Matters of the Heart: a yoga sequence

Like everyone else I am grappling with the new normal. Never ending self-quarantine, Covid19, watching the US meltdown and most recently with the incredible frustration and fury of police brutality and the murder of George Floyd. “I can’t breathe!!!”

Yes, I am white and yes, I am speaking from a place of privilege and yes, I could have done more and educated myself more. As a yoga teacher, I’ve often felt it’s better not to take sides in politics. This however is an issue that cannot be justified by my vocation. I acknowledge that not saying anything is a form of racism.

Black lives matter, they more than matter. Living in South Africa for the past six months I am painfully aware of the divide between black and white, rich and poor. We do what we can, give where we can, share where we can. Anyone who shows black people anything less than dignity and respect is abhorrent and inhumane.

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photo credit: Renza Scibilia

I have cried a lot over the last week. My heart breaking with the weight of our collective ignorance and lack of humanity. How can one human even hurt another in deed, word or thought? Are we not all inseparably part of creation?

I know I’m not alone in these thoughts and feelings. In fact, this article by my friend Ali Psuik puts things into perspective and poses some excellent questions.

While educating myself and doing what I can during this very turbulent time, I’ve been focusing on being kind to myself and others. For me it always comes back to yoga, whether dealing with my diabetes or not, yoga affords me a moment to reflect and remember what’s good and beautiful.

This week I’ve been practicing and teaching gentle heart opening postures. If you’re feeling the need to destress, reset and transmute difficult emotions. You’ll love this 55 minute practice. The class finishes with a beautiful meditation which includes, sound, (mantra), visualisation (yantra) and gesture(mudra).

P.s This class comes from my weekly Zoom yoga room class.

Enjoy!

rachel

The serenity prayer

I’m absolutely struck dumb by what’s happening at the moment. New year is usually about setting goals in my diabetes management, upping my personal yoga practice and setting out a plan for the year. With my newsfeed and mind consumed with the unbearable tragedy of the bushfire crisis in Australia, the craziness of the presidency in the US and the spectre of the Climate Crisis, yoga is my rock of support.

It was in the aftermath of 9/11 that I learned that having a committed yoga practice could make a difference to how I responded to the crisis at hand. Yes, I made donations and did what I could to help others, but I also recognised I needed to care for myself. As the stress and tension mounted in the weeks and months after 9/11 we had the anthrax scare, the Iraq war and the very real destruction at ground zero. I remember feeling terrified to head out into the throng of NYC to teach. I forced myself to face my fears because I knew that teaching yoga and attending classes would bring me back to set point.

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Since that time, I have learned through the deeper teachings of yoga called Atma Vidya that the nature of self is peace. Peace doesn’t disappear. I do. I’m the one identifying with the fear, uncertainty and shock.  Yoga helps me to calm down and direct my energy towards what I can do to make a difference. It might be to share on my FB feed an article or story to spread awareness, a physical donation to an organisation, or something as simple and personal as nurturing a seedling in my garden.

Whatever I can do, I need to be calm and grounded to do it. Making decisions out of fear doesn’t work. When everything feels completely out of control, and there is no one to turn to for comfort because everyone is in the same circumstances, there is great support in taking responsibility for what can be done.

 “God Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”-serenity prayer

I consider prayer one of those responsibilities, and it’s something I work with daily in the form of Bhakti yoga, the yoga of surrender and devotion. Another way I take responsibility is to catch myself in the act of reacting to a situation, thought or circumstance.

This is what enabled me to act in the chaos of 9/11. Instead of dissolving into a puddle I took practical steps to cope with the feeling of overwhelm and devastation. What could I do to get our family home and safe? At the time walking over the 59th street bridge was the answer. Now in the midst of an obvious climate and ecological crisis, with Australia in the limelight, I am determined to do my best to take practical steps to be part of a global shift.

When I got married in the 90’s we built our house on an intentional yoga community out of mud bricks. I also built my own composting toilet. We had solar power, rainwater and huge veggie gardens. I had a home birth in water and brought my son up on organic food and a minimum of TV and tech. We spent hours outside in all types of weather. I read to him constantly. We baked and sang and lived very simply.

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By Jacob Zinman-Jeanes

Looking back, everything I did in my 20’s and 30’s was a blessing. I was healthy, grounded and idealistic. Little by little though my idealistic bubble began to burst. We needed to use pesticides to poison alien trees on the property, our solar batteries crashed. It was easier to run our new computer and other electrics on mains power. It was more convenient to have an indoor toilet. Cell phones came into being and we all know how things have changed in the last 20 years.

Our advancement seems to have been our undoing.

Going back to basics, starting a garden again, looking at how we can be more self-sufficient, recycling, reusing, reducing and travelling less are all good places to begin. However, there are still millions and millions of people out there who refuse to change their habits. It’s hard not to feel frustrated and helpless. I refuse to let it get me down. Instead I have added them into my responsibility prayers.

“Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.” – Serenity prayer

With great respect….

rachel

Please watch this very sad yet beautiful tribute to whats happening in Australia at the moment. You can find out more about how you can help the bushfire crisis here 

Diabetes is an opportunity

It’s burning in the hills behind the town where I live in Australia. I am grateful not to have to evacuate but am concerned for those who do. The entire valley all the way to the beach is in a blanket of smoke. It’s hard to breathe. We just went to the beach for some relief but there was none. It was strange to see people out and about in cafe’s and shops as per normal. Apparently it’s only going to get worse. So many more friends are leaving their homes to be safe. It’s heartbreaking.

I feel this way about Diabetes too. Even though I live with it myself I feel for every single person who lives with this condition. It’s heartbreaking when anyone is diagnosed. I know all too well the challenges ahead. Every day can feels like Russian roulette. It’s a massive learning curve and you can’t get away from it.

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In spite of all the feelings that come up after diagnosis I also see diabetes as an opportunity to live differently. Instead of taking things for granted I wake up each day grateful to be alive, I’m learning through yoga and other modalities to regulate my nervous system, to react less to the stress of variable blood sugar levels. My diet is refined and I maintain an active life. This kind of approach takes focus and sustained effort and there are plenty of times where I feel frustrated and defeated.  But I try not to let my down days take over. I have always been an enthusiastic participant in life.

Today as the smoke chokes the air around us I think about all the people all over the world in crisis. How do we rise above, stay resilient and not give up in the face of uncertainty? How can we make a difference in spite of circumstances beyond our control? I draw strength from a simple Ayurvedic principle.

You can’t fight fire with fire. The softness of water is what douses the flame.

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The softness of water is about slowing down, tuning in and calmly moving forward. Flowing with change rather than pushing against it. Connecting with water is about dispersion and delegation. In the face of disaster it’s coming together in community and supporting each other. If we all share the burden we’re stronger together.

It’s the same with diabetes. When I reach out into the diabetes online community I find like minded friends managing their health in myriad ways. All of this forms my pool of inspiration. Even better is going to a support group or event where we all meet and share. I’ve learned more about my condition from these brief in person events than I have from my doctors and diabetes educators.

Knowing there is a community out there to answer a question, share a technique, help me find the best product or device is priceless. Before diabetes I would never have outsourced, researched or informed myself in this way. Diabetes has literally inspired a whole new me. My mission for diabetes awareness month is to share from the heart how diabetes affects me personally but its also about sharing how yoga is an incredible balm.

In this very difficult time, no matter what the struggle, it is my prayer that the varied practices and teachings of yoga become an important part of the healing journey.

More on that tomorrow…  #NDAM, #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Dear Diabetes

You came like a thief in the night and stole away so much of who I thought I was but I’m not angry at you. I know it’s not your fault. Living in one in 11 people your role is complex. You attack unknowingly. You can be swift or drag out over years.
You do not discriminate. you don’t care about age, sex or race. You don’t care about the season or the time of day. You are like a fire that burns, a storm or a ground-shaking quake. You take life and yet you also engender life like no other.
When you came to me you were like a silent slow creeper, slowly choking my life giving beta cells. You were so quiet for years I didn’t even know you were there. You hid deep in my belly so I mistook you for something else. It was easy to imagine I could fix you.
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It took me so long to realize you were there it could have been too late. I let you wear away my nerves and eat away at my digestion… luckily your slow insipid presence was caught in time. And even though I kicked and screamed and tried to run and hide you forced me to face you head on. Tears streaming and wind on my face.
I’ve learned to lean into you, to ride you like a wild horse, to let you buck and throw but to never let go. Diabetes you are ugly, unpredictable and terrifying. Yet there is a tenderness to living with you. A faith I’ve learned to keep. A delicate balance which has engendered sensitivity, compassion, and care. A moment by moment gratitude for each breath and heartbeat.
A standing on edges of cliffs, without needing to jump or fear the precipice. A strength beyond capability. A grounded being of courage.
Diabetes you have allowed me to know courage, friendship, camaraderie and devoted surrender.
#DearDiabetes You have given me one more day.

Grateful I am alive in spite of diabetes

Yesterday I did my first presentation for Yoga teachers on how to meet the needs of someone living with diabetes in a yoga class. It was a long and carefully thought out presentation. I wanted to cover a landscape which is unknown, often treacherous and has, to be brutally honest, no happy endings. At the end of the session, I opened it up to the audience for questions.

The first one?

Do you see what’s happened to you as a blessing?

I am sure the look on my face said it all.

Having a baby was a blessing
Meeting my husband was a blessing
Discovering yoga… a blessing

Type 1 diabetes? Not so much…

Later when everyone else had left she stayed behind. She was curious to know how I had come to terms with a condition that obviously was not something I chose or even wanted?

I shared that when I finally comprehended that I had type 1 diabetes, (it took me 6 years to find out that that was what I had) I felt relieved. Finally, I had an answer to the varied and confusing symptoms that not one health practitioner or medical doctor seemed to understand. But understanding what was wrong with me didn’t mean that relief translated into silver linings and rainbows.

It reminded me of when I was little and my mom used to try to get me to swallow a pill. I used to hunker down, screw up my face and flat out refuse. I’d rather die than swallow one of those damn things. So instead I’d take medicine in liquid form, or a suppository or even a skin cream.

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Eventually, though that damn pill didn’t come in any other form and I had to face my fears and swallow. It took guts, willpower and a lot of love and encouragement from my mom to take that pill.

Now I swallow like a pro.

That’s how it felt when I finally let go and accepted my diagnosis. I swallowed it whole.

And I still do….

Every day I wake up and roll with the punches…

Like today when my reading is higher than I’d like it to be and I know that it’s better to accept than fight. So I do my yoga practice…and smile at my husband because he has my back

…and take as much time as I need to be grateful…

Grateful I am alive in spite of diabetes

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What if there was an easy way to feel better, have extra confidence and be more relaxed about managing your diabetes?

Yoga absolutely helped me and I’m convinced it can help you too

Join me on September 1, 2017 for my free yoga challenge

”  Better Diabetes Management in 7 steps with Yoga”

With great respect…Rachel

We are all in this boat together

It’s still Diabetes blog week and I’m a bit late today with my submission. That’s what happens when you fly thousands of miles and have to do everything on your to-do list first before you can write!

Now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and how do you cope?  

I often wonder what life would have been like if I hadn’t been on the slow boat to diabetes. I mean what if it had never happened? Would I have ended up visiting a naturopath at 18? Would I have started yoga? I guess I’ll never know.

So many of the choices I made as a young adult were based on the fact that I never really felt healthy. There was always something wrong with my digestion or with my energy levels. Looking back I know it was all to do with the fact that my onset of type 1 was super slow.

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As a young adult, I was racked with anxiety, shame, and guilt and there was often a feeling in and around the area of my spleen that felt like I was being sucked into a vortex.

I’m convinced that every health issue was related to the demise of a beta cell. The weird emotional feelings were probably also related. As a young person, I didn’t really know what to make of it. As an adult thankfully I do.

I’ve never really been a depressive type but since diabetes, that’s changed. It’s not that I get so depressed that I can’t get out of bed, it’s just that the whole thing gets so overwhelming sometimes that I feel a sense of hopelessness and despair. The worst part is I keep those crappy feelings to myself.

I know it would do me good to talk it out but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered. Being a yoga teacher and having a reputation has some stigma attached to it. We are the ones others look to for inspiration. We are supposed to rise above it all. Well, surprise, surprise… trying to hold myself to some sort of standard doesn’t work at all!

Diabetes is by far the single most challenging thing I have ever had to deal with and I can do yoga till the cows come home and still feel pissed off, moody, angry and down about it.

So how do I climb out of my own hole when the going gets rough?

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By cutting myself some slack. By taking it one day at a time, one step at a time, one insulin dose at a time.

And writing. Writing it out is like talking it out, only better. When I write I don’t care about the reader.  I write for myself. As I write I can see what it is I actually think and feel. Once it’s out there I can decide if it’s true for me or not. Words are a beautiful mirror in which one can objectively reflect.  What that axiom? The mirror never lies.

Another thing I love about self-expression through the written word is that it connects me with other writers. In the Diabetes space, we are all passengers on the same boat. We may have different cabins and have brought our own belongings but we share the same trajectory. I love meeting with my fellow passengers on deck. This week has been especially healing for me. Reading everyone’s blogs, and commenting and receiving comments has helped to heal the wounds of diagnosis and beyond.

When it comes down to it we all face this disease in our own unique way. But knowing I’m not alone, that there is a thriving community has made all the difference.

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If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

With great respect…Rachel

What will the world look like now?

Last night I couldn’t sleep and I know I wasn’t the only one. The biggest question on my mind was, what will the world look like now? What will be the worlds attitude towards America and how will we move forward?

My Facebook feed is packed with fearful and tearful exclamations and words of comfort too. Close friends who practice yoga sharing personal stories of how they’ve coped in the past with tragedy and uncertainty. How do any of us face the unknown?

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As this is still #diabetesawarenessmonth and managing diabetes is a 24/7 job this whole election palaver and subsequent result although hugely daunting is also an opportunity to tune in to how any of us cope when faced with something we don’t want to face.

When someone is diagnosed with diabetes often friends and family comment that at least it’s not cancer. At least you can’t die from diabetes. Isn’t it the same with an election result we’d rather not stomach? Surely this isn’t going to kill us and for those of us who live with chronic illness, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

We find ways to more than cope. We thrive!

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And how do we thrive? Through acceptance. Accepting the hand we have been dealt with grace and determination.

Do you know anyone who lives with diabetes? have you seen them injecting at a meal, testing their blood sugar, eating differently, perhaps fiddling with a device attached to their belt? If you have then you might have assumed that what they do is easy and that they have adapted.

What you don’t see is the shock and horror of diagnosis. The fear and uncertainty of how they will cope. The grief, and the loss and despair. Even worse if that diagnosis happens to a baby or a small child how that little innocent being is just that, innocent and how the parents for years to come will have to bear the burden. Constant blood sugar checks day and night, injections and more.

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The road ahead after diagnosis is harder then anyone can imagine. But somehow little by little that baby grows up, graduates from college and goes on to live a healthy and productive life.

I truly believe that as a human race our ability to adapt is a blessing. We can stare down the barrel of a gun, live in the most appalling conditions, survive holocausts, wars, famine and still love and create beautiful, astounding things that change the world.