booth with costumes and an old fashioned camera. There was an activity to make a “memory game” with hand drawn cards and a close knit group were busy decorating the area for the ceremony with paper flowers (hand made of course) and flags. There was literally an army of people cutting up vegetables for the vegan feast to come after the ceremony and then there were the cooks busy making the food.

IMG_8972I decided to get involved in the flower arranging with the bride. She wanted bouquets for the parents and flowers for the tables and an elaborate garland to decorate the table for the wedding party. As my hands touched each stem and I began to bring the flowers together I thought of her grandmother who had a gift with growing and arranging flowers. We both agreed this was actually the best part of the preparations, being knee deep in roses, cornflowers and baby’s breath. What a pleasure to watch her create her own bouquet and choose the flowers for her headpiece.

When it finally came time for the ceremony we were greeted with a classical trio of flute, cello and violin for the wedding march (the cello player was one of our cooks, the violinist had made the lights for the trees and our flautist had created the wedding cake.)

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We heard the story of how they had met, they exchanged their vows and rings and planted a tree together. Then it was our turn to sing a song and offer our congratulations. As the ceremony merged into the celebration dinner there were speeches, skits, movies, stories and more amidst the cutting of the cake and the first dance. The celebrations continued till the early hours and there were still a few stragglers greeting the dawn when I woke up to make my breakfast.The morning after was yet another marvel as the group banded together after another amazing brunch to slowly ‘bump out’.

IMG_9047On the train ride back to Berlin I took a moment to reflect on the whole experience, especially as it was the first time I’d done something like this since I was diagnosed. It wasn’t easy to cook my food or eat at regular times while having on average five hours sleep each night but to my amazement my blood sugars managed to stay level. In fact, on the Sunday I woke up slightly low.  It was quite a surprise and contrary to my idea of what makes a perfect diabetes day.

Perhaps a dose of joy, love and celebration is just as good as a controlled diabetes management plan.

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photo by Jessica Zumpfe

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

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/

 

 

I believe I can fly

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

Kinda hypocritical.

Maybe I could get away with two handfuls of almonds

WRONG

okay another two handfuls of almonds

Wrong again!

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

A quarter Apple?

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

But hey I believe I can fly…..

meanwhile the kitchen looks like this

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and I look like this

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BUSTED!

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

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

30 minutes later…

the kitchen looks like thisIMG_6914

i look like this

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But my meter looks like this

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think I’ll do some yoga …..

 

 

 

 

 

Diabetes Awareness Month

A Call to Action!

November is Diabetes Awareness Month and I can’t believe it’s been just over a year since I started Insulin and broke open my own understanding of a disease I’ve had for 6 years. When I first discovered the #DOC ( diabetes online community) I was blown away by how much advocacy was out there. One of the most inspiring advocates is Daniele Hargenrader. Her personal story and passion for making sure you stay on top of your condition is beyond admirable. I asked Daniele if she would share on the blog her goals in not only interviewing so many inspiring diabetes dominators on her popular YOUTUBE channel but why she wrote her new #1bestseller Unleash Your Inner Diabetes Dominator. Thanks Daniele for all you do and are!

“More people are going to passively sit back and succumb to the complications of poorly controlled blood sugars in the next few years than ever before. Your job is NOT to be one of those people, and my mission is to show you how.

My goal is not to create more fear, because there is entirely too much of that in the diabetes community as it is, but to inspire the diabetes community to take more directed action that will lead to living our lives feeling empowered, liberated, educated, protected, and confident in our abilities to manage our choices and decisions when it comes to our own diabetes care. More than anything, this is a call to action, a challenge to step up our game of self-love, take things to the next level, and make that next level our new standard. Each of us must become the standard bearers for our own diabetes management. We cannot always have total control over diabetes, this much we all know to be true, but we can control the choices we make with what is available to us regarding our diabetes care, and those choices, in turn, shape our day to day realities.

Diabetes Awareness Month

Every day, we hear on TV, in a magazine or newspaper, online, or from a friend or family member about this amazing new diet program, pill, spray, or some other form of miracle that has been doing wonders for their waistline. That in itself is the first and truly most gargantuan problem of all, one that, if we don’t eradicate it from our minds, will almost definitely ensure the failure of any venture into the realm of healthful living. The idea that there is or ever will be any quick fix, magic pill or drink that will make up for the years of damage we have imparted on our bodies (trust me, I spent ten years weighing over 200 pounds with an A1c of 13+%, and I didn’t get healthy overnight).

The idea that we can just treat our bodies poorly for any indeterminate amount of time and just take some unregulated supplement to fix the damage we have done in a couple of weeks. The sooner we are able to openly admit that the damage we have done to our bodies, through the lack of attention paid to and priority put on our diabetes care, has taken time, and that the reversal of the damage will also take time, the sooner we will be on our way to healing and recovery, and a resurgence of sustainable energy and confidence that will blow our minds.

diabetes awareness month

We must be willing to let go of our old beliefs, habits, and routines, the ones that got us to where we are today. This quote from one of my most influential mentors, Jim Rohn, is along the same lines: “The greatest reward in becoming a millionaire is not the amount of money that you earn. It is the kind of person that you have to become to become a millionaire in the first place.” I’m still working on that one, but for now, I can speak to the changes that must be made to change the state of our health. Essentially, we must change who we believe we are and what we believe we are capable of, to some degree, to create sustainable healthy habits. Change is not a bad thing or something to be feared or resisted. Change is truly the only thing that is constant in this world, and our ability and willingness to adapt and roll with the proverbial punches is what shapes our reality day-to-day.

The only thing that will allow our minds and bodies to reshape and restructure themselves, to let go of excess fat and toxins and negative thought patterns, to produce the energy that we desire and deserve every day to make our lives more enjoyable and fulfilling is a healthy lifestyle. A healthy mindset, a healthy nutritional lifestyle, a healthy exercise lifestyle. A lifestyle built around self-love, self-appreciation, choice, community, and action, armed with the knowledge that we are worth it, worth every bit of effort, and we are more than enough for this world. A lifestyle that, without a single word, shows those around us that we are each incredibly valuable, that we all have a purpose in this life, and no passion or dream is too small or seemingly trivial to pursue and share with others if it makes our hearts sing.”

Daniele Hargenrader, AKA the Diabetes Dominator, is the bestselling author of Unleash Your Daniele hand on hip CGM sized smaller 150 px wide v3Inner Diabetes Dominator. Daniele is a nutritionist, diabetes and health coach, and certified personal trainer. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1991. She is an international speaker, has presented at Fortune 100 companies and top-ranked hospitals and universities, and has dedicated herself to teaching people how to live the life they imagined through optimal health. Daniele ballooned up to 200 pounds a few years after her diagnosis and the unexpected and sudden death of her father. She also battled depression and a binge eating addiction. Through these adversities, she eventually took herself from obese to athlete, and now shows others how to do the same.

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

feeling down with diabetes

Being Down with Diabetes

I’m done, finished. Over feeling like I have to stay positive with diabetes! I don’t like being permanently sick. And no matter how much I love yoga and my yoga practice. No matter how strictly I count carbs and manage my diet . Diabetes is hard. Hard on me and hard on my friends and family. No one likes to see their child suffer, their beloved racked with fear or their friend having to have one more rant about the unfairness of it all. And no one can stand in my shoes. Even a fellow diabetic doesn’t have the same conditions to deal with.

But its no use being angry all the time, in fact not one emotion is useful when it comes to the facts. Diabetes requires nerves of steel. And I mean literally. It takes bravery to face the endless injections, the finger pricks and what ever else comes along.

This week my challenge has come in the form of a cold. I haven’t been sick since going on Insulin. I’ve had some challenges, yes, a kidney stone operation, the 24 hour vomiting bug but it never really affected my blood sugar levels more than a day or two. It’s been days now and my levels keep climbing and that’s in spite of increasing my dose of long acting insulin, and resting and keeping up my yoga practice.

the mystery of Yoga

In spiritual circles they say its good to “live in the mystery” or to “be the mystery” But stuff that!

My partner John sees it differently and so do I. After spending years in India studying traditional teachings and understanding the mechanics and subtleties of human nature and creation, he says that nothing can ever be a mystery once we understand ourselves. Even disease and its complexities can be put in it’s correct place.

In a nutshell we can’t change the creation, its plan or purpose. We can’t know on our own why we were born into creation and what creation is. Our teachers name everything for us, objects, people, places, situations. We are given beliefs, ideas and ideologies. We have our afflictions labeled, categorised and managed but still nothing in our experience of creation shows us the nature of creation or reveals the nature of ourselves. In other words who is tasting, touching, feeling, hearing and seeing in the creation? Who is the one having the disease?

We are constantly living the mystery. It’s a given. But thinking that’s the solution? That’s the “mystake”

Yoga and diabetes

So what am I actually trying to say here? Can I ever come to terms with my diagnosis? When will I stop being angry, sad and overwhelmed? Will I ever feel like I’m on top of this disease?

Maybe….but perhaps that’s not the issue

I’ll always have days like today. Where I make the disease bigger then me. Feeling like diabetes stands in the way of freedom, happiness and contentment.

But does it really? Inspite of my feelings creation just keeps happily going along. And in reality regardless of what my body does, I do to. Being alive and being able to enjoy the creation is a prescious gift. Having friends and family to share it with another huge bonus. I often find inspiration from the words of chronically ill people or people with disabilities. Who hasn’t been touched by someone who survives against all odds.

It takes a lot for this body to stop working, and we have the miracle of medicine to keep it alive. Maybe it doesn’t have to be about staying positive to accept our fate. What if positivity has nothing to do with it? Perhaps it’s about understanding that creation is there to facilitate us. It enables everything, our breath, heartbeat and our will to survive

with great respect….Rachel

Yoga for diabetes

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

Yoga for Diabetes

Bringing the Sunset into your Breath

Have you ever stopped and really watched a sunset? Here in Africa it’s something else. As the sun dips below the horizon, the sky turns gold, then pink and finally a deep violet. A single star twinkles amongst the silhouetted trees and everything goes still. In yoga, dawn and dusk are recognised as times for reflection, rest and rejuvenation. The perfect time for practice.

But what if it’s not feasible to stop everything and practice at the right time. Breathing for Diabetes   breathing for diabetes

When I started yoga I had a lot of time on my hands. I’d left my day job, was in a new relationship and busy planning a family.  I made the effort to rise every morning before dawn to practice asana and meditation. But when my son was born everything went out the window.  Who has time for anything when you’re busy feeding, burping, changing nappies and trying to get some much needed sleep!

And aren’t we all busy with some baby or other? What about your work baby, marriage baby, social media baby, health baby or whatever baby….you feel the need to do something to manage your health and wellbeing, but the question is when, what and how?

A physical yoga practice is a perfect tool. But it does require an interest in the modality, a connection with a style or teacher as well as persistence and patience.

The practice of Pranayama ( breath work) is more accessible . Why?  Because unlike the postural practice you don’t need a yoga mat on hand to do it. You can breathe anywhere, anytime. In fact you already do. You’re just not aware of your breath or what its actually doing in any given moment. Being mindful of your breath is an immediate stress reliever.

Change your breath and you change your state of mind.

 breathing for Diabetes Rachel Portraits 2015-89Breathing for Diabetes

My favourite breathing practice incorporates slow mindful breathing with visualisation. It comes from Laya Yoga, the practices of contemplative absorption. When you focus your mind in on one thing it pulls it out of it’s preoccupation with thoughts. When you’re no longer needing to identify or react to thoughts the whole body/mind system is at rest. It’s like experiencing the sunset on the inside. Complete peace, stillness and beauty.

For this weeks practice I invite you to join me in a simple breathing visualisation called the Equalising Breath.

With great respect…Rachel

Catching a Moment of Grace

I spent my life equating value with effort. I always thought I had to put in 110%. Thats why, when I kept reading 18 mmol/L on my glucometer, I felt like a royal failure.

I tried everything, I mean EVERYTHING. I’d rationed my food, walked up and down hills. Ingested chromium and cinnamon. Swallowed mountains of bitter gourd, had acupuncture and kineseology. I even tapped my chakras for a whole year. I cried a river, searched my childhood for wounds, visualised my pancreas as a big pink love heart regrowing cells “ compassionately”.

I prayed, man did I pray!

yoga for diabetes blog

I even tried giving up for a while, my version being; pigging out on a bag of almonds. No matter what I did, the effort I put in did not equal a healthy pancreas.

Being an innovative person I tried a multitude of approaches. But nothing worked because I was missing the key ingredient.

I’d been misdiagnosed.

Imagine… You’re in Prague. You don’t speak the language and can’t read the signs. How do you get to your destination? The most essential information in this equation is to know where you are. Are you at the train station? The tram stop? The airport? Once you know where you can ask someone, google map search, whatever. But if you don’t know the WHERE it’s going to be hopeless.

That’s what it’s like when you have the wrong diagnosis. I knew there was a problem. I knew I had diabetes. But all the information about what I thought I had was wrong. I kept treating type 1 as if it were type 2. I kept telling everyone, “My cells are resisting the abundant insulin I produce. I just need to open up my cells again. That’s why you see me eating blah blah blah and doing these Yoga practices and having those treatments.” I can remember my ex trying to counsel me, explaining that my big issue was fear. If I could just stop being afraid maybe I’d heal. In hindsight I can only giggle at the ridiculousness of it all.

Knowledge is power.

yoga for diabetes blog

Ok, so to get anywhere you need to know where you are. But knowing about something is very different than actually experiencing something. I knew all about Type 1- but to be honest only what I’d remembered from my friend’s son injecting in front of me once. Why should I learn about something I couldn’t possibly have. And when my doctor told me I had an autoimmune condition which was attacking my beta cells, the penny still didn’t drop! “Can I regrow the little buggers?” I asked hopefully. The Doc only shook his head and apologised encouraging me to get my A1c down or we’d have to start ‘medication’.

I’d never taken a pill in my life, I was terrified!

So I put in even more effort. And that’s when the shit hit the fan. I tanked. We were on retreat at a beautiful resort on a hill in the middle of the tropics. I was teaching at dawn, inhaling avocados and trudging my way up and down hills in a last ditch effort to get my levels back down. Deep down I knew it wouldn’t work. My self-assuredness was gone. My motivation exhausted. I couldn’t see the point.

I’ve often heard or read that its at the point where you truly give up that grace steps in. I don’t think I’ve ever truly understood what grace means. People talk about in lofty terms. Like… and then such and such happened and I was showered by grace.

yoga for diabetes blog

Understanding grace was about getting real with myself. It happened when the Doctor told me I was a type 1 diabetic and that my only option was Insulin. I felt it when my diabetes educator said that being diabetic couldn’t possibly be my fault. And I still feel the presence of grace every single night when the needle hits my skin and the insulin seeps into the soft folds of my belly.

I have a friend who is deliciously positive. Simple things that I take for granted are miracles to her. What I love about my friend is that she’s happy with what is. It shows she doesn’t equate her value with any of her achievements. She doesn’t have to do anything to accept who she is. She lives her life through the potency of GRACE.

So what does it mean to live a life filled with grace?

I’d love to know what you think!

with great respect….Rachel