All I really want to do is eat chocolate pizza!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it!

With great respect… Rachel

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

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/

 

 

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/

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

If you could give yourself the perfect gift what would it be?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the spirit of giving. Every year around this time I think about  what I can give to others. I love heading online or into a store and picking out little things to give to friends and family. While browsing I also check out things that I might like. A book, a dress, a new kitchen gadget. But usually, being quite unattached to ‘stuff’ I don’t buy anything. 

But all the shopping gets me thinking. If I was to give myself the perfect gift what would it be? What do I really want? Probably foremost on my mind would be a cure for Diabetes. But to be honest that feels impractical and certainly not something readily available. So instead, what about a wish list? Things like….

a home

a regular steady income

endless opportunities to share yoga with people who really can benefit from it

blood sugars in range

perfect digestion

a consistant cardio exercise program

ability to eat a wide range of foods while maintaining good blood sugars

time to write, express, share

time for fun with my partner

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okay so that’s THE LIST

But if I had to choose just one gift, material things aside, what would it be?

I mean what would you choose?

Self Love? Patience? Happiness? Peace? Beauty? Nature?

I’ll let you in on a secret.

Already the wholeness that you seek, nothing is missing. This is the meaning of YOGA. Already WHOLE, COMPLETE AND PERFECT JUST AS YOU ARE, you just don’t know it. In fact without you creation would be incomplete. Your presence completes the picture.

So what does that mean? To know this is the perfect gift. YOU are the perfect gift. What a hoot!

So here’s wishing you the best most satisfying holiday season ever and as a special gift from me enjoy this simple soothing yoga practice. Make sure you download it from dropbox so you can do the whole practice.

with great respect…..Rachel

It’s been a huge month

Just the other day I received a note in my inbox from a high school buddy expressing concern over the escalating posts on my feed related to Diabetes, “Are you okay?” he asked, “just want to check you’re not getting worse.” I had to think about my reply.

Am I okay? Well of course. Is my condition worsening? It’s just the same as it ever was. But isn’t it great that somebody noticed.

If just one person is made more aware of the millions of us out there dealing with this incurable and sometimes unmanageable disease is that enough?

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This month I made it my business to step up and share in as many ways as possible why I feel more people should know about Diabetes. The more we can advocate, the more likely others will come onboard and help raise much needed funds in all sorts of arenas. It’s not just that we need to raise money for a cure. We also need to raise money for those in countries less fortunate, where Insulin is unaffordable or where continuous glucose monitors are unavailable.

Diabetes should never be a death sentence but for some, without adequate medication, it is. Before I was diagnosed I never even considered the fall out from this disease and I assumed like everyone else that Insulin was the next best thing to a cure. But I have learned so much in the last year about how complicated and difficult management is. From the outside it looks easy, but from the inside? Not so much….

With just two days left to the end of Diabetes Awareness Month I wonder… did I press the like button enough?

Urged by my fellow advocates I scrolled back over my FB activity log and had a look at what I’d achieved. Bear with me it’s a bit of a roll call.

Beyond Type 1 fundraising campaign

  • Joined the JDRF Type 1 looks like me campaign and changed my profile Pic and shared a link for Diabetes Awareness Month
  • Shared the Beyond Type 1 Million Dollar campaign and made a donation
  • My personal story of how I thrive was published in a #1 Best Seller called “Unleash your Diabetes Dominator” by Daniele Hargenrader and was interviewed by Daniele for her YouTube Series
  • Had my story published in Insulin Nation
  • Created a survey to find out what would motivate diabetics to bring yoga into their daily management program
  • Participated in the Insulin4all campaign to put the world back in world diabetes day – a program created by Type 1 International
  • Published 3 blogs, posted memes, filled out surveys, voted for funding for projects like The Betes
  • Wrote a piece for Beyond Type 1
  • Wrote a story for Diabetes Counselling online here in Australia
  • Started a Yoga for Diabetes YouTube Channel
  • Sent out my first Yoga for Diabetes Newsletter
  • Started a study with Type 1 Diabetics to see how Yoga supports them in their daily management
  • Connected my cousin who runs a program called CrowdMed to see if he could help a young woman with Type 1 who also has a mystery illness, get closer to a cure
  • Celebrated my 7 year Diaversary  ( anniversary of my diagnosis)
  • Donated to A Sweet Life

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Looking back on the last month I can’t help but feel proud. I’ve stayed focussed and committed to spreading more awareness in ways that are meaningful to me as a yogini and writer.  As the work of the last month makes room for the holiday season, I hope all of us whether diabetic or not will continue to spread the word. Lets bring Both types of diabetes to the forefront of peoples minds and truly work together towards a cure!

With great respect….Rachel

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…

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i look like this

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But my meter looks like this

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think I’ll do some yoga …..

 

 

 

 

 

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).

Stop, Drop and BREATHE

Breath. We can’t live without it. So why is it that we forget the most essential ingredient in keeping every single part of the body working properly? I think it’s the very fact that we take breath for granted that’s actually the problem.  It’s only when we’re out of breath that we notice the breath. Like when you have a cold or an allergy and you’re gasping for air. That’s when you think,  “ hang on a second I’m not breathing all that well.” If you could take note of what’s happening moment by moment with your breath you’d be surprised. The breath has so many intriguing variations, waves and moods. It’s a whole culture unto itself.

I never really knew much about the breath until I took up yoga. Whenever we started breathing I wanted to run a mile. I kept feeling nervous and afraid every time we had to lie back over blankets and breathe. I didn’t really trust my body and was convinced that one day I’d get some sort of disease and die. My mother died when I was young. Her death had a huge impact on me not only emotionally but physically. It’s why I took up Yoga in the first place. Yoga was my lifeline, a way to tranquillize all my insecurities and fears and the breath was the starting point.

Pranayama for Diabetes Rachel Zinman Yoga

Accessing the breath and learning to breathe fully and deeply is even more of a priority now that I know I’m Diabetic. When the numbers go up I take a breath. When the numbers go low I take a breath. When I feel overwhelmed I take a breath. When I want to cry, scream and disappear….I take a breath.

One of my first teachers stressed that the breath could be manipulated and extended, but only once the body was completely relaxed and aligned. Another teacher said exactly the opposite, insisting that the body and its movements fit around the breath.

Whether the body guides the breath or the breath guides the body, working with the breath is a powerful tool in relaxing the nervous system.

Why is breathing so beneficial?

Besides the fact that breathing is the one thing we can’t do without,  Deep conscious breathing ‘called diaphragmatic breathing’ has a ton of benefits. 

  • It engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, regulating digestion, elimination and sexual function.
  • The steady exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide feeds the lungs and at the same time clears out toxins
  • Massages the internal organs
  • Breathing through the nose filters the air so that what comes in is free of dust and debris
  • Improves our ability to eliminate waste through the lymphatic system

What’s amazing about the breath is that is has two functions:

Unconscious, automatic breath, which continues regardless of whether we think about it or not

Conscious breath, where we are aware of the breath and can use the breath to change our response to any given situation.

For example: You test your sugar, it’s low, you freak out. Your heart rate goes up, breathing is agitated and the adrenaline is pumping. Taking a few slow deep breaths into the belly while getting what you need to raise your sugars can greatly improve the impact that the stress of a low has on your entire system.

Holding your breath, forgetting to breathe, being overly identified with emotional states, physical tension and external stressors all contribute to the dumbing down of the breath. Not breathing well limits your body’s ability to find balance. Without balance you don’t have the reserves to deal with the every day details of managing your condition.

Stop…take a moment….BREATHE…..you can do this!

Join me in the practice below and learn how to take a full complete breath….. with great respect, Rachel

Acceptance

A Guest Blog from Therapist, Yogi and Type 1 Diabetic, Michelle Sorensen

I recently attended a conference on mindfulness meditation and how to incorporate it into cognitive behavioural therapy. The room was full of mental health professionals like myself, looking to integrate these skills into their practice. Many openly spoke of their desire to learn the skills for personal use as well. One health psychologist sitting next to me commented, “Mindfulness is really about preparing for dying. We are all going to need these skills.”  I am currently watching my father decline with advanced Parkinson’s disease, and watching my mother struggle to accept the changes, and I completely understood what she meant. My father is so accepting of what he cannot control, and so he did very well for a long time with his disease by focusing his efforts on what he was able to control. And simply accepting the rest.

Fighting a battle against illness makes sense in terms of aiming to extend life, maintain quality of life and nurture our spiritual development. However, there is also strength in accepting that death is inevitable for all of us, as is suffering and disappointment throughout life.  Acceptance can help us to develop resilience and flexibility. To develop resiliency we need to be able to better separate out what we cannot control from what we can control. There are problems in life with diabetes that we cannot always eliminate…. but we can develop better resiliency in facing those problems.

Accepting your diabetes

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a few short weeks before turning 25.  There had been a lot of stress in my life in the years leading up to the diagnosis, as well as lot as of happy moments and exciting developments.  My stressors were the usual stressors for that time of life.  For example, I had to complete a thesis study for my psychology undergraduate program.  The statistics and defence took me out of my comfort zone.  However, the intensity of my stress was higher than it needed to be.  That part was self-imposed and rooted in my need to perform well and please others. I think being more mindful about locus of control would have made me more resilient and less stressed.

Then I took a year to work, save money and apply to graduate schools.  I had many friendships I tended to.  Phone calls always had to be returned, plans always had to be kept, requests always had to be responded to.  Disappointing someone was never an option for me.  I was not self-aware, no one had ever taught me that people pleasing was a problem.  That was my most problematic disease.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, it was a tipping point. I began to recognize how exhausting my social commitments were, how stressed I felt by the idea of letting someone down.  It took me much longer to realize that I had some very dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs. If someone doesn’t like you, that means you are unlikeable.  If someone is disappointed in you, that means you are not worthy. 

In grieving my diabetes and the ensuing changes in my life, I had to go through some very painful emotions. I experienced denial, believing I would discover I did not have diabetes after all. I experienced the fear of an uncertain future and was terrified by the description of horrible complications stemming from diabetes. This led to a period of depression. I felt angry towards those around me at times, who did not know how to support me.  I bargained with the diabetes gods, striving for perfect control and hoping in turn I would avoid long term complications. Instead I was left shaken by terrible lows as I overcorrected my highs. 

But as I grieved and moved towards acceptance of my diagnosis, I had to accept other things. I had to accept I could not please everyone, and that did not mean I was not good enough. I had to accept that life was not perfect, and that’s okay…. it never was before diabetes either. I had to accept myself and who I am, with all my imperfections.

Today I still have moments I feel frustrated or fearful about my diabetes. However, I try to be mindful and focus on the present moment. After all, that is all any of us have for sure: right here, right now.

Accepting your diabetes

Michelle counsels people with diabetes, combining her knowledge of cognitive behavioural therapy with the experience that comes from living with Type 1 diabetes for 16 years. She is registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario in Canada. She also enjoys speaking to health care professionals about how to incorporate more counselling into their interactions with patients.  Michelle sees psychological support as often being “the missing piece in diabetes care”.

Just Say YES

I’m proud of myself.  I’ve managed to face one of my biggest fears this week. Being a total health freak I avoid anything to do with doctors, hospitals or medication. It’s one of the reasons I avoided insulin, but my ideals couldn’t prevent the inevitable. I’ve been struggling with a kidney stone for over a month and had to have it surgically removed.

I decided, that like childbirth, I was going to go through the procedure au natural ( no pre or post medication) I even went so far as to ask the doctor if he could remove the stone with local anaesthetic but he assured me that I wouldn’t want him poking around while being fully conscious.

My last hospitalisation was at the age of four. I remember breathing in a foul smelling substance, dreaming that piglet came to visit me and waking at 3 am with a full bladder, screaming for a nurse who never came. It was a highly traumatic memory and added to my distaste of the medical establishment.

Luckily my experience here in South Africa was quite the opposite. It was a relief to be greeted by smiling nurses, led to a swish room called under milk wood and eventually wheeled into the operating theatre. I had imagined a place of quiet, decorated with dark hues and faint classical music playing over loud speakers.

In stark contrast, the theatre was cold, bright and teeming with people. I was lumped onto a thin table, covered in a space blanket while a nurse assured me that anybody who messed with me had her to contend with. The next thing I knew the anaesthetist was telling me I would have nice sleep,

Rachel Zinman Yoga

I awoke to an orderly handing me my 8mm stone in a specimen jar.

So that was it! No biggie, a few hours later I’m in my bed wondering what all the fuss was about.

I’m talking about the fuss in my head. I mean people have routine procedures everyday, people get kidney stones everyday. Doctors do this EVERYDAY!

As I lie here post surgery, dealing with the discomfort of healing, I have to admit, the body is a miracle. It can take so much more then we think. I’ve pummelled it with drugs, stents, tubes, minute camera’s and more in the last 78 hours and I’m still alive and kicking. This body is designed to survive and thrive.

It took quite a bit of courage on my part to get out of my own way, and it’s taught me an invaluable lesson. In spite of what I think might happen, or what I project, life has its own plans. When something happens don’t resist. Just say YES! It might not be comfortable but you’ll survive.

This week I offer you a different kind of Yoga practice

Practice saying YES

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With great respect…Rachel