Stop the merry go round, I want to get off

Keeping up with social media, blogging, yoga teaching and just plain surviving is intense. As much as I love every single aspect of my life, I definitely get overwhelmed. Like today, after a night of surfing the edge of lows (6 glucose tabs later), I’m kind of a wreck.

I’ve always been good at “putting on a smile.” It comes from my dancer days when we were told that a smile is the best way to deal with a stuff up. i.e. falling on your butt.

I’m not sure smiling my way through frustration with diabetes is the answer. I should probably be doing more yoga. I do quite a bit, but I’m also teaching a lot at the moment so getting up early after a rough sleepless night means I’m sleeping in instead of groping my mat at dawn. If you don’t do yoga you’re probably thinking, jeepers Rachel give yourself a break.

And you’re right. I need a break….

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A break from diabetes would be awesome. A break from finger pricks and needle sticks. A break from counting carbs, guestimating doses, downing glucose tabs and the constant micromanagement that creates a dull ache in my brain that never ever goes away.

A break from getting letters from the DMV telling me I can’t drive without a medical assessment and the endless costs of this test and that test just to make sure I am not sliding backward. Which by the way I just found out I am. Hashimoto’s is now showing up even though ‘apparently’ my thyroid antibody count is down. ( Whatever that means…)

Like all good 21st century peeps I’ve signed up for endless free webinars and summits on thyroid and gut solutions. I’m seeing a neuroimmunologist, I’m drinking chicken bone broth, taking clean fish oil and probiotics, chlorella and I’m whole food plant based while having eggs.

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P.S If anyone gives me one more dietary guideline I’ll detonate!

And with all this endless frustration I’ve realised that I feel powerless. Powerless because chronic illness is not something that stops being chronic just because I want it to.

Chronic illness just is.

Even though I’m offloading my feelings, I also know that there are things I can do to alleviate my frustration.

Recently in a beautiful online women’s circle, the facilitator offered as an out for when we were wallowing in our emotions. Instead of saying yes to powerlessness, anger, or victimhood she reminded us to focus on going for what we loved.

When you focus on going for what you love your subconscious says yes to that.  So even if diabetes is a total downer, it doesn’t have to drag you under. A subtle shift in focus is all it takes.

Relax, I am guided and supported. My body will look after itself and find balance. You are LIGHT itself

In that spirit, I invite you to join me in this simple practice to stop the merry go round.

When you feel at your wits end with diabetes, when you feel fed up, burnt out, frustrated, spun out and overwhelmed imagine sloughing off those emotions like you would an old coat. Then step into a circle of light. In that circle are all the things you love, your creative desires, let the images come without effort. As you focus on what you love, feel yourself becoming lighter and light filled. Feel the delight and the freedom of you expressing your gifts. Then take a pen and paper and write down all the things that you felt and saw in your circle of light.

Once you’ve got it all down on paper get creative. Turn your words into a poem, a college, a song, a story. Put those words and the images in a place where you have your diabetes stuff so you are reminded to say yes to going for what you love.

Finally, trust that you are always guided and supported no matter what. Your existence is a blessing.

With great respect

rachel 

Transform your greatest challenge

Today I am sharing a guest post from yogini Evan Soroka. Some of you may remember her from the diayogi summit in October. Evan is a wise soul whose lived with type 1 diabetes for the past 20 years and is living proof that yoga is an alchemical and transformational modality to completely revolutionize your life with diabetes. Everything Evan shares from her presence on social media, to her work with groups and individuals both on and offline, is infused with a calm wisdom that will transform how you see yourself and your diabetes. Her program Rise above T1D launches today and I am super excited to share her story with you. Take it away Evan…

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I have always been and will continue to always be a curious adventurer at heart. Growing up in the mountains much of my free time was spent under the influence of nature. It is no wonder that the story of my diagnosis revolves around adventure and the continued success of my journey with type 1 diabetes is due to that same ardor to know more.

The summer leading up to diagnosis was a season of flux. I had spent the previous year preparing for my Bat Mitzvah; a much anticipated coming of age ceremony in Jewish tradition. My body was under rapid permutation from girl to woman and the obvious signs of illness passed under the radar. Looking back I remember a rabid thirst that could not be quenched. The day before my Bat Mitzvah I wet the bed. My parent’s passed it off as nerves. There were a number of other subtle red flags, which would have been more obvious had I of been older and more self-aware. I kept a lot of the symptoms to myself. I was diagnosed at the end of that summer after a backpacking trip in the Colorado wilderness. It was not until this trip, quiet under the influence of Mother Nature, did I perceive of something being wrong with me.

After diagnosis, I did not understand the magnitude of the change to come. I enjoyed the spotlight and lavished attention. I was too young to conceive of my own mortality to be fearful and too curious to be upset by the doctors, hospital beds and needles. However, the limelight did not last and soon I was unhinged by my reality. The emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows, the tension of child/parent dominance, unresolved insecurities and emotions left me a shell of my former self. I struggled to learn new eating habits and became increasing obsessive with my weight, body image and stopped enjoying outdoor activities that I had once cherished. Two years after diagnosis I moved to rural Brazil on a Rotary Youth Exchange Program. My dad still jokes that I did not give my parents another alternative. I was determined to face the world and diabetes on my own. The year abroad was necessary for my own self-development and growth. I learned how to live on my own with T1D in a new culture, climate and explain my condition in a foreign language. I was confident but defiant, self-sufficient yet completely incompetent. Thankfully I found yoga.

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Yoga bridged the gap from my head to my heart. It was the first thing that I learned to do for myself since diagnosis that granted me a sense of freedom. It was a connection to a natural part of me that was beyond all insecurities, pain, and sadness. With practice, I learned how to use yoga as a tool to manage the symptoms and side effects of T1D.  Since those early years I have dedicated my life’s work to yoga.

A full-time teacher since 2007, I have received some of the highest credentials in yoga teaching, becoming an ERYT 500 (minimum 2000 hours of teaching) and a Certified Yoga Therapist (5-year program).

Yoga therapy, derived from yogic philosophy and Ayurvedic tradition, helps individuals facing health challenges at any level manage their condition, reduce side effects, restore balance, increase vitality and elevate attitude about life.

Yoga therapy, unlike Western medicine, considers the individual a whole multi-dimensional being addressing the physical, mental/emotional and spiritual levels. The tools of yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation promote awareness, discipline and grant the individual the power to cultivate true and lasting change. I am a dedicated practitioner as well as a patient of yoga therapy, with a daily practice. I teach from direct experience and influence my students with the same drive and compassion that I have learned for myself.

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Today I am launching my  6-Weeks Rise Above T1D online yoga therapy program. This program is a compilation of my life practice and aims to teach all diabetics how to skillfully navigate chronic illness.

You will learn how to:

  • Apply yoga directly to your symptoms and side effects.
  • Increase insulin sensitivity, reduce stress and anxiety, manage energy levels and elevate your attitude about T1D.
  • Unearth limiting belief patterns and fears that hold you back from achieving what you really want.
  • Use your body as a vehicle for transformation and freedom.
  • Create and maintain a daily yoga and meditation practice.

If not for a regular practice I would not be the successful diabetic that I am today. I am by no means a perfect diabetic but it does not control me. When I am not on my mat or teaching you can find me adventuring in my Colorado backyard.

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Evan Soroka is a certified yoga therapist and teacher based in Aspen, Colorado. When she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in early adolescence yoga was the only thing that helped her manage the uncomfortable emotional and physical side effects. Since then Evan has turned her greatest struggle into her life’s purpose. Through the practices and teachings of yoga therapy, she empowers others to use their own body as a vehicle for healing and transformation. www.evansoroka.com

You Got This!

It’s Christmas Eve here in Australia. Last year we were in The US with my family. We’d spent days shopping for presents, dressing the tree and the turkey and enjoying the snow and the cold. It was a personal cause for celebration with the launch of my book and the promise of many events and launches to come. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be with my family, to feel safe and supported and to be able to live my mission in the world.

As the year has unfolded it’s been full of incredible highs and difficult lows. As much as I’ve enjoyed traveling to share yoga throughout America and Australia it’s also been challenging. I live with a chronic illness, and staying on top of my health while living in a different place every few weeks has forced me to reflect and pause and think about how I want to begin the new year.

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My goal in Jan 2018 was to start taking insulin for meals. I’d started to notice my basal was no longer covering what I was eating. Plus I didn’t think I could take one more mouthful of greens, greens, and only greens.

I took the plunge with great support from some of my diabuddies plus testing out the MySugr app with diabetes coach Gary Schiener. After working out my insulin to carb ratio, when to inject and how to treat lows with glucose tabs ( I did some testing on how much glucose I need to raise levels in 10 minutes) it all came together.

A few months into the regime my diabetes educator said that my body responded well to mealtime insulin and it appeared more predictable than my body’s response to basal insulin ( I’ve really struggled to get that dose right).

A few months later when my A1c was the lowest it’s been since diagnosis (5.9%), she poured over my data to make sure I wasn’t living in the land of lows (which I wasn’t) and then finally last week my doctor declared I must still be producing some insulin and honeymooning because my A1c is holding steady.

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Go figure 10 years on. I know it’s the yoga and breathing and discipline with diet but shhh…. Don’t tell!

But just because I’ve managed to smash my A1c goal for the year doesn’t mean it’s all unicorns and rainbows. As much as I want to share all the good stuff here on the blog I also want to be real.

What you see on FB or Instagram doesn’t show the 24/7 reality. There is exhaustion, pain, and emotions, like anxiety, feelings of failure, overwhelm, insecurity, grief, and loss.

There are moments where I don’t want to write one more word on the page.

As much as I feel these feelings ( I know this is not just me but basically everyone) I’m also capable of rising above them through knowing that feelings are just thoughts I’ve entertained and given momentum too. No matter what the thought, good or bad, it’s just a thought. As quickly as it comes it will go.

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So what’s my go-to when I am feeling absolutely exhausted or overwhelmed?

I do one thing that brings me comfort and one task I know I need to get done to work towards a set goal. It could be as simple as making myself my favorite lunch (baked sweet potato and pumpkin salad with Haloumi) and then answering a work-related email or creating a flyer for my next event and then going for a walk.

Whatever those two things are in committing to them I find myself relaxing, returning to my center and able to gather more energy for the next task.

As the year turns over into 2019 my wish for everyone is to know you are not alone when it comes to living with diabetes. No matter how tough it gets, or how challenged you are, there is hope and support. For me its Yoga, for you it might be something else. No matter what it is. You got this! If I can do it so can you.

Wishing you a truly beautiful holiday season. You are a precious gift!

Namaste and with great respect…

Rachel

From our family to yours,

You Are That

The other day I was scrolling through Facebook and I was captivated by a song. Within minutes my toes were tapping, my body was swaying and I was humming along. Listening was pure bliss and total happiness. At that moment I forgot myself, my life with diabetes or anything else for that matter.

The benefits of yoga are many, however, the benefits are not just the product of targeted exercise or the marrying of mind, breath, and body.

They are the direct result of choosing to immerse yourself in a focussed activity that momentarily suspends the idea you have of yourself. That idea is a conglomeration of a lifetime of experiences, conditioning, and beliefs. In psychological terms, it is referred to as your identity.  When our identity is suspended and we are no longer identified we feel blissful, Ananda, because we are the bliss.

Bliss is not a state-it’s the nature of awareness and who you are.

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So what is your bliss? Is it music, dancing, cooking, laughing, being outdoors, playing with friends? Whatever is blissful is only blissful because of you.

Let that sink in for a moment.

It’s easy with this condition to focus on what isn’t bliss.

Like daily finger pricks, site fails, too many lows and highs, carb guesses, medical costs the never-ending 24/7 vigilance of a condition we didn’t ask for and can’t get away from that leads to burnout, depression, and anxiety

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But that kind of focus, the one where we naturally go isn’t doing anyone any favors

I’ll say it again.

Whatever you see as blissful is only blissful because of YOU. Without you, there is no bliss.

The next time you do something you love, and you find yourself forgetting everything and you are swept up in the magic of just being.

Stop and remember yourself.  YOU ARE THAT.

with great respect…

rachel

Want to bliss out? Check out my yoga playlist on Spotify curated especially for you. Click the image below or head here

Bold Freedom Through Time Mastery

Today I’d like to introduce you to Lesley O’Brien. Like me Lesley is passionate about Ayurveda. She has just written a book which is about integrating Ayurveda into your daily life. Check out her guest post on the blog and her special offer at the end of the post. Take it away Lesley… 

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When we first discover Ayurveda it’s a thrilling experience of revelation. We get to know how our body works in a whole new light.  Understanding what’s going on in our physiology according to Ayurveda’s knowledge of circadian rhythms brings relief because it makes sense.  We realize we can impact our health, reverse engineer and return to some semblance of I feel better in myself.

Yet after a while, Ayurveda can become confusing – when you hit the limitations of the popular Dosha categorizing system. Dosha opens the door to Ayurveda but if you remain at that level trying to fit everything impacting on you into the categories of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha you’ll get stuck going in circles.

Often a Doshic body type questionnaire will reveal your Vikruti and what needs balancing rather than your constitution as such, called Prakruti. Constitution or body type shouldn’t be measured by things that change like moods or how many times you pass a stool a day. Your body type is stable and best measured by factors about your physicality that don’t change. The more you attune your body type to natural rhythms and how and when it was designed to function, to digest, to sleep to move, then the further you are from disease formation.

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Ayurveda considers poor digestion as the primary cause of conditions like diabetes and calls the pre-diabetic metabolic phase Prameha. Weak digestion leads to toxic residue called Ama and it can accumulate in the pancreas impairing the production of insulin.

The aim of Ayurveda is to align body and mind in the environment. You’ll know this has happened for you when you have one of those ‘good days’! You’ll feel lighter, clearer and have more energy when you’ve supported the 20% impact you can have on the health of your constitution, and adjusted with your surroundings simultaneously. You do it through every substance you choose to take in through your five senses: through what you eat, drink, listen to and watch. It’s called epigenetics and you have enough control over the effects to either trigger dis-ease or recover from it to varying degrees depending on circumstances.

While in clinic practice I realised that there was something missing about how to help patients with the positive health potential of adopting Ayurveda’s lifestyle habits called Dinacharya. My patients wanted to be pain free and sustain a level of health they could self-manage at home every day. I wanted this for them too and I knew I needed more routine to lean into in my own life for sustained energy, yet we don’t DO things that are imposed on us consistently enough to get results. And we hit the shadow issues like the rebel or the control freak when we take on more than is reasonably doable given our circumstances. After studying behavioural science and researching efficiency for business, I developed the Bold Freedom method, aligning health science with the techniques needed to show up and take self-care every day.

There need to be elements of time management, relationship alignment and a conducive environment in any nutrition or movement method for real success in wellbeing. It’s the way to get deep, lasting results we can repeat and don’t have to rely on a weekly dose from a health pro to keep going. When all aspects of our being are supported through a complete method like Bold Freedom, integrity is graced.  Our home and work space, our calendars our diet all become conducive to a healthier lifestyle.

One of the secrets to finding more free time in your day is to create space – physical space and head space!

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Start with when you eat dinner. Eating dinner before the sun goes down fits in with how your body was designed to function best. You’re a primate and your bile is best at lunchtime for a main meal then. Having dinner before dark leads gracefully into earlier to bed and allows for waking without stiffness or a groggy head. When you eat dinner earlier, you naturally detox overnight while you sleep. You wake ready to eliminate the toxic residue (Ama) and start the day spacious and ready.

You may not need MORE food or sleep as much as you need to change when you eat and rest! The aim is to wisely use the time and energy you already have first. When you see your average week on paper, it’s glaringly obvious where you’ve misaligned with when you eat, and that maybe you’re overscheduled and stressed about things. This exercise can lead you to better decisions which create more abundance in so many areas of your life.

You have so much more control over finding more time and getting more energy than you might realise. It can take months to automate your daily routine and a year to get the household aligned! Remember you’re continually growing and refining. It gets better day after day after day.

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In essence, the Bold Freedom method guides you to write out how you use your time now. It encourages you to state your big lofty vision for the year – something that connects you with your body type and so what you’re created for. Then doable action steps get scheduled.

Looking at how you currently use your time is fascinating and sometimes embarrassing! Bold Freedom will help you create a space that’s conducive to how you want to live.

For example, if you want to exercise there needs to be a solid decision about whether you’ll exercise in the living room or garden or gym and what time of day you’ll show up.

When we don’t plan the action the words and ideas go around in heads as stressful pressure and we don’t think we can trust ourselves because we haven’t done what we said we’d do!

It’s vital we shed all that brings a sense of stress if we want to be healthy. It’s only when we’re easeful can we shed the Ama that keeps us clogged and unwell.

We can’t truly heal one area of life without affecting other areas of our life, because they’re interrelated, just like all the aspects of our physiology. If you truly get healthy circulation then your skin glow will improve.  Yet I’ve seen people get amazing developments at work but who are tired and can’t perform at the next level and be present for that growth. There’s a disconnect!

It’s vital to an easeful successful life that body and mind in the environment be strengthened and cleared simultaneously. Dinacharya is the best way to do that –it’s time well used in developing a foundational wellness to thrive from. When we wake early, hydrate, move, breathe, poop and scrape our tongues we rid the Ama from yesterday, we build our immunity and a whole new day of Bold Freedom begins.

“Who do you know who’s ‘too busy’? Give them the gift of healthy slower days. Order them a copy of BOLD Freedom when you order yours. FREE shipping.” 

lesley Obrien

Lesley O’Brien – Ayurvedic Medicine Practitioner: Herbal medicine, Nutrition, Massage therapy.
Lover of stand up paddle-boarding, bike riding, re-bounding, Yoga & wholefood cooking. Past volunteer firefighter.

I’ve helped people from as young 2 years of age to 93 years with a broad range of health conditions, such as chronic fatigue, acne, arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. I’m constantly impressed by the human body’s ability to heal, to find a place where it’s pain-free and able to thrive. www.ayurbotanicals.com.au

 

How Do You Plan to Mark World Diabetes Day?

Today is November 14, World Diabetes Day. A day to shed light on what it means to live with this condition. And this year the build-up to “the day” has been more intense than ever. Friends in the blogosphere have been writing daily blogs, sharing memes, hashtags and so much more. I’ve been contributing too through daily Instagram and Facebook posts with the hashtag #makediabetesvisible and #diabetesawarenessmonth.

As I explore the different aspects of my life with diabetes I can’t help thinking…

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How lucky I am to be alive.

How before 1921 and the discovery of Insulin my condition would have been a death sentence.

How living with diabetes has widened my community and connected me with people who are making a difference in the lives of others.

How it’s humbled me, made me more compassionate, sensitive and taught me to put myself first.

How it has made me healthier, more resilient and courageous.

How it has inspired me to be honest with myself.

How its deepened my connection with my husband, son, parents, and friends.

How I’ve experienced vulnerability as strength.

How yoga has helped me cope, been my anchor and helped preserve my immune system.

How western medicine and medications which manage diabetes are life-saving and non-negotiables that everyone should have access to.

How charities and organizations that raise money for diabetes and do so tirelessly should be given the recognition and financial support they deserve.

And how even though there are no days off with diabetes, one can go beyond diagnosis to live a happy, adventurous and fulfilled life.

How do you plan to mark #WorldDiabetesDay?

with great respect…

rachel

Idaho Graffiti 2008
Photo by Matthias Boettrich

 

One step closer

I’m back and so is the blog. Thanks to everyone who participated in our Diayogi Dialogue Summit. The feedback was phenomenal and even though I created and launched the summit I felt like I was a student along with everyone else.

I now have more yoga management tools under my belt to help me with the highs and lows. The Summit will be listed in the menu tab of the blog until the end of November to coincide with Diabetes Awareness Month so if you haven’t had a chance to watch all the episodes yet just go here and scroll down to find them all.

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Today marks the start of Diabetes Awareness Month and this is also the month that I was diagnosed 10 years ago. I feel like I have grown in leaps and bounds since then. From sitting in my endo’s office in total denial to being on a full insulin regime and getting my A1c into the normal range.

If you live with diabetes you know this isn’t easy. For me, yoga has been the key ingredient and learning to trust my body and life itself. As I’ve been upping my fast acting insulin doses, introducing more foods and finding the right balance between rest, work and home life, I finally feel in control of how I manage my daily life with this condition.

At my last doctor’s appointment, my doctor was encouraging. He celebrated my A1c results with me while offering a different kind of goal for my next visit. He said his aim is to help me normalize my life with diabetes so that injecting and checking my levels is a seamless experience.  He compared it to the everyday routine of brushing my teeth. I had to smile when he said this. I mean who can compare 7 injections a day to the painless swish swish of tooth brushing? But still, I get the gist.

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As I get used to fine-tuning my doses and the timing of the shots it gets easier and easier to get on with the day and the enjoyment of this precious life. I may not be a pro just yet but I’m definitely one step closer.

with great respect…

rachel

 

Hypo Hot Mess

You’d think I’d be used to being on the razor’s edge but I’m not.  Like a mother who forgets the pain of childbirth, I keep forgetting what a fine line it is to live with diabetes. Maybe it’s because my memory is selective, or that I still find myself going into denial. More likely it’s because I’m burnt out from all the nitty gritty stuff I have to do to stay alive.

Hypos are the worst. Every time a low comes on I think, “Sh…t  I’m going low. What time is it? Can I wait 15 minutes and then eat lunch. Nope? Ok, just take ½ a tab. That’s probably not enough. Wait 15 min. Sh…t still going low take another ½… No, strike that, take 1 tab. Wait 15 more minutes (by now I actually feel low… sensation of ants crawling all over my body, mind like a wobbly wet piece of jelly). Ok, just take another tab and be done with it. (check my blood sugar 10 times in 15 minutes). Crap my fingers hurt.

After it comes back up I cry a lot. Later I think about adjusting my basal but worry that if I do I’ll go high. Eventually, I adjust my basal, wait to see what happens and tell myself, “Next time I’m going to take ¼ tab. Next time I’ll trust my body and my intuition. Next time I’ll take less insulin.”

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My last big hypo happened right before I was supposed to teach a yoga workshop on mudras ( yogic hand gestures). I was sitting in front of 15 experienced yoga teachers while furiously checking my blood sugar. The trend arrow on my mySugr app wasn’t looking good.

I freaked out! I’d driven all that way, spent weeks preparing had gathered an awesome group of yogis, only to have the whole thing crumble because of my broken pancreas and stupid carb to insulin miscalculation. I kept telling myself, “Push through you’re stronger than this maybe it won’t keep plummeting. Start teaching you’ll be fine.” But no matter how strong I thought I was, I couldn’t fight reality. My body wasn’t going to kick in and save the day. I had to share through my vulnerability. It was either that or bale.

Stepping up meant sharing with the group that I was in the middle of a hypo, that I’d taken some glucose tabs and had to wait 15 minutes before I could teach. I felt awkward, my brain wasn’t clear enough to communicate, but the smiling and compassionate faces of the group gave me heart.

“Living yoga is about being with what is,” I continued, “and sometimes ‘what is’ sucks.”

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Luckily within a few minutes, I could feel the glucose bringing my brain back online. The class flew by and was loads of fun, but later I felt drained, weak and really emotional.

Before my diagnosis, I would get tired after teaching, but it was a good tired. The kind where you knew you had worked hard enough to deserve a rest. Hypo fatigue is something else. 24 hours later I still find it hard to focus, my nervous system is overly sensitive and I’m prone to panic attacks. In a way, it’s akin to burning oneself accidentally. At contact, it burns sharp and hot, but that’s not the problem. It’s the lingering throbbing pain that’s tough to withstand. Plus Hypos aren’t always just a one-off thing. When a Hypo, builds on another Hypo it takes days to recover. It’s a challenge not to lose heart or worry that I’ll never get on top of things.

As I mention continuously in my blog posts I really have to take my hat off to yoga. The physical practices of posture and breathing definitely help. Lately, I have been using the deeper practices like mudra (gesture) and mantra (sound) too. Holding my hands in certain positions really calms my emotions and repeating a mantra like OM is soothing for all the systems in the body. In fact, so soothing that chanting lowers my blood sugar.

In honor of being a Hypo Hot Mess, this weeks offering is a simple 5 element mudra sequence. As you go through each mudra feel harmony coming into the body, relax and breathe. You can do this anywhere anytime, focusing on one element for your practice or including all five.

With great respect…

Rachel

 

Yoga; Beware All Ye who Enter.

My personal journey with diabetes was one of misdiagnosis and denial. It took me years to accept my diagnosis. When I did, my first step was to reach out and  find people like me who also practiced yoga. In the beginning, there weren’t many, but as my reach increased I found a community of practitioners and teachers thriving because of yoga. Anastasia Yatras is one of those lights. Her story is absolute gold and so inspiring! I can’t wait for you to read it. Take it away Anastasia

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In the grunge era of the 90’s, pre Instagram and Facebook, Yoga wasn’t as widespread as it is today. Back then, there was a clear division between alternative culture and the mainstream. In 1992, Yoga, along with shaved under cuts, sat absolutely in the first category.

In 1992, a university friend had invited me to yoga, in Newtown, Sydney, with the hook line that “Yoga made you sleep better”. As my life was a demanding schedule of missed lectures, all -nighters and endless rounds of stove- top coffee, I was intrigued.

With no idea what I was in for, (remember there was no You Tube Yoga back then), the exposed brick yoga room, felt austere.  The mysterious props including belts and wooden blocks, inexplicable. There may as well have been a sign above our Birkenstock sandals at the entrance, “Beware all ye who enter.”

To my novice ears, we were guided by elusive phrases such as “…outer skirt of the heel” and “something..something…asana”. I rushed to perform handstand with the grunt of an NRL player, breathing hard and fast, so as not to topple sideways with my jellied elbows. Lying with a wooden block underneath my shrieking sacrum (no foam bricks as yet), it felt akin to a medieval torture.

Yet, within the insufferably long silences, there it was, the gold; the gradual realisation that awareness could move to different parts of the body. It could be held there, diffuse or sharp pointed, and more so, it could be directed from the outside, in.

Those poses were a tangible reflection, not just of my body, but of something more profound, deeper still.

My friend didn’t return to Yoga. I never left.

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Diagnosis.

My relationship with Diabetes began 12 months before my official diagnosis. Tragically, in 1997, my then boyfriend’s dad, collapsed into a three day diabetic coma, until finally discovered by his second son.  A talented illustrator for Hanna and Barbara cartoons, I loved this man’s hallway- a veritable fortress of VHS cassettes.  For then reasons unknown, I studied the literature on diabetes, left abandoned by his dining room side table.

Precisely 12 months later, recalling those very symptoms I had read about, (excess thirst-tick, excess urination-tick, affected eyesight- tick), I took myself to the medical centre. “I think I have diabetes!” I pronounced, somewhat proud of my self-diagnostic abilities.  A blood test there and then showed a reading of 26 mmol/L and so off to the Illawarra Diabetes Service, I went, where I was shown how to inject with oranges.

It was November of 1998, the very year I had enrolled as an Iyengar Teacher trainee in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Upon my teacher’s advice, I took time off to “lay low”.  Upon returning to teacher training, I was unable to focus. “You look haunted” my teacher said. “Go home”. Yet, he also said, diabetes gave my yoga purpose. Through the nebulousness of my grief, I recognised the truth of those words. That Yoga was the big circle and diabetes was a smaller one within it and not the other way around.

Gradually, I began to see Yoga as a tool which could reframe how I saw diabetes; that I could bear a positive impact upon it rather than it all being a negative impact on me. Of course, it was a slow journey, full of trials, errors, failures and loneliness. No one else in class was worrying about their sugars testing frequently, afraid equally of an embarrassing hypo or of having to inject in full view.

Half Moon Pose

Turning Point.

In 2002, I was chosen as the diabetic student for a Sydney medical Yoga workshop given by the wonderful Iyengar teachers, Swati and Rajiv Chanchanni. This experience gave me a clear, systematic and confidence boosting framework which I continue to use to this day in my practice.

From the Iyengar perspective, it was taught that the pancreas needed to be taken through its full range of motion.

So, from a diseased organ, I realised my pancreas, was in fact, profoundly intelligent cellular tissue, fully capable of responding to precise adaptations within the regular poses, turbo charging blood flow and, equally, maximising relaxation and quietness of mind.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali speak of Yoga as a means to cease the fluctuations of mind. This is my standard operating procedure when checking my blood sugar levels, when heading off a high reading or a hypo.  To respond neutrally as possible which doesn’t equally translate as complacency.

Yoga is also defined as skill in action, something which as diabetics, we are constantly asked to practice, every waking and sleeping moment of our lives, it seems!

However, as my teacher Pixie Lillas says, we are not merely given the end destination in Yoga (good health, a quiet mind.). Yoga gives us the tools to get there.

anastasia

BIO
For the past 20 years, Anastasia’s Yoga practice has revolutionized her approach to living with Type 1 Diabetes. She began Yoga in 1992 where it fully resolved her dancer’s knee injury. At 26 years of age, in 1998, Anastasia embarked on two major life journeys. Iyengar Yoga Teacher training AND a diabetes diagnosis. Following the medical principles developed by world renown teacher of Yoga, B.K.S Iyengar, Anastasia has maintained HBA1C (averaged blood sugar levels)  of normal range (5-6mmol/L).

you can connect with Anastasia here 

Experience counts

Whenever I settle somewhere new I make sure to head to a yoga class. It’s a great way to meet people and find out more about the town and its culture. Here in Bellingen, I found my way to the Bellingen Yoga Studio, a purpose-built space with a view of the mountains.

Whenever I take a new class I always introduce myself to the teacher and explain that I have type 1 diabetes and that next to me on my mat I’ll have a bottle of glucose tabs and a glucose meter. Sometimes they know about diabetes but most often not. With a quick check from the teacher to make sure I’ve got my diabetes handled,  I head to my mat to settle in.

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I love learning and I especially love learning about yoga. Every teacher approaches postural yoga in a unique way. What I especially love about the classes here in Bellingen is that they are taught by an experienced teacher. A grounded and strong woman who has been doing yoga forever and it shows.

Our teacher was in her early sixties. I was too shy to ask when she started yoga and to be honest I didn’t care. Her words and demonstrations, the way she adjusted the students showed her years of experience. Yoga had obviously worked for her and she was passing that knowledge on. In short, experience counts.

Experience counts in more ways than one when you live with diabetes.  That’s why learning from those who have gone before is crucial. I recognize that the way we manage our diabetes is unique but it doesn’t hurt to reach out and ask someone who’s been through the ropes.

I have diabuddies out there that I call on for support. It helps to hear that that weird high I had overnight might be due to poor basal insulin absorption or that turning the pen upside down to release a test shot means I’m not dealing with extra drops of insulin all over my belly. I love having different friends with different diabetes experiences, It means I can ask about anything and everything and try new things.

But I digress. This post is about yoga

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There are so many opportunities out there and so many avenues to try your first yoga class. There’s gym yoga, online yoga, yoga in the pub, goat yoga, CBD yoga, OMG yoga,  You get the drift.

Wherever you live you’ll most likely find a local yoga studio and a yoga teacher fresh out of his or her teacher training all fired up and raring to go with cool leggings, rad music and an Instagram account with over 20K followers. You might feel intimidated by this or even reluctant to start. How can a twenty-something yogini know about you and your diabetes? I’ll be honest. They don’t! But they can learn.

Any yoga teacher started where you are, at the beginning. Something our Bellingen yoga teacher shared with us was that we experience the most transformation when we first start yoga. We go from feeling uncomfortable or tight in our bodies to feeling light and open. We start to see the value in stretching and breathing and how soothing it is for the nervous system. As we advance in practice the tendency is to plateau, lose momentum or feel like nothing is happening. This is where going back to the foundation is crucial.

If your teacher is worth anything they’ll remember this and share this with you. Why they started yoga, how they approached a difficult pose. What yoga means to them and why. If a teacher stays glued to their mat and doesn’t even look at the students my advice would be, run. Living with a chronic condition means you deserve better. Why pack yourself into a wall to wall yoga class with someone just because they can do some fancy handstand or backbend. Real yoga is not based on popular demand.

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Personally, I love a teacher with a personalized and simple approach. At my age, I wake up creaky, achy and drained from the stress of changing blood sugars overnight. There’s often a feeling of toxicity in my body as I move through poses. Simply lying in postures and working slowly into muscles feels way more calming and supportive then sweating my way through a flow work out. But that’s just me. if you need a hard vinyasa work out to tame your blood sugars, by all means, go for it.  Yoga is not one size fits all.

After my super simple senior yoga class this week I thought it would be fun to share some of the moves I learned here on the blog. Join me in this 6-minute sequence below and hit reply to let me know how it made you feel.

with great respect…

rachel

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