Travel ain’t for sissies

It’s been a while so I’ll cut to the chase. I’ve been in South Africa for two weeks and besides the stunning landscape, incredibly pure air and peace and quiet, my body has been on strike. Within three days of arriving I had a head cold, outrageous levels and my internal plumbing backed up. I’m using a euphemism to save face but seriously, international travel ain’t for sissies.

Just to set your mind at ease my levels have returned to normal and my cold is gone. But my digestion has been slow to move. I’m chalking it up to the drier environment (we are in a Mediterranean climate here), the change in food and the fact that travel can rough things up quite a bit.

Now that I’ve totally exposed myself and the machinations of my digestion, I thought I’d share with you a sequence which has helped me to get things moving again. It’s fast paced and you will need some knowledge of yoga postures to move through it, but it definitely works. It’s also a great abdominal work out!

Check it out and let me know what you think

with great respect…Rachel

Yoga, meditation and ketones 

I don’t know about you but I spend quite a lot of time playing around on social media looking for ways to spruce up my meals. It’s not easy keeping things simple and nutritious. I found Hannah on Instagram and discovered she’s a passionate yogi just like me  who also follows a ketogenic diet. We connected off Instagram and I asked her to share her story and why she loves yoga and also to share one of her favourite recipes. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I do. With great respect…Rachel

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I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes almost 10 years ago and wow how my life has changed. At diagnosis I was 13, in junior high, and I had just moved to the United States from Europe. Awkward and shy doesn’t even begin to explain it. I went to a family practitioner because my mom suspected I had a urinary tract infection due to frequent urination. They tested my blood sugar and the doctor told me I needed to see an endocrinologist. While waiting for our appointment, a nurse began to explain how I’d have to take shots and prick my finger every day. Confused we asked the nurse what was wrong. “Oh didn’t they tell you? You have diabetes”. That was the first of many times that I‘ve cried about diabetes. “She then asked why I was crying,” which looking back on it now is pretty humorous because of the ridiculousness of the question. The appointment ended soon after that, we were sent home with a box of supplies and an instruction video on how to use it all (which we found out later was in Spanish).  I won’t forget that day and how I felt, but I’ll use it to make me a better and more compassionate physician. I don’t want anyone else to have to feel as lost about diabetes as I did then. 

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So here I am now living to the fullest; happy, healthy, totally loving life and believing that everything happens for a reason. Over the years I learned to be an advocate for my own health. I currently find balance in health by eating a ketogenic diet, lifting weights, doing yoga, and meditating. I have found yoga to be a great way to relieve stress. Slowing down my world for a few minutes to breath and focus on appreciating my body does wonders. As most people with diabetes know, stress makes managing blood glucose very difficult. Why? Because it’s so stinking unpredictable.

When we feel stressed out, our bodies release a class of hormones called glucocorticoids, these are hormones like cortisol and adrenalin (or epinephrine). They cause our bodies to release sugar from our liver into our blood stream to help us run away from tigers, lions, and bears.  When we’re going into a big exam, about to hop on a roller coaster, or are in a fender bender, we have no idea how stressed we’ll become and are even more clueless about exactly how much of which hormones our bodies will release. Predicting how our bodies will use these hormones and how much glycogen will be released from our liver is even more of a stretch. We can’t realistically take a preemptive shot of insulin to cover the cortisol for the car accident we’ll get in 20 mins. So what can we do?

Simply put; incorporate daily stress reducing things to cover daily stress causing things.

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That’s how I’ve found balance. My experience has taught me that yoga absolutely balances my blood sugar levels over all and with my continuous glucose monitor I now have numerical data to prove it. I believe it’s good to be informed and try things until you find what works for you. What I’m suggesting here is that maybe yoga is worth a try. 

Yoga was introduced to my life while I was getting my undergraduate in Nutrition at Texas A&M. I had previously been a dancer and was looking for a new way to get in exercise, so I bought a pass to the classes at the Student Rec Center. I read about the benefits of yoga on stress management and overall health and decided to give it a try. At first, I honestly did not like it at all. I thought it was boring, kind of like dancing in slow motion. However, I promised myself that I would go at least once a week and workout the rest of the time. It took me a long time to make it through a class without giggling because of some funny name or awkward pose (I actually still do that pretty often). 

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During my first college finals, I became very stressed, and found myself craving the relief I feel from a yoga class. It wasn’t until then that I really appreciated yoga and since that stressful week I’ve been a huge fan. Early last year I took the time to become a certified yoga instructor.  I now have a very busy schedule and practice yoga and meditation almost daily in short bursts on study breaks.  Yoga may not be for everybody but I honestly believe that everyone can benefit from it. I love it because it’s so versatile and can be done anywhere. All you need really is a space on the floor and a quick youtube search for a lesson. Simple and stress relieving.

Happy blood sugar balancing!

And here’s one of my favourite meal ideas

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When I plan my meals, I really try to focus on food quality. I aim to eat whole food with minimal processing. Most of my meals are simply just different combinations of real food. This is a sardine spinach salad with olives, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. It takes less than two minutes to rinse a handful of spinach and open the sardine can. So simple and really satisfying.

Feel free to connect with me if you have questions, stories, or just want to say hi!

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Hey There! My name is Hannah. I’ve been living with Type 1 diabetes for almost a decade. I am currently a medical student with dreams of becoming an impactful and inspirational endocrinologist. I have found health by implementing a ketogenic diet, doing yoga, and lifting weights. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Sciences from Texas A&M and I am certified to teach yoga. Last year I started a blog to share my successes and failures as I try to find balance in blood sugars and in the rest of life.  If you’re interested in learning more, the link to my blog is https://theketolifeblog.wordpress.com/

Seeking Balance

When I first started Insulin I wondered if there were any other yogis out there like me who’d been diagnosed with Adult Type 1 Diabetes . It didn’t take me long to find Melitta Rorty. Melitta is a true advocate for LADA (Latent Autoimmune Disease in Adults or Type 1.5)  I find Melitta’s blogs and articles refreshing and grounded because she breaks open the difficult topic of misdiagnosis. Recently we had a chat because I wanted to find out what yoga postures she used on a daily basis to stay calm in the face of the daily diabetes grind.  There was so much juice in the conversation that I asked her to share some tips for practicing yoga with diabetes. Enjoy…Rachel 

“I started practicing yoga in 1994, six months before I noticed my first symptoms of diabetes. When I was newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, at the age of 35, I was in extreme despair—I thought my life was ruined. But yoga saved my life then by allowing me some space and freedom from constant thoughts about my disease, and yoga continues to save my life today by helping me stay calm and focused despite the daily grind of self-care that those of us with Type 1 diabetes must do. I recommend yoga to anyone who has to live with the stress of chronic illness.

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Yoga is a practice that uses poses, breathing techniques, relaxation, and meditation to balance mind, body, and spirit. In the West, hatha yoga, which involves stretching the body and forming different poses while keeping breathing slow and controlled, is most commonly practiced.  Yoga has much to offer people with diabetes, and probably its greatest benefit is stress reduction.  Diabetes is exacerbated by stress, and yoga is a useful tool to reduce stress.  It can both set the stage for better overall health and also reduce the stress associated with the myriad of details necessary for our daily diabetes care.  High levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol raise blood glucose levels, and thus reducing stress is integral to good blood glucose control.  Yoga cannot cure diabetes, but the many benefits of yoga (stress reduction, increased sense of well-being, discipline, and focus) can help make the disease more manageable and have beneficial impacts on blood glucose control and on our lives.

For me, exercise, yoga, and meditation are my “magic pills.”  If only it were so easy as to pop a pill! 

To give you an idea of my routine, I attend a weekly class with a wonderful, experienced teacher.  I also have a morning home yoga and meditation practice.  My simple back care yoga routine plus meditation gets my day off to a good start.  Yoga has an immediate physical and practical impact on my health but it also affords me an emotional benefit over time.  Below are some of my tips for practicing yoga with diabetes:

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Asanas:  As with any physical activity, one must listen to and respect what your body tells you in the moment.  It can be risky to practice some poses, for example crow pose (bakasana), when you have low blood sugar or even close to low blood sugar.  Also, if you have diabetic complications such as retinopathy, many inverted poses are contraindicated.  This is where a good yoga instructor (or doctor or your own research) is worth his/her weight in gold.  Come to class early and don’t be afraid to talk with the teacher and ask questions.

Insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs):  I almost always turn my insulin pump down for yoga class.  I am a “blood sugar burner,” meaning physical activity drops my blood sugar significantly, and I need to be careful to avoid hypoglycemia.  I always have rapid-acting glucose handy.  For a particularly vigorous yoga class, I turn my pump down by 80% at least one hour prior to class and for the duration.  For my regular yoga class, I turn my pump down by 50% one hour prior to class and for the duration.  I place my CGM on a block or some other raised space so that no one steps on it.

Meditation:  Many people say that they can’t meditate because they can’t keep their minds still.  Thoughts end up swinging through their mind like monkeys swinging from branch to branch in the jungle.  But virtually everyone will have “monkey mind!”  The point is to meditate, to be mindful, and to be in the present moment.  I practice a very simple style of meditation, breath meditation or Insight Meditation; meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg is my guide and resource.  There are countless tools to help you with your meditation practice.  Just find a quiet space, and give it a try.  Even a moment of quieting your mind can bring you a sense of peace.

Magic Pixie Dust:  Sadly, within the yoga and meditation communities there can exist “magical thinking” that is harmful to those of us with Type 1 diabetes, or any other serious disease.  Yoga cannot cure us; yoga cannot get us off of exogenous insulin.  A yoga teacher once yelled at me in the middle of class and said “Why do you have to wear that [my insulin pump], why can’t you take it off for class, how can you do inverted poses with your insulin pump on?”  This kind of ignorance and lack of compassion can push people away from yoga when it could be a beneficial part of their healthy lifestyle.  Because of that incident, I now do more to inform yoga teachers about my Type 1 diabetes and the medical devices I use to manage it (insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor).  Before a recent yoga and meditation retreat, I let the teachers know I have Type 1 diabetes, and let them know that my devices are on vibrate mode, but still make some noise.  I received the most compassionate response.  Yoga should foster compassion within us and for others; teachers who truly care for their students demonstrate compassion and not judgment.

If you are new to yoga, the best way to start a yoga practice is to find a competent teacher with whom you feel comfortable, and whose style speaks to you.  Many yoga studios now offer Yoga Basics classes or an introductory yoga series of classes.  These “yoga training wheels” classes can be especially beneficial for those who have no experience with yoga, because even beginning classes can be too advanced for those just starting out.”

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Melitta Rorty is many things:  traveler, geologist, nature enthusiast, yogini, and advocate.  She is also a person living with Type 1 diabetes.  In 1994, Melitta discovered yoga and a lifelong passion was born.  This passion would become her salvation in 1995 when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  Originally misdiagnosed as having Type 2 diabetes, she almost lost her life because of the wrong diagnosis.  Her mission in life was born of that experience and she now works to educate, advocate, and inform about the importance of proper diagnosis and early treatment with insulin for patients with Type 1 diabetes.  Melitta is eternally grateful to all of her yoga teachers (Barbara Voinar and Tias Little being her current teachers).

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.”

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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

Is Yoga for You?

Yoga is no longer a buzz word, nowadays everybody and their mother does yoga. But it wasn’t always like that. Fifteen years ago yoga was still the new kid on the block. There was a vibe about yoga; real, simple and honest. In 2015, Yoga is reaching its saturation point and perhaps your thinking, “yoga just isn’t my style, it’s too commercial, too ZEN.”

I totally understand. My first yoga class was hell.

Back in the day, and I’m talking 1985, Pilates was IN. On any given day you’d find me hanging upside down in gravity boots. On one such occasion an Indian lady showed up and announced that she was offering a yoga class.

I actually can’t remember why I signed up, but I did. Turns out I was the only student. How embarrassing! I felt like an idiot bending and stretching in ways that hurt. She wasn’t like the nice bubbly yoga teachers we have today either. She was mean and precise. She barked at me and slapped my thighs.  She was downright aggressive at times. I tried to slink out of there halfway through the class, but she strapped me into a chair. I couldn’t get away fast enough and was sure that yoga was NOT for me…

But life has a way of making other plans.

Yoga for diabetes

What to do when all your friends are doing yoga? Eventually you bite the bullet forget that first experience and give it a really good try. I still felt like an idiot, especially when it came to the relaxation part of the class, but gradually it worked its magic on me.

Imagine a candle being slowly sculpted into a flower. That’s how yoga changed me over the years. I can remember feeling challenged to go beyond limits, struggling to master some small detail and feeling warm and nurtured by the end of the session. The more I practiced the more I sensed something shaping me from the inside, something familiar yet indescribable.

Yoga begged me to explore things I only thought about in childhood? Questions like; why am I here? what’s life all about? what’s love? where’s happiness?

Everybody’s different. You might not be interested in all that woo-woo stuff. That doesn’t mean that yoga’s not for you. What’s so beautiful and exciting about the practice is that it’s not a one size fits all. There’s a yoga practice that’s right for you. Do you want to get fit and lose weight? Try dynamic yoga. Need to manage your stress? Check out yin and restorative yoga. Longing to increase your stamina? Why not experience the yoga of breath. Want to develop mindfulness? Explore meditation in conjunction with yoga.

Yoga for Diabetes

Ultimately any yoga practice should energise you, promote a calm and balanced state of mind, and support you in responding to the challenges that you face every day in trying to manage your health.

And yoga’s the ultimate stress buster !

Having a low? Yoga teaches you to slow down your breath and stay calm. Heading into a high while juggling kids, work and your relationship? A simple yoga practice will soothe you back into balance. Feeling overwhelmed, burnt out and just wishing the whole thing would go away? Yoga supports you in releasing pent up emotions and allowing for greater compassion, empathy and awareness.

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When you think about it yoga is amazing! But don’t take my word for it, I’m biased.

On the other hand…DO take my word for it. If someone like me can get diabetes in the first place then surely my yoga practice has been the one thing thats helped me to stay positive, relaxed and absolutely sure that I can have this disease and live a long and healthy life.

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Want inspiration to practice more? Why not subscribe to my newsletter and be the first to hear about the Yoga for Diabetes Yoga Challenge Simple practices you can do every day for health, happiness and wellbeing.

With great respect…. Rachel

Do You Love a Challenge?

I’m in Switzerland to teach Yoga at the moment. I’ve travelled for most of my life and have always enjoyed the different experiences that travel engenders. I even secretly enjoy the packing and unpacking. But since my diagnosis in 2008 travel has forced me to go way beyond my comfort zone.

At first I had to watch my blood sugar like a hawk.  It was like walking on the edge of a slip stream. I didn’t have the help of Insulin, so all I knew was that If I stayed on a strict diet I could keep things in range.

Now imagine you’re a yoga teacher, you teach on weekends and are hosted by a variety of studios, some of whom you’ve never been to before. Not only do you teach in western countries like Australia and Europe you travel to India and Bali flying between 12- 24 hrs to get there. The diabetic meals on planes suck, so you travel with pre-cooked food and as soon as you hit the ground, you head to the nearest supermarket to stock up. And you hope and pray that the apartment you went to extra trouble to rent has decent cookware and a working fridge.

It’s not the ideal scenario for anyone, let alone a clean living, healthy yogini whose diabetic to boot!

I used to  tell my students and hosts that I had “ blood sugar “ issues. Then a bit later I admitted I was pre diabetic, emphasising that I had high hopes that it could be reversed. It was hard not to feel ashamed or guilty every time I taught.

But now thats all changed.

8 months on Insulin and I feel liberated! It’s like I’ve taken my top off and gone braless. I feel completely shameless in my classes sharing that I am an Insulin dependant Type 1 diabetic. And further to that it’s been incredible to have energy again. For the last 6 years I was practicing on empty. Trying to cultivate energy I didn’t have. Dragging my suitcase on and off train platforms and feeling somewhat of a fraud while I touted the benefits of Yoga.

Recently I had a really great conversation with Dr. Jody Stanislaw, an american naturopathic doctor who also happens to be a Type 1 diabetic. She has had profound results in supporting people to achieve optimum A1c levels. “ You know Insulin is your friend, because it preserves and protects your beta cells,” she shared while we were discussing the topic of exercise and diabetes, “ If you’ve got them you might as well hang onto them.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Once I started on long acting Insulin, my blood sugar levels changed dramatically. I felt like my cells did a happy dance and went back to business. I’ve become more sensitive in my practice again and I can feel how food, exercise and sleep are affecting my system. Before I was sensitive to my detriment. Everything I did felt like an attack on my immune system. Even the thought of trying to change was exhausting.

It’s been quite a learning curve keeping up my commitments as a traveling yoga teacher and educating myself on the ins and outs of managing blood sugars while on insulin.

But hey I Love it!

It’s why I chose to focus on challenging yoga postures and practices for this current tour.  I mean, how fun is it to master a tricky arm balance or handstand when you never thought you could. Or for beginners finally being able to stay in down dog for more than a few seconds without collapsing in a heap.

If you feel like joining me for a more challenging practice this week head over to AirYoga’s online studio and try the Kapha Balancing Practice…. with great respect Rachel

kapha Balancing yoga practice with Rachel Zinman

Rachel Zinman Yoga

Stretching It All Out

Grief! It’s a big one. Just recently I read a wonderful piece written for the Diabetic online magazine, A Sweet Life, by Michelle Sorensen on Grief and Diabetes.  It touched me enough to write to her, “Thanks for reaching out! ” she replied, stressing how powerful it is to make friends with other people who are in the same boat.

How often do you find yourself toughing it out, thinking you can do this all on your own or feeling unsupported and misunderstood by family and friends. It’s been an absolute blessing for me to discover a huge community out there which thinks like I do. But I still find myself falling into despair at the smallest change in levels or when something else happens with my health. It reminds me that grief is not something I can ignore, even though I’ve come a long way in accepting this disease.

Grief has a lifespan and like a garden it need tender loving care. For me Yoga is the perpetual gardener.

When I first started practicing Yoga I’d find myself bursting into tears just about any time I put my body into a compromising position. I reassured myself that I was crying from pain. But deep down I knew that I was releasing deep seated grief and shock. It took me years to understand why and how that happens in a Yoga class.

As children we freely express our emotions, but as we get older an outburst or crying spell gets suppressed. It’s really not a good look going ape at your desk or crying on the subway. So where does that unexpressed emotion go? It buries itself in the body, preferably where we can’t feel it.

We have a complex and detailed nervous system. It kicks in to protect us by sending energy to the limbs, so we can run away from danger or it sends energy to the vital organs to replenish and revitalise our system. The brain, spinal column, stomach and heart are saturated with both major and minor nerves whereas the legs, have very few.

Something my teacher Alan Finger shares is that our stress accumulates in the back of our legs because there are less nerves there. Hence the tight hamstrings and tight lower backs. The best way to free up the tension is to stretch the hamstrings.

I can see you grimacing as I write. I know, I know… those hamstrings are tight!

I’m going to share a secret from another one of my favourite yoga teachers, Simon Borg Olivier.  It’s called the principle of reciprocal inhibition. Which means; when you contract one muscle the opposite muscle releases. By working the thigh muscles in a leg stretch your hamstrings release and with it goes your emotional stress.

Below is a simple stretching sequence you can do in a supine position to open and release the hamstrings. Make sure to accommodate the fact that you might not be able to reach your foot and have a belt, long strap or sarong handy.

Sequence for Hamstrings

Lie on your back with both legs extended, feet flexed and legs together arms relaxed along side the body

hamstring sequence Rachel Zinman Yoga

Bend your right knee and clasp the front of your shin while keeping your left leg extended with the left foot flexed

half hand to foot posture for Hamstring Sequence Rachel Zinman Yoga

Take hold of the outside of your right foot and straighten the leg halfway. Press your foot into your hand while pulling your foot towards you. You should feel your thigh muscle working and your hamstring engaged as well

reclining hand to foot pose Rachel Zinman Yoga

Next clasp both hands behind your thigh and slowly straighten the right leg. pressurise your hands with your hamstring as you pull the leg towards your chest.

Full hand to foot pose Rachel Zinman Yoga

If you can easily straighten your thigh, reach your right hand to take hold of the outside of your right foot, keep engaging you right thigh as you pull the right leg towards you.

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To finish, bend the right knee clasp the shin with the hands and then release the leg and life flat. Repeat on the other leg.

Sequence for Hamstrings

Lie with both legs straight for a few moments before moving into you day

Is Yoga a Cure All for Diabetes

Is Yoga a Cure-All for Diabetes?

I am excited to share that a piece I wrote on Yoga and Diabetes has been published in a popular online Yoga Magazine. My passion is to support and inspire fellow diabetics of all types to try Yoga and see the myriad benefits. Hope you enjoy the piece…with great respect Rachel

Is Yoga a Cure-All for Diabetes?

I always thought that yoga was a cure-all. In fact I was absolutely convinced it was. That’s why it was so hard to believe that someone like me, a yoga teacher for over 23 years, could end up being a late onset adult type 1 diabetic.

But now, almost seven years since my diagnosis, I’m convinced that it’s because I’ve practiced yoga almost half my life that I’ve been able to a manage it so well.

Diabetes Is Complicated

Diabetes is a complicated disease. On the surface it seems to be about sugar. And it is, because the body runs on sugar and sugar feeds the brain.

But diabetes is really about how the sugar is managed by the body. Too much sugar in the body is like having too much acid in your car battery; it corrodes the machinery.

Read the full article on DoYouYoga.com

Find the Balance between Activity and Rest

It’s Easter today and we just went through a huge storm. The roads were flooded and a local bridge nearly washed away. We drove past this morning to find huge logs and tree stumps wedged into its railings.

When I see Nature like that, at its wildest, it puts my need to control even the smallest detail of my life into perspective. Something my partner John often says is, “ We have no idea why we are here, or what creation is up to. What we do know is that we exist and to exist and be able to explore and enjoy creation is a huge blast. The biggest blast we’ll ever get! ”

It’s easy to forget all those things when we get caught up in the small stuff. And hey, we all do it. Even the smallest things can set me off when I am stressed.

Yoga for Diabetes

As Yoga teachers, when we go through our training, one of the most important lectures is about how Yoga benefits the Nervous System. Did you know that in our modern society we spend over 80% of our time in the fight or flight response? It’s supposed to be the exact opposite. We are designed to be in resting mode, able to perform detailed and focussed activity with the least amount of effort.

Back in the good old days the fight or flight mechanism was triggered when we had to make a sudden dash away from a Tiger. But now the Tiger is everywhere. It’s our health, relationship, job and more.

The fight or flight response relates to the Sympathetic Nervous System and its major trigger point is in the chest area.  When we are calm, that’s the Parasympathetic Nervous System and its access points are the base of the neck and the base of the spine.

The best way to bring the nervous system and its components back into balance is through spinal movement.  When we exercise the spine we bring more energy, blood and circulation into the body which in turn keeps the nervous system working at its optimum. And the two main actions which increase circulation to the spine are opening movements like back bending and closing movements like forward bending.

The best Yoga sequence for this is Moving Cat

For our practice this week join me in this short video below which demonstrates how to do Moving Cat and also Half Dog, which stretches the spine and is a great alternative for those who find they don’t have the arm strength or flexibility to do the Down Dog posture.

Wishing everyone a calm and relaxing Holiday season…with great respect Rachel

Balance the nervous system with sun salutation

A Simple Start

I love the idea of keeping things simple, it’s something that really appeals to me about Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda. When you go for an Ayurvedic consultation you’re encouraged to ease into a new routine slowly.  When you add one thing at a time the body and mind have time to adjust. When we bombard ourselves with too many changes and go for the quick fix it’s hard to sustain and maintain. According to Science and Yoga it takes the body/mind about 6 weeks (40 days) to adopt a new habit or routine. Often we beat ourselves up for going too slowly, and call it procrastination. I prefer to think of it as determination. Keep it simple, take your time and eventually you’ll reach the goal. And by the way… did you ever stop to think that when you set a goal (somewhere to reach there and then) that THERE becomes HERE and THEN becomes NOW? 

 Rachel Portraits 2015-117Rachel Portraits 2015-118

I like to ask myself what can I do HERE and NOW that will make a difference and help me to manage the ups and downs associated with having Diabetes. For me, it’s my daily Yoga practice. I actually find it quite hard to get on my mat every day because discipline doesn’t come naturally.  That’s why I use a simple Sun Salutation ( Surya Namaskar) with lunge to get me motivated. Sun Salutation does require a degree of flexibility and strength at the outset so if you’ve never done one before I would suggest you check out my previous post to start to build the strength to join in on the video below. I hope you’ll join me in A Simple Start …with great respect, Rachel